Hamilton secures pole at Abu Dhabi GP

Updated 04 November 2012
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Hamilton secures pole at Abu Dhabi GP

ABU DHABI: McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton’s slim hopes of winning a second drivers’ championship got a boost yesterday when he secured pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, holding off the Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and two-time defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, clocked 1 minute, 40.630 seconds on the 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) Yas Marina circuit Saturday, 0.348 seconds quicker than Webber.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, 13 points behind Vettel in the drivers’ standings with three races remaining, slumped to a disappointing seventh. The Spaniard has struggled all weekend with pace and last-minute changes by his team have failed to improve the car’s performance.
Pastor Maldonado of Williams will start fourth followed by Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Jenson Button of McLaren.
“I’m very excited,” said Hamilton, who won last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after Vettel crashed out. “It’s the first time for a long time we’ve been ahead of the Red Bulls at the start of the race. The team has done a fantastic job all weekend. I don’t know why the car works so well here ... I guess it just suits the track.” Vettel’s qualifying session was anything but routine for the 25-year-old German, with brake problems limiting his first session to only two laps. He also grazed the wall at one point later in the session, briefly lost control in one turn and then saw his car come to a stop on the track when the session was over. He said it wasn’t clear why it stopped though he said the brake problems had been sorted out.
Still, Vettel said he was happy to be third on the grid.
“I think what we had in qualifying was still pretty good and competitive,” he said. “Obviously, some boxes will never be ticked so we won’t get the answers we wanted to. But we found a compromise nevertheless.” Vettel also dismissed suggestions that he would change his strategy after Alonso qualified in seventh — a difficult place on the grid because the Abu Dhabi track is traditionally not conducive to passing.
“We have to try to win the race. You can’t go around looking at one guy particular,” Vettel said, referring to Alonso. “We go for the fastest race. At the moment, Lewis is ahead of us. We will try and hunt him down.” Vettel has won the past four races to overtake Alonso at the top, and is the clear favorite to pick up a third title. He leads the Spaniard with Raikkonen 67 points back in third. Webber is a further six points back, and Hamilton another two points back. Webber and Hamilton are just barely alive in the championship race, needing to win every race and hope Vettel doesn’t finish to have a chance.
Vettel cannot win the title this weekend but another victory and a strong performance at the United States Grand Prix would make it difficult for anyone to topple him. If he wins this year’s title, he would join Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to win three championships in a row. Vettel would be the youngest to achieve that feat.
The team, though, can clinch its third consecutive constructors’ title in Abu Dhabi if Vettel wins and Webber finishes no worse than eighth, or the two finish second and third. Red Bull leads Ferrari by 91 points, and McLaren was a further 10 points behind.


Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Updated 23 min 8 sec ago
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Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

John Duerden RIYADH: The General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) have announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs.
According to reports, the Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million) that will not only clear monies owed but also enable clubs to invest ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The issue of debt had become a major issue in the country’s football scene.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs are currently experiencing financial problems that require immediate and urgent intervention,” the General Sports Authority, which oversees Saudi Arabian sport, said in a statement released on social media.
The body noted that there are a total of 107 cases under appeal at world governing body FIFA regarding unpaid salaries in Saudi Arabia.
“Failure to intervene urgently to rescue clubs may result in damage to the reputation of the Kingdom in general and Saudi Arabian sport in particular,” added the GSA.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs may face severe disciplinary sanctions because of the failure to meet financial obligations such as the
denial of the registration of players in general or the deduction of points.”
Unpaid salaries were also a factor in Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr being unable to appear in this year’s AFC Champions League after they were denied AFC club licenses.
Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million) and welcomed the news.
“We are delighted by the generous initiative of His Royal Highness,” Al-Ittihad president Nawaf Al-Muqairn said in an official statement released by the two-time Asian champions.
“This contributes to creating solid ground for all clubs to move toward achieving their goals.”
Legendary Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber, recently appointed president of champions Al-Hilal, announced his gratitude on social media.
“Great thanks to His Highness the Crown Prince for the great support that the clubs have enjoyed which enables sport in our country to keep pace with the aspirations of our leadership,” Al-Jaber wrote.
The Crown Prince’s move followed the SAFF announcing a new raft of regulations in April that will come into effect next season and are designed to take the league forward. These included restricting club spending on transfers and salaries to 70 percent of revenue. The size of first-team squads has been reduced from 33 to 28, of which five must be homegrown players of 23 or younger.