Lewis Hamilton dominates F1 practice in Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton drives around the Albert Park circuit during the first Formula One practice session in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2018
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Lewis Hamilton dominates F1 practice in Melbourne

MELBOURNE: World champion Lewis Hamilton took up where he left off last season with the fastest lap times in opening practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Friday.
Hamilton lowered his opening practice best time of one minute 24.026 seconds with 1:23.931 in the second session to hold a 0.127sec gap over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (1:24.058).
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas (1:24.159) was third in Melbourne in the first exchanges of the new Formula One season.
The Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikonnen and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth respectively and between 0.3-0.5secs down on Hamilton’s time ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.
Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull was seventh fastest in 1:24.721.
“Coming to the first race you have no idea what it’s going to be like, but we started on the right foot today,” Hamilton said.
“The gap closed up a little bit between all the cars, but that’s exciting anyway.
“It’s more challenging for me to eke out more from the car, discover whether I have lost something or they have all gained, but I enjoyed driving.
“We’re going to get quicker and quicker through the weekend, that is if it doesn’t rain tomorrow.”
Hamilton’s long-run pace looked superior on the ultrasoft tires, reeling off a steady run of 1:28s, but race pace simulations showed little between the three leading teams.
Red Bull managed to lap in the high 1:28s with Ferrari in the low 1:29s.
Verstappen and Bottas both used soft tires for the final few minutes of the second practice session, while Raikkonen was on the supersoft for Ferrari.
“For me this has been a positive start to the weekend so I am really happy about that,” Verstappen said.
“The car has behaved well on this track which is always pleasing after only running in Barcelona to date. It is still hard to see who is strongest and how we will finish come race day.”
Hamilton is gunning for his fifth world title, an achievement which would match the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and leave him just two adrift of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
Bottas and Raikkonen faced the stewards after the second session to explain a coming-together, when Bottas had to take to the gravel to avoid running into the Ferrari.
“We tried to chase the balance a bit because I did not feel that comfortable,” said Ferrari’s Vettel.
“We still have quite a lot of performance in hand — I am not too worried because I know if I get everything right we should be in better shape.
“It looks to be close, which is good news, so we should be able to do something tomorrow.”
The surprise of the opening day was the performance of the Haas team to challenge for the fourth-fastest team on the back of two strong showings from Romain Grosjean.
The second session was halted briefly after a cable was ripped up from underneath the start/finish line, and resumed after officials cut loose the wire.
A fired-up Fernando Alonso yelled down the McLaren team radio: “Maybe because of the halo the people stop looking into their mirrors!” after a close shave with some of his rivals early in the session.
The halo, a safety bar above the cockpit to protect drivers, is a new innovation this season.
— AFP


'Mohamed Salah's PFA Player of the Year award can inspire all Arab footballers'

Updated 3 min 57 sec ago
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'Mohamed Salah's PFA Player of the Year award can inspire all Arab footballers'

  • Mohamed Salah is the second Arab to win the sought-after award.
  • Former Saudi Arabia coach Nelo Vingada claims win will persuade more Arabs to play in Europe.

LONDON: Mohamed Salah’s incredible season is not just about winning individual awards or helping Liverpool to a possible UEFA Champions League win — the Egyptian star is inspiring millions of fans across the Arab world.
On Sunday the Egyptian ace won the PFA Premier League Player of the Year award, after his stunning exploits since joining Liverpool from AS Roma last summer. The 25-year-old leads the scoring charts with 31 goals this season so far, and is on target to beat Andy Cole’s record of 34 strikes in a single Premier League campaign.
And while that is great for both Salah and Liverpool, it is also great for the Middle East.
 “When there is a player like Salah performing, scoring and playing at the level he is playing at then it is amazing for Arabian football,”  Nelo Vingada, former coach of Cairo giants Zamalek and the Egyptian Under-23 team, told Arab News.
Vingada believes that the January departure of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona has given the forward the extra freedom he needed to excel in the Premier League.
“The people of Egypt are proud and very excited about Salah. 
Football is one of the things that unites the country and they are loving that he is playing so well,” added Vingada, who also led Saudi Arabia to the 1996 Asian Cup title.
Pat Janssen, CEO of Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab, has been watching Salah’s success with a lot of enthusiasm and pride from Riyadh.
 “There is no question that Salah is inspirational for all Arabic players, and that includes those from the Asia side,” Janssen told Arab News.
“I can’t recall a higher profile player to come from the region. What he is doing with Liverpool can energize the region simply because Egypt is a massive football nation.”
It is hoped that the sight of Salah scoring goals by the bucketload and grabbing personal awards will inspire other Arab footballers to go to the big leagues in Europe and prove their 
talent on some of the biggest stages in the world.
“It has always been difficult for players to head overseas. In Egypt, it is different. They are open to fighting hard to make a better life for themselves,” Vingada said.
The rest of the world will get a chance to see how far Salah can take Egypt in the World Cup when the team’s chances of a place in the knockout stage may depend on the final game against Saudi Arabia. The two Arab nations have been drawn together in Group A with hosts Russia and South America powerhouses Uruguay.
“In Saudi Arabia, people will be proud of what he has doing as he is a Muslim and an Arab but ultimately he is Egyptian,” said Vingada. “It won’t be easy for Saudi Arabia to stop him. He is one of the best players in the world at the moment and if anyone can lead Egypt to the second round, he can.”
That would end what may just be a perfect season for Mohamed Salah.