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


Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 31 min 22 sec ago
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Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.


• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>


Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)