Lewis Hamilton ‘excited’ by unforgiving Monaco street fight

Lewis Hamilton is confident of building on his win in Spain when he tackles the street circuit of Monaco this weekend. (Reuters)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Lewis Hamilton ‘excited’ by unforgiving Monaco street fight

  • Hamilton has a 17-point lead over Vettel
  • 'It is going to be a close fight'

MONACO: Lewis Hamilton is aiming to reel off his third successive win and to consolidate his grip on this year’s title race at this weekend’s 65th running of the classic Monaco Grand Prix.
The defending four-time world champion, fresh from a lucky victory in Azerbaijan and a convincing triumph in Spain, arrives in the Mediterranean principality with a 17-points lead on nearest rival and fellow-four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
But in an unpredictable yo-yo season punctuated by unexpected dramas, the 33-year-old Englishman knows he faces a challenge to stay on top on the unforgiving barrier-lined streets.
“We have worked very hard as a team to get into this position, but we know this is a major task. It is going to be a close fight and I am excited by the prospect of this race.”
Vettel won last year’s race for Ferrari, ending a four-year run of Mercedes domination at a track where qualifying is of paramount importance due to the difficulty in overtaking during the race.
The German is looking for his third Monaco win and the 50th of his career on Sunday when, many drivers have suggested, the use of a new ‘hyper-soft’ tire with pink sidewalls will deliver record laps.
That prospect and the likely return of grid girls as the Monaco organizers defy F1’s new American owners Liberty Media who ended the tradition this year has added to the keen sense of anticipation.
Pirelli boss Mario Isola said the ‘hyper’ is a step up in performance and is likely to be used both in qualifying and the race.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Renault, who tested the new tire at Barcelona following the Spanish Grand Prix, said he expected it to make a major impact.
“It is quite impressive, that tyre, I must say,” said Sainz. “It gives easily a second per lap and that was at Barcelona. Around Monaco, this tire could be something special.
“We could see some very quick laps. I would be prepared for lap records again – and in qualifying it will be absolute madness. It will be crazy.
“Last year, with the new cars, it was something incredible and this year with a two steps softer compound and a tire that for me is the best tire Pirelli has done in a lot of years, it’s going to be crazy.”
As Vettel bids to bounce back, after leading the championship earlier in the season, he and Hamilton both fear as major challenge also from Red Bull who will be celebrating their 250th race start on Sunday.
They won both their 100th and 150th races and Dutchman Max Verstappen believes they should be making a major impact this weekend.
“The team has worked hard and I feel we should be really competitive this time,” he said.
Hamilton and Mercedes are expecting Red Bull to be a threat.
“It is going to be a serious challenge,” said Hamilton.
“The others are going to be hard to beat. If you look at Daniel Ricciardo, in Spain, he was much quicker in the last sector and the last sector is all down-force, so they’re going to be rapid in Monaco, and very hard to beat.
“Montreal as well, where it’s very, very hard to get temperature into the tires, it’s going to be multiple laps of driving to get temperatures into those tires there.
“So different things that are coming up are challenging, I don’t think it’s going to be as clear as it was at every single race.”

Drivers championship
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 95 pts
2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 78
3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 58,
4. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) 48
5. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 47
6. Max Verstappen (NED) 33
7. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 32
8. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) 22
9. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 19
10. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 19
11. Sergio Pérez (MEX) 17
12. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 12
13. Charles Leclerc (MON) 9
14. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 8
15. Lance Stroll (CAN) 4
16. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 2
17. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 1
18. Brendon Hartley (NZL) 1

Constructors
1. Mercedes 153 pts, 2. Ferrari 126, 3. Red Bull 80, 4. Renault 41, 5. McLaren 40, 6. Haas 19, 7. Force India 18, 8. Toro Rosso 13, 9. Sauber 11, 10. Williams 4


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”