Valteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes takes front row in Austria

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel pose after the qualifying ahead of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix. (AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)
Updated 30 June 2018
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Valteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes takes front row in Austria

SPIELBERG, Austria: Valtteri Bottas edged teammate Lewis Hamilton for pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix as Mercedes locked up the front row of the grid for the third time this season on Saturday.
Bottas led Hamilton by 0.019 seconds to get his first pole of the season. The Finnish driver also started in front last year and went on to win the race.
“I can guarantee I am more hungry for the win than anyone on the grid,” Bottas said. “The whole weekend we’ve made good progress with the set-up. The car felt so good.”
Hamilton said Bottas deserved to beat him.
“I am really happy. This is a great result for the team,” he said.
Sebastian Vettel was more than three-tenths off the pace in third, followed by Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. In a duel of two four-time world champions, Vettel trails leader Hamilton by 14 points going into Sunday’s ninth of 21 races.
Bottas took advantage of mistakes by Hamilton and Vettel in the final third of qualifying, and neither could match the Finn’s speed in their final laps.
“I knew I needed a banker to make safe I qualified in a good position,” Vettel said. “I had a bit left but not enough to challenge Valtteri.”
Vettel was under investigation by race stewards for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz, who told his team, Renault: “I had to take a kerb to avoid him, I nearly crashed.”
Max Verstappen was fifth but his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was beaten by Haas driver Romain Grosjean for sixth.
Underlining his potential, Charles Leclerc became the first Sauber driver since 2014 to reach the second qualifying round in six straight races. The Monaco-born driver posted the 13th quickest time but will have to start from 18th following a grid penalty.
Leclerc, who reportedly is a candidate to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next season, ended practice with an engine issue, forcing his team to replace the gear box.
The qualifying result put Mercedes ahead of Ferrari again, hours after Vettel’s fastest time in final practice which suggested the Italian team had caught up with the upgraded Mercedes cars.
Hamilton and Bottas dominated practice on Friday after the team applied several aerodynamic changes to their cars, including a new side pod design and an adapted front and rear wings.
The upgrades put Mercedes in a favorable position to stretch its winning streak on the Austrian track. It has won all four races since the Austrian GP returned to the calendar in 2014, with Hamilton and Bottas triumphing in the past two seasons.
The team’s dominance over the years has been a result of its superior power unit and the layout of the track, at 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) among the shortest in F1 with just nine turns and four long straights, favoring cars with good traction and straight-line speed.
Situated in Central Austria’s countryside, the track includes inclines of up to 12 percent.
Overtaking has always been tough on this track, but for the first time Sunday’s race will feature a third DRS zone, a section where drivers are allowed to use a drag reduction system in order to get a speed boost while chasing the car in front.
Sunday’s race is the second of F1’s inaugural triple header, after last week’s French GP with the British GP at Silverstone to follow on July 8.


Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

Updated 9 min 47 sec ago
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Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Proposal will be made at the federation’s general assembly next week

MADRID: The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation President Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth €30 million ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying “it will be difficult” to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the US, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the US or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater. Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than €20 million ($22 million).  The Spanish players’ association, which complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

“The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar,” Rubiales said.