Sebastian Vettel eats into Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead with great win at Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel celebrates a dominant victory at Spa Francorchamps. (AFP)
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Updated 26 August 2018
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Sebastian Vettel eats into Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead with great win at Belgian Grand Prix

  • German reduces Hamilton's lead in world title race to 17 points after brilliant win in Belgium.
  • Fernando Alonso involved in horror crash at start of famous race.

Sebastian Vettel made a crucial early overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton to win the crash-marred Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday and trim his rival’s overall lead.
Hamilton started from pole position for a record fifth time at Spa, and a record-extending 78th in Formula One, with Vettel second on the grid.
But Vettel has a knack for quick starts, and nudged his Ferrari past Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first lap with a smart move down the left.
“I had a great start. I knew my chance would come,” Vettel said. “Timing is crucial and I managed that perfectly I thought.”
It came moments after Fernando Alonso’s McLaren flew through the air and landed on top of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. Leclerc, unharmed, was likely spared a head injury by the protective halo device surrounding the cockpit area of F1 cars.
Vettel finished about 12 seconds clear of Hamilton, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen an impressive third after starting seventh.

Fernando Alonso was at the center of a horror crash at the start of the race. 

Vettel’s 52nd career win closes the gap to Hamilton to 17 points heading into next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza — Ferrari’s home.
Moments after his victory, Vettel removed his steering wheel and held it aloft, almost like a trophy, as he stood on his car to celebrate. Then he jumped into the arms of his mechanics and grabbed a Ferrari flag. With eight races remaining, it was a crucial win to halt Hamilton’s momentum.
It also moved Vettel one ahead of four-time F1 champion Alain Prost for third in all-time wins behind Hamilton (67) and Michael Schumacher (91).
“He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straight,” Hamilton said, expressing concern for Ferrari’s greater speed. “Congratulations to Seb.”
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, starting near the back after being penalized for too many engine changes, overtook Sergio Perez late on to place fourth.
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo both retired.
Hamilton initially held his lead, but Vettel overtook him sharply as they headed onto the Kemmel Straight. Vettel then held off Perez, who had jumped up from fourth to third by overtaking his Racing Point Force India team teammate Esteban Ocon.
The heavy crash at the start happened when Hulkenberg bumped into the back of Alonso, sending Alonso’s McLaren spinning and then flying up in the air.
It led to a safety car coming out on track.
Under safety car rules, drivers have to hold position and are not allowed to accelerate.
Starting from sixth place, Raikkonen lost his rear right tire after being clipped by Ricciardo — who retired later after running a lap down because of time he lost while his team repaired the damage on his car picked up during the chaotic start.
Vettel has been sloppy recently, crashing in the rain while leading the German GP and then losing position in qualifying for the Hungarian GP, once again in the rain.
This time the rain stayed away, and Vettel looked more composed.
When the race re-started, on lap four of 44, the German driver smartly blocked an overtaking attempt by Hamilton.
“I had a great re-start, I kept it clean,” Vettel said. “After that it was a very smooth race.”

It was a dominant performance from the German, who is now only 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the race to be world champion. 

Verstappen, meanwhile, displayed his usual slick overtaking by getting past Ocon and making light work of catching Perez to move into third — delighting the orange-clad Dutch fans congregated around the seven-kilometer Spa track nestled in the Ardennes forest.
Raikkonen was the previous Ferrari driver to win here, back in 2009, but his quest for a first F1 win since the season-opening Australian GP in 2013 ended with a mechanical failure on lap 9 — the third time the Finnish driver has failed to finish this season.
Up ahead, his teammate led Hamilton by 3.5 seconds at the halfway stage, when Hamilton pitted for new tires.
Vettel came in moments later and his stop was clean enough to see him regain the lead, but only a narrow 1.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Ferrari’s greater speed on the straights helped him pad that advantage out within a few laps, and he coasted home.
Both drivers have five wins this season as they seek to win a fifth F1 title and move level with Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio, and move within two of Schumacher’s all-time record.


Riz Rehman is the man with a plan to ensure Premier League passion is Muslim-friendly

Updated 22 September 2018
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Riz Rehman is the man with a plan to ensure Premier League passion is Muslim-friendly

  • Mohamed Salah's record-breaking season has focused attention on the Premier League's Muslim players and fans.
  • Past three players to win Player of the Year have all been Muslim.

LONDON: The face of English football has changed unimaginably since the start of the Premier League in 1992 — not least in terms of the number of Muslim footballers plying their trade in the most popular league in the world.
Twenty-six years ago, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nayim was the league’s only practicing Muslim. Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 40 Muslim players gracing England’s top flight — many of them global stars such as Mohamed Salah, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. 
This is a hugely welcome development for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and its education adviser, Riz Rehman, who is himself a Muslim. 
Rehman’s role involves him supporting players of different backgrounds — including Muslims — and aiming to boost their participation in football. Little wonder, then, that he is delighted that the past three winners of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award were all Muslim — Salah, Kante and Riyad Mahrez. 
“It’s great for the Muslim community — young people, players, aspiring players and coaches — that three Muslims have won this award and that two of them (Salah and Mahrez) are Arabs,” Rehman told Arab News. 
“It’s very important because it’s created more awareness about Muslims being good at the game and sport in general. It’s important we highlight this.” 
Leading Muslim footballers’ soaring success and stardom have coincided with rising Islamaphobic attacks in Britain following the Brexit vote in 2016. Regressive attitudes toward race, religion and immigration have raged in some parts of the country, as Rehman acknowledged. 
“The biggest misconceptions are that Muslims are all terrorists or that they are all Asian and have long beards,” he said. “Isolated incidents are giving Muslims a bad name.” 
Mercifully for Rehman and the PFA, the likes of Salah and Kante are portraying Muslims in a far more positive — and realistic — light on and off the pitch. 
During his sublime 2017-18 season, Liverpool star Salah topped the Premier League goal-scoring charts with 32 goals and reached the Champions League final. His unstinting brilliance led to him being serenaded with his own song by Liverpool fans, which includes the line: “If he scores another few, then I’ll be a Muslim too.” 

Mohamed Salah has created a positive image of Muslims during his record-breaking year in the Premier League. 


Many social media posts and videos showing young supporters copying the Egyptian maestro’s overtly religious goal celebration have also been posted many times. This involves him performing sujood, the Islamic art of prostration. 
“Things like that are really helping to bring down barriers in the game,” Rehman said. 
Likewise, he cites the fact that Salah and his Liverpool teammate, Sadio Mane, visit a mosque every week after training for Jumu’ah, the Friday prayer. 
Meanwhile, only last Saturday the humbleness of Chelsea’s irrepressible midfielder Kante — who has two Premier League winners’ medals and one FA Cup success to his name — was widely hailed. 
After missing his Eurostar train to Paris, Kante — who achieved World Cup glory with France in July — was invited home for dinner by Arsenal fan Badlur Rahman Jalil after meeting him while praying at a London mosque. Remarkably, Kante duly obliged and spent the evening watching Match of the Day and playing the FIFA video game with Jalil and his friends. 
“People are more aware that we have Muslim players in the game,” Rehman said. “Players are not afraid to come out and embrace the fact that they are Muslims and showing the world that they’re good people.” 
But are the PFA — and clubs in the Premier League and England in general — doing enough to increase Muslim representation in English football? 
“I think things are better than ever. A lot of clubs are working hard on all-inclusive programs,” replied Rehman, who was a promising youth-team player at Brentford before injury cut short his career at the age of 17 in 2000. 
“We deliver workshops aimed at club staff to educate them about better engaging Muslim communities. We get staff and coaches together and tell them more about Islam, what it involves and discuss Ramadan and how it might affect performance and participation at all levels. 
“On the back of that, hopefully clubs will deliver programs around the needs of the community. There are clubs like Crystal Palace who are looking to deliver Asian-specific programs to get more Asian kids playing football, more Asian coaches and look at the Muslim community as well.” 
Rehman himself helped organized an Iftar event at League One outfit Portsmouth earlier this year, which “went really well.” 
“We also had players come along to support the day. Clubs such as Crystal Palace, Leicester City and a few others are showing an interest in holding similar events next season. 
“Leicester City are a club with a massive Asian community and we are supporting them with trying to set up some programs.” 
Also high on Rehman’s agenda is encouraging more BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) coaches into the game. As well as sitting on the advisory group for the Premier Leagues Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme, one key program he is involved in is “Sidelined-to-Sidelines.”

N'Golo Kante has been one of the best players in England's top-flight since he moved to the Premier League three years ago. 


This was established by the Zesh Rehman Foundation — which was set up by his brother, a former Fulham defender — to address a shortage of qualified South Asian coaches. 
“We are setting up sessions to try and recruit young coaches at clubs like Crystal Palace, QPR and Chelsea,” Rehman revealed. “Coaches wearing those club badges become role models and are able to influence their own communities and encourage more kids (from under-represented ethnicities) to take up the game.” 
Rehman is keen to recruit more Muslim “ambassadors” at clubs “up and down the country” to emulate the likes of the inspirational Salah. 
“We want them to work with the community, local groups, mosques, and get players to actually go into those communities and build links with the clubs. It’s a two-way thing.” 
Progress has also been made in attracting more Muslim supporters to Premier League matches, Rehman added. Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion are among the clubs that have multi-faith prayer rooms to cater for their increasingly diverse fanbases, he said. 
“Some clubs sell halal food, too, so there’s something for everyone.
“It’s a worldwide game now. Mo Salah has reached out to a lot of people. I think Muslim communities themselves have to make an effort to go to matches. 
“It’s not an overnight success, but you do see different communities represented on match days, week in and week out.”