Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fear Ferrari ambush in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton leads the world title standings but is all too aware that Ferrari and arch rival Sebastian Vettel are catching him up. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fear Ferrari ambush in Singapore

  • It is expected that Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix will favour Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
  • Hamilton currently holds a 30-point lead over the German in the world title standings.

LONDON: Lewis Hamilton may have tightened his grip on a fifth world title after extending his championship lead with a surprise victory in Monza two weeks ago, yet Mercedes are playing down the Briton’s chances of adding to that triumph in Singapore.
In the last three of his four Formula One title wins, Hamilton has returned from the annual summer break in brilliant form, reeling off a succession of victories in his dominant Mercedes to close the door on his title rivals.
However, while the Briton has finished second in Belgium and first in Italy since the season resumed in August, his car is seen as inferior to Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix should once again favor the German.
Second-placed Vettel slipped 30 points behind Hamilton after coming off the worst in a first-lap collision with the Briton in Monza and the 31-year-old knows he has little room for further mishaps with only seven rounds remaining.
The pair arrived in Singapore in a similar position a year ago, but the pole-sitting Vettel crashed into Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and team mate Kimi Raikkonen soon after the start as Hamilton cruised to victory and never looked back.
Vettel and Hamilton are the most successful drivers on the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit with seven wins between them but Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says the odds are stacked against the Briton matching the German’s four Singapore victories.
“Singapore has features that we’ve struggled with in the past. The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make (it) one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us,” the Austrian said in a team statement.
“Last year, we started the race from the third row — and came home with a win and a third place. On paper, the track should favor the Ferraris, but the championship fight is so close that predictions are almost meaningless.
“We’re in the middle of a monumental championship fight... every man and woman in the team is willing to push themselves to the limit; we will be fighting with everything we’ve got for these two championships.”
Vettel, who will be joined by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc next season with Raikkonen heading the other way, has been criticized for losing points through over-aggressive driving but Wolff came out in defense of the German after his Monza spin.
“I’m not completely neutral, but for me Lewis is the best driver of recent years. Even so, I find the criticism of Sebastian not quite fair,” Wolff told Die Welt newspaper of Vettel, also a quadruple world champion.
“If possible to win, he has the ambition to do it with the necessary aggression. That requires a lot of courage and his way of driving sometimes leads to collisions.
“It could easily have been Lewis instead of Sebastian who spun (at Monza). Then the whole grand prix would have been different.”


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 17 January 2019
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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)