Silver Arrows of Mercedes ready to go for broke in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Updated 23 November 2018
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Silver Arrows of Mercedes ready to go for broke in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

ABU DHABI: Toto Wolff hopes to see his champion Mercedes team deliver a “great show for the fans” at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Mercedes team chief, who has overseen Lewis Hamilton’s memorable fifth title triumph and the Silver Arrows’ fifth consecutive constructors’ championship, said that he felt humbled by the celebrations last week, but also determined to continue setting the pace.

“The celebrations in Brixworth and Brackley were a very humbling experience,” the Austrian said. “Claiming the fifth consecutive double championship — an experience that very few people in the sport have ever had — felt amazing. We cherished that moment.

“At the same time, everyone is keen to continue to raise the bar together and be even stronger in 2019. For now, we have one race to go in 2018 and we want to put on a great show for the fans who supported us this season, be it at the track, in front of their TV or on social media.

“The pressure is off so this is one race where we can really for broke.”

The prospect of five-time champion Hamilton and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas battling for victory against the Ferrari and Red Bull teams at a track where Mercedes have been unbeaten in the modern turbo-hybrid era is tantalizing.

But the Yas Marina circuit has only rarely delivered thrills, even if the racing under floodlights has always looked a dazzling spectacle.

Whatever happens in the race, for many the weekend is likely to be more memorable for two-time champion Fernando Alonso’s farewell to Formula 1 and Kimi Raikkonen’s last foray with Ferrari before he moves to Sauber in a swap that sees Charles Leclerc going the other way.

A victory for the 39-year-old Finn would be also be a first at the track for Ferrari as Abu Dhabi celebrates its 10th hosting of the event.

Alonso, who has won the Monaco Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24-Hours race, is departing to concentrate on winning the Indianapolis 500, the third element of the motorsports triple crown.

“I’ve won more races than I dreamed of when I came here,” Alonso said. “I’ve ticked this box. I need to find another box to fill with another tick now.”


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”