Ferrari dominate as Charles Leclerc takes first pole position for Bahrain Grand Prix

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L), Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (C) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) pose for a photograph after the qualifying session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit. (AFP)
Updated 31 March 2019

Ferrari dominate as Charles Leclerc takes first pole position for Bahrain Grand Prix

SAKHIR, London: Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc confirmed he is to be reckoned with by taking his first career pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.
Leclerc topped all three sections of qualifying, having already been quickest in two of the three practice sessions.
“The car was amazing,” Leclerc said. “A lot of emotions, I’m trying to stay as cool as possible.”
Ferrari secured a 1-2 on the grid as four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel qualified in second place. Although Vettel was later summoned to stewards for driving unnecessarily slowly on an in lap during qualifying, no action was taken against him.
Lewis Hamilton was third, followed by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fifth followed by Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.
Leclerc’s achievement earned him praise from Prince Albert of Monaco, who first met Leclerc when he was 12 in the royal palace. Prince Albert directly contacted Leclerc to offer his congratulations, express his pride in Leclerc, and wish him luck for the race, the Principality’s press department told The Associated Press when contacted for comment.
It’s hard to be more Monegasque than Leclerc, whose apartment is near the Monaco GP’s race start-finish line. As a youth, he swam in the swimming pool next to the glittering harbor, the focal point of the track.
At 21 years and five months, Leclerc became the second youngest pole-sitter behind Vettel — slightly younger at 21 years, 72 days old in 2008 when he qualified first for the Italian GP when driving for Toro Rosso.With his multiple titles and 52 race wins, Vettel is the senior driver at Ferrari, on paper at least.
But he has finished second in the title race to Hamilton in the past two seasons and Ferrari is not imposing seniority on Leclerc in its quest to win a first drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Therefore Leclerc is free to race against Vettel providing there is not too much risk or carelessness which could cost Ferrari valuable points as the proud Italian manufacturer seeks a first constructors’ championship since 2008.
“I will do everything to keep my first place,” a determined Leclerc said, before adding cautiously. “But, obviously, we’re a team as well.”
After the disappointment of the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago, Ferrari has looked ominous here with the drivers finishing 1-2 in all three practices and carrying that over into qualifying.
“We’re both much happier with the car this weekend. The team has done very, very well,” Vettel said. “We proved today we are capable of fighting from the front.”
Leclerc carried the day, even surpassing his own leading time on his last lap to set a new record in Bahrain of 1 minute, 27.866 seconds on the 5.4-kilometer (3.3-mile) circuit — beating Vettel by around 0.3 seconds.
“Not exactly my day, but that’s how it goes,” said Vettel, who locked his tires a couple of times in qualifying. “It was not ideal for me but congratulations to him.”
Leclerc is well poised for the first win of a career progressing as quickly and smoothly as his driving . He impressed last year with the Alfa Romeo Sauber team in his debut season, with 10 top-10 finishes and a best result of sixth in one of the grid’s least competitive cars.
Qualifying started at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) and mirrored cool race conditions for Sunday evening’s race, which finishes with floodlights illuminating the desert track.
Bottas won in Australia ahead of Hamilton , where Vettel finished fourth and Leclerc fifth.
Vettel has won the past two Bahrain GPs driving for Ferrari and a record four overall, including two during his run of four straight F1 titles with Red Bull from 2010-13.
Hamilton’s last win here was in 2015 from pole position for Mercedes.
“This is generally a weak circuit for me,” said five-time F1 champion Hamilton, whose 73 wins puts him second behind Michael Schumacher’s 91. “The Ferraris have shown incredible pace, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be beat.”
Qualifying is split into three sections, with five drivers eliminated from Q1 and Q2 to leave 10 fighting for pole in Q3.
Hamilton set the quickest time but Leclerc beat it, and then he did even better.

Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019

Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”