Valterri Bottas takes pole in Azerbaijan after Leclerc crashes

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas steers his car during the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2019
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Valterri Bottas takes pole in Azerbaijan after Leclerc crashes

BAKU: Valtteri Bottas qualified in pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Saturday after Charles Leclerc’s crash helped to ensure one of the longest qualifying sessions in recent years.
Bottas’ last lap of the session was 1 minute, 40.495 seconds, leaving him 0.059 ahead of teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes 1-2. Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari, 0.302 off Bottas’ time.
Bottas showed great timing to get a slipstream down the long final straight.
“I got a good tow on the last lap,” said Bottas. “It’s all about fine details and I hit the sweet spot.”
It was Bottas’ second consecutive pole and the third time in four races that Mercedes has locked out the front row.
“It’s been so close all weekend. Ferrari have looked very quick,” said Hamilton, who said another one-two was even sweeter because Ferrari and Red Bull had upgraded their cars for Baku. “For us to lock out the front row in the circumstances, I’m really grateful for that.”
Leclerc had been fastest in all three practice sessions but crashed his Ferrari and qualified 10th.
“I am stupid, I am stupid, I am stupid,” he said over team radio.
Robert Kubica’s troubled comeback season for Williams continued as he qualified last and crashed at the same spot as Leclerc, a narrow section by the old city walls. The two incidents caused lengthy delays for barrier repairs.
Qualifying was scheduled for one hour but took nearly two, as long as many races.
It finished just under 40 minutes before sunset as the track cooled rapidly and the glare of the setting sun dazzled drivers in places.
“It was difficult to find the right balance,” said Vettel. “The car became really difficult to drive.”
Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly will start Sunday’s race from the pit lane after he failed to stop for weighing when asked to do so Friday. Gasly set the fastest time in the first session of qualifying.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi qualified eighth but has a 10-place grid penalty for changing his engine electronics.


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”