Saudi Arabia boxer plotting to become lord of the ring

Saudi Arabia boxer plotting to become lord of the ring
Updated 26 May 2018

Saudi Arabia boxer plotting to become lord of the ring

Saudi Arabia boxer plotting to become lord of the ring
  • Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is three fights into his career
  • He has set his sights on fighting Lomachenko

Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is on a mission. Not content with being the first and only professional boxer from Saudi Arabia and signing with new promoters MTK Global, the Jeddah-born “Arabian Warrior” wants to be a multi-weight world champion, take on Ukrainian hitman Vasyl Lomachenko and defend world titles in the Middle East.
It is quite the dream for “Triple Z,” who penned a four-year contract with Irish promoters MTK in March. The lightweight believes the Irish-based management and promotion firm, which also counts Tyson Fury and Michael Conlan among its stable, will set him on the path to superstardom and give boxing the platform it deserves in the Gulf region.
Dubai has always threatened to become a top-class fight city, with fanciful bouts involving Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan or Tyson Fury discussed with varying degrees of credibility in the past decade. But Al-Qahtani, who makes his debut for MTK on July 13, wants to be the man who makes the dream a reality.
“I’ve already made history by being the first Saudi boxer, but that’s not enough. What’s the point if you don’t win a world title? I want to be undisputed and to be a champion in three different weights,” he told Arab News, with a mixture of excitement and absolute conviction.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be that change, to make history and be the first professional Saudi boxer, to be the first who represented the region.
“I want to take boxing there and defend my title in the Middle East. Instead of Vegas, the O2 or Wembley Arena, let’s bring it to the Middle East — it has never been done.
“MTK has paved the way for success; they’re going to invest in me and help me get the fights to build up to where I want to get. I believe they have made a wise investment.”
There are many issues surrounding the potential hosting of fights in the Middle East, starting with the climate. Unless the bout is held between November and January, it would almost certainly have to be indoors, and there are a lack of suitable venues.
There is also a big question mark over whether it is financially viable, an aspect that has put off investors in the past, plus the time difference with the US for maximum pay-per-view exposure.
That has been countered to an extent by Manny Pacquiao fighting in daylight hours in Australia, while Abu Dhabi has also hosted two major UFC cards — albeit the most recent coming four years ago. But what could really tip the scales would be the prospect of having a genuine world-class fighter from the region.
MTK believe Al-Qahtani fits the bill and have signed him for four years, which should take him up to the seven or eight fight mark, a period of time he thinks should be enough to guarantee him a title attempt.
The road begins on July 13 against an opponent still to be confirmed at York Hall in East London. It is a home from home for Al-Qahtani, who was born in Jeddah, but moved to London as a schoolboy as two of his older brothers — Khalid and Fahad — were studying in the city.
By his own admission, Al-Qahtani was a troubled soul as a child. He used to take money to beat up bullies at school in south London, which led to suspension, police involvement and concern from his family at the direction his life was taking.
“All I knew was to fight,” he admitted.
“I went to a rough school and used to fight a lot. I wanted to bully the bullies; it wasn’t right, but it’s all I knew.”
Al-Qahtani channelled his anger and found solace in the “sweet science” after spending time with his brother Fahad in the gym and developing a growing fascination with every aspect of the sport, watching videos of Muhammad Ali, Prince Naseem Hamed, Marvin Hagler and Hector Camacho.
By his early teens he was working out at a local youth club in Wimbledon before Fahad took him to the iconic Fitzroy Lodge gym. He soon knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“I love the concept of being able to push your body to a level that you’re so good, so fit, so skilful. I loved going to the gym to train, hit the bag, spar, shadow box.
“Growing up, I used to watch Naseem Hamed, Tyson, Hagler and Camacho. The whole flamboyant aspect of boxing. Every time I go to the gym, I try to imagine how they did it, what it took. I try to go through the same steps they went through.”
His best lesson, though, came from his former trainer, Mickey Cairney, who told Al-Qahtani he would not be allowed into a ring to compete unless he knuckled down at school.
“He sat me down and asked me, ‘what do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to box.’ He said, ‘you’re not ready and you can only box if you do well at school.’ After that moment I started studying. It put me back on the straight and narrow. Boxing is the best form of meditation. It changed my life.”
Cairney’s wise words certainly worked as Al-Qahtani sat his GSCEs and made it to college before going on to study civil engineering at South Bank University, where he completed a degree and then a master’s.
Meanwhile, he was earning a reputation as a promising amateur, winning titles across the southeast of England and racking up an impressive 50-5 record. “Fifty wins and five robberies,” he said, laughing, claiming the defeats were politically motivated because he was being paired with up-and-comers in the Team GB program.
Like many before him, Al-Qahtani has been motivated by rejection, a desire to prove people wrong, but also by a determination to make the most of his talent and achieve what others in his family were unable to.
Despite a blossoming amateur career, Fahad was never able to realize his potential in the ring due to a motorbike accident which led to a serious knee injury and early retirement, while Khalid failed to complete his studies.
After taking time out from competing to pass his degree,
Al-Qahtani made his pro debut against Yousef Al-Hamidi in Crystal Palace last year, beating the Syrian journeyman on points. “I schooled him. He didn’t get to hit me once.” Two more wins followed before he agreed the deal with MTK.
Fahad has stayed by his side and his older sibling remains his eyes and ears outside the ring, often shouting instructions to the fighter via their own unique code.
In describing his style, Al-Qahtani does not mess around, comparing himself to four of the all-time greats. “If I had to put my style in a category, I would say I resemble four fighters: Tyson, Hagler, Prince Naseem and Manny Pacquiao,” he said.
“I’m 5ft 6in and a lot of my opponents are a lot taller than me. I’ve got a strong build, I know my power and I can punch with both hands. When I box, because of the size difference, I have to move my head a lot to get inside — like Tyson. That peekaboo style.
“Like Hagler, I have the ability to switch. I can be a southpaw or orthodox.
“Prince Naseem, it’s all from my brother; the slide movement, the screw punches. I can go for a whole round with my hands up, or a whole round with my hands down.
“I chose Pacquiao because he has such a high work rate, working behind the jab; angles, left, right and wearing his opponents down.” He insists the combination of styles will soon elevate him to the position of contender — and he has one man in his sights.
Vasyl Lomachenko is the hottest thing in boxing right now. The Ukrainian is third in The Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings after a whirlwind 12-fight pro career that has seen him dubbed the “Tiger Woods of the fight game” due to the excitement he brings to the ring.
Lomachenko has been nicknamed “The Matrix” for his baffling, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them shoulder rolls, but Al-Qahtani thinks he can crack the code.
“I will fight Lomachenko in my 10th fight,” he said. “He skipped the ranks, he proved he can have a title fight in his second fight. I can do the same. I know he is an Olympian and you have to respect him, but I believe I should be in the same ranking.
“I think he’s really good, but I think too many of his opponents follow his game plan. For example, if you’re a heavy puncher, I’m not going to come and box you aggressively and try to knock you out. I will try to break you, I will box my way, follow my rhythm.
“Tony Bellew once said to David Price, ‘I will be a champion one day and I will call out David Haye.’ I will say the same thing right now. I believe once I get a shot at the title, I will call out Lomachenko.”
It is quite the boast from a boxer just three pro fights deep. But Al-Qahtani is an ambitious fighter whose horizons stretch far beyond just the ring.

Extreme E to launch in the desert of AlUla in one month

Extreme E to launch in the desert of AlUla in one month
Updated 04 March 2021

Extreme E to launch in the desert of AlUla in one month

Extreme E to launch in the desert of AlUla in one month
  • The new electric SUV series will take place in extreme environments around the world affected by climate issues

DUBAI: Extreme E’s first ever race is just one month away, and with 10 teams ready to compete, fielding a legendary line-up of champion drivers, the series is gearing up for an epic opening weekend of action when it all kicks off in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, on April 3-4.

Extreme E is a new racing series, which will see electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues.

“We are a motorsports obsessed nation, with a long and proud history of hosting some of the world’s most famous rallies, and of our own drivers participating internationally,” said Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.

“We have been honored by Extreme E choosing the dramatic natural landscape of AlUla to host its maiden race in April and we can’t wait to offer all of our support to ensure it goes down in history as an unforgettable new chapter for motor-racing.”

There are 10 teams signed up for Season 1 including three owned by current and former Formula One World Champions, with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button founding X44, Rosberg X Racing and JBXE respectively.

Joining those teams will be ABT CUPRA XE, ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team, Andretti United, Chip Ganassi Racing, Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team, Team TECHEETAH and Veloce Racing.

The teams and cars are now making their way to Saudi.

“The St. Helena ship is on her way to Saudi Arabia, and it all feels very real.” Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E, said.  

“This momentous moment is the culmination of years of hard work and planning, and I know AlUla will capture our audience when they get to see this incredible place, such a special setting for our first race.”

The Extreme E driver line-up brings together champions from a variety of motorsport disciplines spanning single-seaters to rallying, rallycross, Dakar and sportscar racing: Mattias Ekström and Claudia Hürtgen (ABT CUPRA XE); Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz (ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team); Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings (Andretti United); Kyle LeDuc and Sara Price (Chip Ganassi Racing); Oliver Bennett and Christine Giampaoli (Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team); Jenson Button (JBXE); Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor (Rosberg X Racing); Stéphane Sarrazin and Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing); and Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez (X44).

“We’re only three months in, but 2021 has already been a monumental year for motorsport in Saudi Arabia, with our second Dakar Saudi held in January and our third Formula E race weekend in February,” Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), said.

“Next, we combine what makes those two events so special – the unrivalled yet testing beauty of our vast desert landscape, and clean energy racing – in hosting Extreme E’s first ever event.”

Not only will Extreme E bring wheel-to-wheel racing to a global audience through its more than 40 international broadcasters, it has a wider purpose – to highlight the climate emergency affecting everybody worldwide.

Each destination has been chosen with a different environmental issue in mind: the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia will highlight desertification, the Ocean X Prix in Senegal rising sea levels, the Arctic X Prix in Greenland the melting ice cap, the Amazon X Prix in Brazil deforestation and the Glacier X Prix in Patagonia glacial recession.

The goals of Saudi Vision 2030 have driven considerable investment by the Kingdom into hosting some of the world’s biggest sporting events.

The aim is to introduce millions of Saudis to sport and promote wider sporting activity nationwide to ensure a healthier, more active population.

Phillip Jones, Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) Destination Management and Marketing Officer, is looking forward to offering AlUla’s desert landscape for the inaugural Extreme E X Prix.

“As a newly developing tourism destination, AlUla is uniquely positioned to get the foundations right from the outset,” he said.

“There are many initiatives underway in alignment with our 12 key strategic principles to develop a responsible tourism destination that focuses on safeguarding the natural and cultural landscape, sustaining eco-systems and wildlife and light-touch tourism experiences.

Members of Extreme E’s Scientific Committee have been working with the championship over the last two years to ensure the series leaves a long-lasting positive impact in each location through Legacy Programs, which include planting one million mangroves in Senegal and reforesting 100 hectares of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

The Legacy Program plans for Saudi Arabia will be revealed in the days leading up to the first race.

The Desert X Prix, AlUla, kicks off on Saturday, April 3 with the qualification rounds, and the final plays out on Sunday, April 4. Extreme E X Prix races are not open to fans to attend in person, but qualifications will be shown live on the Extreme E website, with the Finals broadcast live on MBC in the Middle East.

US Open tennis champ Thiem sets sights on Dubai glory

US Open tennis champ Thiem sets sights on Dubai glory
Updated 04 March 2021

US Open tennis champ Thiem sets sights on Dubai glory

US Open tennis champ Thiem sets sights on Dubai glory
  • Austrian is No. 1 seed at men’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships which start on March 14
  • Women’s event begins on March 7, will feature defending champion Simona Halep

DUBAI: Dominic Thiem will bid to become the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1997 to lift the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy when the tournament gets underway in a few days’ time.

The reigning US Open champion will be the top seed and will be hoping to emulate his legendary countryman who overcame Goran Ivanisevic in a thrilling final to claim the title. Since then, no other player from Austria has managed to land the coveted prize.

Thiem, who as well as defeating Alexander Zverev to win the 2020 US Open and making the final of both the 2018 and 2019 French Opens and the 2020 Australian Open, also reached the final of the ATP Tour Finals in the past two seasons.

But he has some catching up to do in Dubai, where in 2015, his only previous appearance, he fell in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut.

“Dominic Thiem has already proven that he is worthy to be named alongside Thomas Muster as one of the greatest tennis players that Austria has produced,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“His results, particularly over the past two seasons, have often been spectacular, and we very much look forward to welcoming him back to Dubai.”

Thiem, 27, will certainly provide excitement as well as showcase the skills that have seen him achieve outstanding results against the best in the game.

His US Open triumph was full of drama as he fought his way back from two sets down to claim his 17th career title in a fifth tie-break. He was the first player to win the US Open in a final set tie-break, the first to win there from two sets down since Pancho Gonzales in 1949, and the first to win any Grand Slam from two sets down since Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open.

Having come so close to claiming his maiden Grand Slam crown three times before, the victory was a lifetime ambition and a huge relief to him.

“Yeah, definitely I achieved a life goal, a dream for myself, which I had for many, many years,” Thiem said after the final.

“Of course, as a kid when I started to play tennis, back then it’s so far away. Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realized that ‘wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis.’

“I put a lot of work in. I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it. That’s also for myself a great accomplishment,” he added.

Thiem’s chase for the title starts on March 14 and will follow the star-studded WTA1000 week which begins on March 7 and will feature defending champion Simona Halep, former Dubai winners Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina, and Belinda Bencic, 2020 US Open runner-up and WTA Comeback Player of the Year Victoria Azarenka, 2021 Abu Dhabi winner Aryna Sabalenka, 2020 French Open and 2021 Adelaide champion Iga Swiatek, former two-time Grand Slam champ Garbine Muguruza, and Tunisian sensation Ons Jabeur.

Tournament director, Salah Tahlak, said: “Excitement is mounting as we come closer and closer to two weeks of great tennis that is certain to produce many thrills and upsets.

“Dominic Thiem is such an exciting player to watch and will definitely start as one of the favorites for the title, but success is never guaranteed, and he faces a formidable challenge.”

Thiem will be in competition for the title against five-time 2020 title-winner and world No. 8 Andrey Rublev, 2021 ATP Cup finalist Matteo Berrettini, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, 2020 Dubai semi-finalist Gael Monfils, 2018 Dubai champion Agut, 2021 Montpellier winner David Goffin, and 2020 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

Al-Ahli, star striker Al-Somah struggling to cope with unrest on, off field

Al-Ahli, star striker Al-Somah struggling to cope with unrest on, off field
Updated 04 March 2021

Al-Ahli, star striker Al-Somah struggling to cope with unrest on, off field

Al-Ahli, star striker Al-Somah struggling to cope with unrest on, off field
  • Jeddah club being cut adrift in race for Saudi Professional League title

JEDDAH: Just four games ago, Al-Ahli were in the middle of the race for the 2020-21 Saudi Pro League title.

The Jeddah club were level on points with Al-Hilal in second and just two behind leaders Al-Shabab. It was more good news to follow the announcement in January that Omar Al-Somah, one of the best players in the history of Saudi professional football, had signed a new three-year contract amid worries that he had been set to leave for pastures new.

By the end of February, however, the club had slipped out of the top three into fourth with speculation of unhappy players, late salary payments, and possible transfer bans and points deductions uppermost in the minds of fans.

Their troubles seem to echo those of many big clubs around the world.

Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur saw their English Premier League challenges falter earlier this season after bad runs, as did Juventus in Italy’s Serie A. But there are deeper issues at stake at one of Asia’s proudest clubs.

Last week’s 3-0 loss against Al-Shabab showed a gulf in class and determination between the two teams that belied their relatively close positions in the league. The Riyadh club attacked fluidly from all parts of the pitch with imagination and drive while the visitors were second best in all aspects. It increased the disquiet around the three-time champions.

Star striker Al-Somah said after the loss that the coaches and the players were doing all they could but that the right investment had not been made to make the team, third last season but 14 points behind Al-Nassr in second, into genuine title challengers.

“There is a big difference between this Al-Ahli and the Al-Ahli I joined a number of years ago,” the Syrian player told reporters.

It had been building as, amid rumors of problems with payments, club president Abdulelah Mouminah had been criticized by the players when entering the dressing room after the previous game, a disappointing 1-1 draw with Al-Ain. That was not long after coach Vladan Milojevic was lamenting that he had not been able to strengthen the team’s defense in the winter transfer window – only seven clubs have conceded more than Al-Ahli’s 32.

As the likes of Manchester United have found in recent years, when things are not going well, past players are often ready to wade in and offer opinions which are lapped up by headline-writers. Al-Somah’s comments coupled with a relative goal drought have put him in the firing line.

Ali Al-Abdali enjoyed a decade at the club before leaving in 2008 and expressed his disappointment with the striker after the recent loss at Al-Faisaly, with the home team coming back from a goal down with seven minutes remaining to win 2-1.

“Al-Somah missed a good chance to open the scoring early in the game,” said Al-Abdali. “He then wasted a penalty and has not been at his best lately. He looks slow in his movement and has not scored for four games.”

It is true that Al-Somah has not been his usual electrifying self in front of goal this season though that may be due to the high standards he has consistently set. And it seems that when he does not score then Al-Ahli do not win.

In the past, when the team needed something special, he was there to deliver. The Syrian international joined the club in 2014 and has demonstrated amazing levels of consistency and quality. The 31-year-old was the top scorer in the league for three seasons from 2014 to 2017 and is the top foreign goal-scorer in the league’s history, with only Saudi legends Nasser Al-Shamrani and Majed Abdullah netting more in total. His goals played a major part in the club becoming champions in 2016, a first title in 32 years.

Al-Somah’s nine goals this campaign has him in the top 10 list of goal-scorers, but he has not quite matched his prolific high standards. Another ex-player said that the decision to renew the striker’s contract was not the right one, he has been distracted by off-the-field issues, and his comments have helped to create a negative atmosphere.

There is more, however, with reports that Djaniny Tavares, who left Jeddah for Galatasaray last October, is still owed money. If correct, then Al-Ahli face a potential deduction of points and even a transfer ban. It has also been suggested that Mouminah is on his way out.

It all leads to instability and disquiet. As always in football, victories can put everything in a better light, and all is not quite lost. The 2021 AFC Champions League kicks off next month and this presents the club’s best chance of a major trophy this year.

Before then though, there is the small matter of finishing in the top three at home to ensure qualification for next year’s continental tournament.

Saturday’s trip to second-from-bottom Damac offers an excellent opportunity to get back to winning ways but a failure to take it could turn a drama for one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest clubs into a crisis.

Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years

 Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years
Updated 04 March 2021

Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years

 Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years
  • The team formerly known as Racing Point is now officially Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team
  • Aston Martin will have former champion Sebastian Vettel and rising star Lance Stroll at the wheel

DUBAI: After a six-decade absence, Aston Martin is back in Formula One and on Wednesday revealed the car that it hopes will deliver success this season with former World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll at the wheel.

The team formerly known as Racing Point is now officially Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, after the British manufacturer was last involved in the competition 61 years ago.

The unveiling of the new AMR21 was described by Aston Martin Executive Chairman Lawrence Stroll as an “important event in automotive history,” with the new contender being the first works Formula One car to carry the famous wings since Maurice Trintignant’s DBR5 crossed the finish line at Silverstone in 1960.

“It’s quite inspirational to get a marque like Aston Martin back on to the Formula One grid after 60-plus years and we’re all honored here at Silverstone to have the opportunity to work really hard at making an extremely competitive car as an Aston Martin for 2021,” said Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer.

The team is only days away from testing the new car with an eye on the start of the 2021 Formula One season at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.

“I’m very excited to take it to our competition and I’m also very excited with the new driver line-up that we will have this year,” said Szafnauer. “We’re really hoping to continue on the same path that we left off last year (as Racing Point). The penultimate race, we won, and we had some very good performances toward the end of last year, and we hope that this year continues on that same path and that we’ll be fighting for podiums from the start of the season.”

Szafnauer admitted that last season the competition was fierce in midfield, with Racing Point finishing fourth in the Constructors standings, only seven points behind McLaren in third, and that there are ambitions to challenge the likes of Red Bull for second place.

“It was very, very competitive in the midfield last year, I see the same thing happening this year,” he said. “Towards the beginning of last year I think we were closer to Red Bull than toward the end. They seem to traditionally develop quicker in the season than the conception and not so much over the winter. So my anticipation is that if we come out as strong as we finished last year and we’ve done a good job over the winter, we should be a little bit closer to Red Bull but I anticipate those teams around us, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, they’ll all do a good job over the winter.

Szafnauer believes Formula One learnt valuable lessons from last season and that there is a good chance the entire schedule will be completed. New to the calendar will be the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December and he is sure that Aston Martin will be ready for the street circuit in Jeddah.

“We really look forward to the new venues and we will do our due diligence and homework to make sure that we understand the characteristics of the track and we have a good set up to start with,” he said. “We don’t get as much time to prepare this year. We get an hour less of pre-practice so that will have an impact, especially on road circuits where we go for the first time. So because of that we will run simulations of the circuit, we will understand the layout, we’ll understand what type of set-up we need to have so we are as prepared as we can be.”

“And as far as road circuits goes versus closed circuits like at Silverstone, we do race in some quasi-road circuits and some pure ones” Szafnauer added. “We’ll be at Singapore and at Monaco this year, so we’ll have good understanding of what it takes.”

With the Middle East races in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi scheduled to be the last two of the season, Szafnauer is optimistic that live audiences will be back in time to enjoy the campaign’s finale.

“I do anticipate fans to be back in the second half of the year,” he said. “I think in the first half of the year, I’m not so sure. Even last year we had fans at a couple of the races, not full grandstand but a significant amount of fans, 40,000 plus at some of the venues, and I think there will be more of that this year.”

Szafnauer says the team has changed significantly since his arrival over 10 years ago. “When I first arrived we were 280 people, we are nearly double that now. But since we became Racing Point and now Aston Martin that change has accelerated. Our ambitions have increased, our goals and objectives are loftier now.”

The grander ambitions were made clear with Vettel’s addition to the team, with the four-time champion (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)) bringing a wealth of experience and the specific know-how of what it takes to win the Formula One title.

That will bring added expectations.

“I think Aston Martin, the name itself, will command on-track performance and I can assure you Sebastian Vettel is only doing this for one reason and that’s to win again; he pushes like mad for on track performance,” Szafnauer said. “That to us isn’t really pressure. Because this team, from the days of Jordan, has always been about that.”

“All we do is work to make sure that car goes faster,” he said. “Every minute of every day, to make sure we make that car go faster and that’s what the Aston Martin name commands and for sure that’s what Sebastian pushes us toward.”

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 03 March 2021

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix
  • Dutch driver Nyck de Vries leads ABB FIA Formula E World Championship after opening weekend win

DIRIYAH: Having celebrated a successful weekend at the Diriyah E-Prix, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team and its principal partner NEOM have expressed their joy at the way the opening rounds of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Saudi Arabia have worked out for both parties.

On Friday, at the first ever night race to take place in Formula E, Nyck de Vries claimed a dominant victory for the German manufacturer in front of a delegation from NEOM. The Dutchman led the race from lights-to-flag, having set the quickest time in qualifying to start in pole position.

Ian James, Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team principal, said: “Both Nyck and (Belgian driver) Stoffel (Vandoorne) were able to demonstrate in Diriyah that we have developed a competitive package with the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02.

“Nyck’s performance and control of every session from FP1 to the first race is something which had not previously been seen in Formula E. We have been confident in his potential from the outset, and it’s great that the experience he developed throughout his first season has now been translated into his first Formula E win.”

De Vries continued his fast pace in Saturday’s second E-Prix, earning an additional championship point for the fastest lap, as he drove through the field to finish in ninth place following a challenging start to the day for the team. De Vries leaves Saudi Arabia at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, with 32 points from the opening weekend.

“It’s been terrific to be back on track and also to have many of our partners here to support us to kick-off the first FIA World Championship Season,” James added.

“I’d like to thank NEOM and all team partners for their continued support. It’s been a good start to season seven and we look forward to building on this for the next race.”

The partnership with Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team aims to accelerate NEOM’s ambitions to be at the vanguard of future technology and mobility and become a center for sporting excellence.

Jan Paterson, managing director of sport at NEOM, said: “It was great to see such a strong performance from the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team in the season opener in Diriyah.

“Working alongside the team is of key importance for us to realize our ambition to become a center of sporting excellence and a major participant in the world’s sporting landscape, and this weekend offered our employees a unique chance to engage and learn from a world-class team.”

As part of the knowledge-sharing program between the two organizations, 70 NEOM employees and stakeholders attended the Diriyah E-Prix, adhering to strict coronavirus disease (COVID-19) safety protocols. During the pit lane walk, the delegation got a first-hand impression of how the world’s first net carbon-zero sport is accelerating adoption of electric vehicles.

Ahead of the start of the sport’s first FIA World Championship season, Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team racer Vandoorne put the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 through its paces along the spectacular Magna Road in NEOM in the north-western corner of the Kingdom.