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

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.


Spanish striker David Villa set to retire from Japan club

Updated 13 November 2019

Spanish striker David Villa set to retire from Japan club

  • Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup
  • Before signing with Kobe, Villa played at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before spending four seasons with New York City FC
KOBE, Japan: Spanish striker David Villa says he will retire from Japanese club Vissel Kobe next year, ending the career of Spain’s top scorer in international play.
The 37-year-old Villa, who joined Kobe last December, said he plans to retire after the season ends in January.

“It’s better to leave football before football leaves me,” he told a news conference speaking in Spanish. “I’ve been thinking for several years — when you reach 33, 34 or 35 — the moment can arrive at any time in a game, in training, or with an injury.”

Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup as his nation won the title for the first time.
He scored four goals for Spain en route to the 2008 European Championship title.

Before signing with Kobe, Villa played at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before spending four seasons with New York City FC, scoring 80 goals in 124 MLS appearances.

“It’s a decision I’ve thought about a lot,” he said. “I spoke about this with the people who care about me, with my family, and the people who have been with me for my whole career.”

Villa repeated several times that it was not a knee-jerk reaction. He scored 12 goals this season for Kobe, a decent scoring output for a struggling club. But he said he knew the retirement time was near.

He was asked about the quality of play in Japan and was laudatory.

“I was surprised at the level of play in the J-League,” he said. “Not only in terms of the veteran players here, but the young players here that have enormous potential. It’s not that I was expecting less. I was expecting a top league, but it surpassed by expectations.”

Villa has also mentioned his interest being an investor in a new club based in the New York area — Queensboro FC, which will play in the second tier of American soccer.

“Queens always showed love to me and my family while we were in New York,” he wrote on Twitter. He said it was “a dream to build” a new professional team.