Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix
Max Verstappen
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Updated 19 June 2021

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix
  • Verstappen leads Hamilton by just four points in the Formula One world championship ahead of the seventh race of the season

LE CASTELLET: Max Verstappen claimed pole on Saturday for the French Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes alongside the Red Bull driver on the front row to lay the foundations for another gripping installment in this season’s delicately poised title battle.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes starts on the second row with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by just four points in the Formula One world championship ahead of the seventh race of the season at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday.

Hamilton won from pole the last two races staged at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, but Verstappen had approached qualifying as the man to beat after dominating the final two practice sessions.

Verstappen, claiming his first pole since the season-opener in Bahrain, is anxious to translate pole into a win after a shredded tire robbed him of almost certain victory in Baku last time out.

“So far it’s been a really positive weekend, on a track that is normally difficult for us. To get pole position was really nice.

“Great day for us but we have to finish it off tomorrow and get 25 points — which we lost in Baku. Great promise from our side.”

After struggling to keep tabs with his Red Bull rival in practice Hamilton was relieved to narrow the gap between them to 0.258s.

“We’ll keep pushing, keep fighting and giving it everything. Their long-run pace is a tenth or two quicker than us, but the car’s in a much different place now,” said the seven-time world champion.

“We’re going to fight for a chance into turn one and there could be some interesting strategy tomorrow, and I think there could be some rain, so a chance to see a rain master,” he added.

Carlos Sainz for Ferrari posted the fifth quickest time in qualifying to seal a third row spot with Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri joining him.

Then came Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris with Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) completing the top 10.

With qualifying watched by a 15,000-strong crowd allowed in after the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Q1 was only four minutes old when it was red-flagged after Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda lost control of his Alpha Tauri coming out of turn one, his car pirouetting gracefully into the safety barrier.

This was the fourth time out of seven Tsunoda has failed to progress to Q2.

With 22 seconds left of Q1 Mick Schumacher’s Haas crashed into a barrier, cruel luck for the German after making it into Q2 for the very first time in his fledgling F1 career but unable to take part with his car requiring repairs.

Verstappen topped Q1 with Hamilton, Perez and Bottas closest.

The Mercedes duo rose to the top of the times in Q2, with Bottas edging Hamilton who was much punchier than he had been in practice. Perez and Verstappen were next, setting up an intriguing Q3 skirmish for the Provencal pole.

After the first throw of the Q3 dice it was Verstappen on provisional pole with Hamilton alongside him, and that is how it ended after the final flurry of flying laps.

Hamilton and Mercedes were thankful to return to a traditional circuit after disastrous performances on the streets of Monaco and Baku.

But on the evidence of this qualifying the two teams’ cars are pretty equally matched.

One man relishing the compelling contest is Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff who said: “I think it’s fantastic what has been thrown at us (this season). No year is easy but this year? It’s awesome.”


Syrian Man Asaad wins bronze in Tokyo 2020 weightlifting competition

Syrian Man Asaad wins bronze in Tokyo 2020 weightlifting competition
Updated 6 min ago

Syrian Man Asaad wins bronze in Tokyo 2020 weightlifting competition

Syrian Man Asaad wins bronze in Tokyo 2020 weightlifting competition
  • Total score of 424 was enough to see 27-year-old finish behind Lasha Talakhadze, Ali Davoudi
  • Asaad had finished 15th at Rio 2016 with a score of 400 in the 105kg competition

RIYADH: Syrian weightlifter Man Asaad on Wednesday picked up an Olympic bronze medal in the men’s plus-109-kilogram competition at the Tokyo International Forum.

The 27-year-old posted a 190 in the snatch category and followed that with a clean and jerk best of 234, for a total of 424.

Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia won gold with a new Olympic and world record 488, while silver medal winner Ali Davoudi of Iran managed a score of 441.

Asaad had finished 15th at Rio 2016 with a score of 400 in the 105kg competition, while his best performance at an international tournament remains a silver in the 109kg at the 2020 Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, when he managed to total 433.


Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final

Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final
Updated 04 August 2021

Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final

Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final
  • In a strong field of 30, Mouda Zeyada and Nayel Nassar finished 19th and 24th

TOKYO: The Egyptian equestrian athletes Mouda Zeyada and Nayel Nassar failed in their quest for Olympic gold at the jumping individual final at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Their times of 86.63 and 89.63 left Zeyada and Nassar in positions 19 and 24 respectively and out of contention for the medals.


In the jump-off to decide the winner after six competitors shared top spot, the gold medal eventually went to the British rider Ben Maher (37.85), the silver to the Swede Peder Fredricson (38.02), and bronze to Maikel van der Vleuten of the Netherlands (38.90)
On Tuesday, a near-faultless ride had seen 30-year-old Nassar progress to today’s final, where he was joined by 26-year-old compatriot Zeyada among the competition’s top 30 qualifiers.
Nassar in particular has been the center of attention since the weekend after Bill Gates, father of his wife Jennifer Katharine Gates, sent him a message of good luck on social media that went viral in the days before the start of the competition.


Star-studded teams confirmed for 2021 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot

Star-studded teams confirmed for 2021 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot
Updated 04 August 2021

Star-studded teams confirmed for 2021 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot

Star-studded teams confirmed for 2021 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot
  • 3 riders will represent each team of Great Britain, Ireland, Ladies, Rest of the World
  • Dubai Duty Free CEO Colm McLoughlin: The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our horseracing sponsorship portfolio and one of Ascot’s most popular events

DUBAI: A star-studded field of jockeys will line up for the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot this year with four new-look teams set to do battle in the 20th running of the event on Saturday.

Teams will comprise of three riders representing Great Britain, Ireland, Ladies, and Rest of the World contesting six valuable handicaps each worth £42,000 ($58,500).

Dubai Duty Free chief executive officer and executive vice president, Colm McLoughlin, said: “The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our horseracing sponsorship portfolio and one of Ascot’s most popular events.

“Unfortunately, the ongoing (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 travel restrictions will prevent us from being there in person this year, but we will be following all the action closely from Dubai as the day unfolds and we wish all the jockeys and the horses’ connections a great day.”

Great Britain will be captained by Adam Kirby, this year’s Epsom Derby winning jockey who will be making his second appearance in the competition. He will be joined by top international jockey James Doyle, and one of this year’s Royal Ascot-winning riders Cieren Fallon, best known for his association with high-class sprinter Oxted.

Doyle will be making his third appearance in the competition having ridden a winner on both previous occasions in 2012 and 2013. It will be Fallon’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup debut, but he will be looking to maintain a strong family tradition on the day after his father, Kieren, won the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle in 2003 and was on the winning team in 2001 and 2002.

This year’s Ascot Gold Cup-winning jockey Joe Fanning will captain the Ireland team and he will have the help of rising-star David Egan who has enjoyed big-race success in Saudi Arabia and Dubai this season. The Ireland team is completed by Tadhg O’Shea, the most successful jockey of all-time in the UAE having ridden more than 600 winners and won the UAE jockeys’ championship for the ninth time this season.

A formidable Ladies team will be captained by Hayley Turner, the most successful jockey in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup with eight winners and 297 points from 13 appearances. Turner’s team will also feature globe-trotting sensation Mickaelle Michel from France and Scotland’s Nicola Currie.

Sean Levey will lead the Rest of the World team and the Swaziland-born Classic-winning jockey will be joined by Kevin Stott who became the first Dane to win a British Group 1 when victory in last year’s Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot initiated a memorable double on the day. Subject to being released by his retainer, three-time champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa, who has one previous Shergar Cup appearance in 2016, will complete the Rest of the World team.

Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at Ascot Racecourse, said: “We’re thrilled with the jockey lineup for the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup this year. Obviously COVID-19 has made international travel very difficult, so to pull together such a strong set of teams that still has a global feel is really pleasing.

“It should be a great day’s racing and another thrilling renewal of the competition which sadly didn’t take place last year, but we look forward to building the day back up in the years to come.”


Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse

Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse
Updated 04 August 2021

Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse

Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse
  • Inter said Eriksen, 29, paid a visit to the training centre at Appiano Gentile on Wednesday
  • His future at Inter is in the balance due to his pacemaker, as footballers with one fitted cannot play in Italy, unlike in some other countries

ROME: Christian Eriksen on Wednesday met his Inter Milan teammates for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, in a visit to the Italian champions’ training ground.
In a statement, Inter said that Eriksen, 29, paid a visit to the training center at Appiano Gentile outside Milan on Wednesday morning.
“The Danish midfielder met the club directors, the coach, teammates and all of the staff present. Eriksen is doing well and is in excellent physical and mental shape,” Inter said.
“He will now follow the recovery program put forward by Danish doctors in Copenhagen, who will also co-ordinate the clinical follow-up. The Inter medical staff will naturally be kept informed and up to date throughout the process.”
Eriksen collapsed toward the end of the first half of Denmark’s opening match at the European Championship against Finland, his life saved by the quick thinking of his teammates and the Danish medical staff.
His future at Inter is in the balance due to his pacemaker, as footballers with one fitted cannot play in Italy, unlike in some other countries.
The tests he is undergoing will eventually determine whether or not he can have it removed, allowing him to stay at Inter.
He is in any case not expected to be back in action for another six months, whether he stays in Italy or finds a new club elsewhere.
He arrived in Milan on Tuesday and reportedly had a conversation with Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta before traveling to the training ground on Wednesday to see his teammates and new coach Simone Inzaghi.


Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal
Updated 04 August 2021

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal
  • The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media as it could help finance eyecatching moves
  • La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a "multipronged" deal with CVC

MADRID: Spain’s top soccer clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona would get lucrative cash infusions under a proposed 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion) deal between the country’s top league and a private equity firm.
The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media, including that it could help finance eyecatching moves such as top France striker Kylian Mbappe joining Real Madrid, though La Liga said the funds would mostly be for investment purposes to which it would have to agree.
La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a “multipronged” deal with CVC including the 2.7 billion euros cash infusion in return for 10 percent of its revenue, as well as the creation of a newly formed company housing a range of commercial activities in which CVC would also take a 10 percent stake.
The deal values La Liga at around 24.2 billion euros in total and, if approved, will fund what it called “structural improvements” while offsetting some of the immediate impact from COVID-19, the league said in a statement.
The cash influx would be particularly welcome to Real Madrid and Barcelona which have lately faced unfamiliar constraints on their spending power, but how much of it leaks out into transfer fees and player wages remains to be seen.
Local media reports suggested the injection could help Barca resolve star forward Lionel Messi’s contract situation, while it was also suggested that the cash could prove pivotal in Real’s reported pursuit of Paris St. Germain’s Mbappe.
Importantly the stake sale still requires approval from the league’s executive committee and clubs, whose views have not yet been given. La Liga said the funds would be distributed on the basis of a formula derived from average audiovisual revenues over the last seven years, when La Liga started commercializing rights as a collective — implying the top two would get the biggest chunks.
Barca declined to comment when contacted by Reuters about the deal. Real did not immediately respond to request for comment.
CVC was part of a consortium last year which entered talks to buy a stake in the media business of Italy’s top soccer league, but the deal fell through following objections from some clubs.
La Liga said some 90 percent of the funds raised will be channeled directly to clubs, which would have to use the cash to finance investment programs agreed with the league. It didn’t say how long the CVC deal would last.
Faced with the end of a cycle of rapid growth in the value of TV rights — and pummeled by a year of next to zero ticket sales due to restrictions on crowds — soccer leagues and clubs not just in Spain are scrambling to find alternative sources of revenue.
The failure of an attempt earlier this year by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs to set up a breakaway Super League ratcheted up pressure on the top clubs.
Under the terms of the deal, La Liga would set up a new company to house commercial elements, such as sponsorship deals, the league’s technology arm La Liga Tech and their joint US venture — including plans to stage a league match in the United States — in which CVC would take a tenth.
It didn’t say what structural improvements it envisaged but these could relate to stadium and training facilities.
Management of the league’s sporting responsibilities and its audiovisual rights business would remain outside the scope of the transaction, La Liga said. “When it comes to the rights strategy and sales, this will continue to be handled by La Liga,” a spokesperson said.
With the boost from the investment, the Spanish league hopes to match or exceed the English Premier League’s business in the next six to seven years, a source close to La Liga added.
For CVC, which used to own Formula One, the deal would add to its interests in sport. It agreed in March to invest 365 million pounds for a share in rugby union’s Six Nations tournament, grouping France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Italy.