Valtteri Bottas ahead of Max Verstappen in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton to start 10th

Mercedes' Veltteri Bottas, left, and Red Bull's Max Verstappen steer their car during the Sprint Race qualifying session at the Interlagos racetrack in Sao Paulo. (AP)
Mercedes' Veltteri Bottas, left, and Red Bull's Max Verstappen steer their car during the Sprint Race qualifying session at the Interlagos racetrack in Sao Paulo. (AP)
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Updated 14 November 2021

Valtteri Bottas ahead of Max Verstappen in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton to start 10th

Mercedes' Veltteri Bottas, left, and Red Bull's Max Verstappen steer their car during the Sprint Race qualifying session at the Interlagos racetrack in Sao Paulo. (AP)
  • Earlier, Hamilton was forced to start the sprint race from last after being disqualified from Friday’s qualifying session

SAO PAULO: Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the sprint race Saturday to take pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix as a dramatic day at Interlagos accelerated championship leader Max Verstappen’s quest for his first Formula One title.
Verstappen finished the sprint race in second position and added two points in the standings. The Red Bull driver also saw his rival, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, hit by another punishment and set to start from 10th on Sunday despite an impressive run from last to fifth.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished third, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in fourth. McLaren’s Lando Norris will inherit Hamilton’s fifth position on the grid. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc starts from sixth place.
“Starting Sunday’s race from front row gives us all to play for,” Verstappen said. “Let’s try again tomorrow.”
Earlier, Hamilton was forced to start the sprint race from last after being disqualified from Friday’s qualifying session — where he was fastest — due to a technical infringement by Mercedes. Mercedes did not appeal the decision.
Despite Hamilton’s fifth-place finish in the sprint race, a separate five-place penalty means the defending champion will start 10th after Mercedes decided to change his car’s engine in Sao Paulo.
It wasn’t all good news for Verstappen. The Dutch driver was fined after being seen touching the rear wing of the Mercedes car. He leads Hamilton by 21 points in the standings, including the two from the sprint race, with four races left this season.
Hamilton beat the Dutchman by more than 0.4 seconds Friday in qualifying for the sprint race, but organizers said that his Mercedes was under investigation for DRS exceeding the maximum distance when opened. The technical infringement typically leads to exclusion from a session. The decision was only announced after Saturday’s practice session, and before the sprint race.
“It was clear to the stewards that the additional deflection was due to additional play either in the DRS actuator or the pivots at the end, or some combination or other fault with the mechanism, or incorrect assembly of the parts,” the decision said. “There is therefore no question in the minds of the stewards that the test failure indicates any intent to exceed the maximum dimension either by action or design.”
The decision also says Mercedes argued that the rear wing design had passed FIA’s tests several times during the season and had always been approved. Mercedes denied having any intent to breach regulations.
Hamilton’s disqualification put Verstappen in pole for the 24-lap sprint race, which offers three points to the winner. Bottas overtook Verstappen in the first turn at Interlagos and never lost the position again.
Starting from the back, Hamilton overtook rivals in every turn of the Sao Paulo track.
“I quickly reset, got my mind focused on doing what I could do,” Hamilton said. “I have just given it my everything.”
Bottas said he “gambled a little bit” with soft tires for the start.
“And then it was all about trying to survive until the end. It was quite tricky ... but Max still struggled to follow in some of the corners, so I’m glad it worked out perfectly,” Bottas said.
Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros ($57,200) by stewards after analysis of video taken from the grandstands at Interlagos. He can appeal the decision given by the stewards, who said he did not harm his competitor’s car with the touch.
The video recorded by a spectator shows Verstappen apparently inspecting the rear wing on the Mercedes in the Parc Ferme — a secure area for cars at the track.
“Considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists – on the one hand; but that it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of 50,000 euros,” the stewards said.
Article 2.5.1 of the FIA sporting code says that “inside the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorized by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”
Stewards said the footage showed Verstappen’s touch is clear.
“(He takes) his gloves off and puts his right hand at the slot-gap of the rear wing of his car. He then moves to (Hamilton’s) car 44 and repeats the exercise, touching the rear wing in two places, once on either side of the DRS actuation device, but on the bottom rear side of the wing, in the area of the slot gap and never near the actuator or the end fixation points,” the stewards added.
“There is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements on car 44 when Verstappen touches the back of the wing and the stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing.”
Saturday’s free practice session, which was not very competitive, ended with Alpine driver Fernando Alonso clocking the fastest lap, more than 0.8 ahead of second-placed Verstappen.
The Brazilian GP is the third event of the season with a qualifying sprint race. The two previous sprint races were held at Silverstone and Monza.


Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days
Updated 11 August 2022

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days
  • Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga's financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings
  • They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic "levers"

MADRID: Barcelona’s attempts to establish themselves once again as a force in La Liga and the Champions League this season have seen the heavily-indebted Catalans gamble with their future to enable a striking summer spending spree.
A year after being forced to let Lionel Messi go as eye-watering reported debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.39 billion) crippled the club, Barcelona have spent 153 million euros on transfer fees alone to strengthen their squad, with Robert Lewandowski the most notable new arrival.
“This is a really exciting season. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make all the fans happy,” coach Xavi Hernandez said before last weekend’s 6-0 friendly win over Mexican side Pumas UNAM.
“That means winning trophies. That is our main objective.”
After three years of struggles, on and off the field, the summer has seen hope return to the Camp Nou, with president Joan Laporta talking of an exciting “new era” when the club unveiled Lewandowski as a Barcelona player.
“Euphoria” was the headline on the cover of local daily Sport the same day.
Even partisan Madrid-based sports daily Marca admitted that Barca were “frightening” in the wake of their drubbing of Pumas UNAM last weekend, when Lewandowski scored his first goal since his arrival from Bayern Munich.
Yet how Barcelona have gone about raising the funds to sign Lewandowski, as well as center-backs Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen, AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, and Leeds United’s Brazilian winger Raphinha has raised eyebrows.
Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga’s financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings and, crucially, to register any new players.
They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic “levers.”
The club sold 25 percent of their domestic television rights for the next quarter of a century to US investment firm Sixth Street for some 400 million euros.
Barcelona sold 24.5 percent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual productions, to Socios.com for 100 million euros on August 1, and then another 25 percent to US investment firm GDA Luma for 100 million euros more.
In the space of a few weeks, 600 million euros had been brought in to fill the coffers.
The aim was to clean up the club’s finances, make it possible to increase the salary limit set by La Liga and allow the new signings to all be registered for the start of the season.
On top of that, Barca signed the biggest sponsorship deal in their history with Spotify, bringing in a reported 435 million euros for the music streaming giant to feature on the club’s shirts and to have naming rights to the Camp Nou.
And so Barcelona look well placed to become serious title contenders again as they prepare to host Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Only time will tell if mortgaging part of the club’s assets in exchange for an immediate influx of cash will bear fruit.


Yet, Barcelona are still waiting for La Liga to allow them to register their new signings, although they hope to be able to do so in time for the season.
They are also hoping to further ease their financial problems by reducing their wage bill.
The Catalans have been trying to persuade Frenkie de Jong to leave, with suggestions even made that a contract he signed in 2020 was not legal. The Dutch midfielder says he wants to stay.
Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Memphis Depay are also candidates to depart the Camp Nou, with the latter reportedly a target for Juventus.
On top of that, efforts have been made to persuade certain players, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, to accept wage reductions.
Barca’s “economic miracle,” as the press have called it, still has to be transformed into a footballing miracle.


Saudi Olympic Training Center to set up PhysioTrio rehabilitation services

Saudi Olympic Training Center to set up PhysioTrio rehabilitation services
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi Olympic Training Center to set up PhysioTrio rehabilitation services

Saudi Olympic Training Center to set up PhysioTrio rehabilitation services
  • Athletes will receive support from the main headquarters in Riyadh and supporting centers in Jeddah and Dammam
  • PhysioTrio will be providing access to sports medicine doctors, physiotherapy and sports nutrition experts, among other health-related services

RIYADH: The Saudi Olympic Training Center has announced that it has commissioned PhysioTrio, an initiative that will establish three physiotherapy centers that specialize in treating sports injuries across the country.

The main headquarters in Riyadh, with supporting centers in Jeddah and Riyadh, will provide support to SOTC athletes during their training periods in the Kingdom.

The SOTC is dedicated to creating a cutting-edge sports hub through the provision of world-class services, facilities and infrastructure, and PhysioTrio will be providing access to sports medicine doctors, physiotherapy and sports nutrition experts, among other health-related services.

Director of High-Performance Services at the SOTC Jon Goodwin believes this is an “exciting step for [SOTC] because it is the first tangible support service we have been able to put alongside the athletes’ sport training programs.”

He added: “Getting them appropriate, fast and reliable medical care will really help to keep these athletes on course, keep them training more regularly and enhance their future performance.”

Executive Manager of PhysioTrio Dr. Abdullah Al-Juraisi expressed his delight at working with the SOTC, saying: “PhysioTrio is pleased to announce its work with the Saudi Olympic Training Center to provide rehabilitation and physiotherapy services for its elite players across several different sports.”

The SOTC currently works to develop 17 sports in the bid to build world-class Saudi athletes by the 2034 Asian Games.

The 2034 Asian Games represent the culmination of a 12-year period for the SOTC, which they see as sufficient time to positively affect the development of athletes in the long term.


Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup
Updated 11 August 2022

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup
  • The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic's handling of two of his star players
  • He sidelined Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons

RABAT: World Cup qualifiers Morocco have split with coach Vahid Halilhodzic three months ahead of the finals in Qatar.
The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic’s handling of two of his star players.
He sidelined Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons and qualified for the World Cup without them, but it seems the federation wanted them back.
“We came to an amiable agreement to part ways due to divergences on preparations for the World Cup,” the Moroccan federation said.
Neither Ziyech and Mazraoui were part of the squad that reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January and Halilhodzic omitted both from the World Cup qualifying play-off matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.
The World Cup starts November 20 in Qatar where Morocco take on Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F.
Halilhodzi has previously qualified for the World Cup finals with Ivory Coast and Japan.


UAE cricket fizzes with excitement as competitions make post-pandemic comeback

UAE cricket fizzes with excitement as competitions make post-pandemic comeback
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE cricket fizzes with excitement as competitions make post-pandemic comeback

UAE cricket fizzes with excitement as competitions make post-pandemic comeback
  • Cricket is flourishing in the Emirates for both men and women, thanks to hectic schedules, good coaching and long-term planning

It is going to be a busy time for UAE cricket.

First, the men’s team will compete in a tri-series against the US and Scotland, which will host the matches in Aberdeen between Aug. 10 and 16.

These matches are part of the International Cricket Council’s 2019-2023 Cricket World League Cup 2, which forms part of the qualification process for the 2023 World Cup. After that, the team will move to Oman to contest, between Aug. 20 and 24, the final qualifying place for the 2022 Asia Cup. Thirdly, irrespective of whether the team qualifies, the UAE will host the Asia Cup.

This congestion of events reflects the ongoing recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international cricket schedules.

In the Cricket World Cup League 2, seven teams will complete 36 separate 50-over matches against each other in sets of tri-series, with two points awarded for a win. Oman has played all of its matches and tops the table with 44 points. Occupying the next three places are Scotland, with 34 points from 24 matches, then the UAE, with 26 from 22, and then the US, with 23 from 24. The forthcoming matches are crucial for all three teams, as the top-three finishers will join five full member teams in a final qualifying stage. The league is due to be completed in February, but two tri-series events, both involving the UAE, have to be rescheduled owing to their postponement during the pandemic.

The Asia Cup has suffered severe disruption. In December 2018, the Pakistan Cricket Board was granted the hosting rights by the Asia Cricket Council (ACC) for the 2020 Cup. This did not sit well with India, initially due to security concerns, later exacerbated by political tensions. India’s participation came into doubt, a situation not helped by claims and counterclaims by the respective parties. None of these mattered, as the pandemic intervened and, on July 9, 2020, the ACC announced postponement until mid-2021. Through a combination of the pandemic and India reaching the final of the World Test Championship, the event did not take place.

Since 2008, the Asia Cup has been scheduled to be held every two years. Now that the 2020 edition will be held in 2022, there is a backlog. In order to resolve this, there will be a 2023 edition, for which Pakistan has been awarded the hosting rights, having swapped its 2020 rights with Sri Lanka. This could have resolved the issue of India not being prepared to play in Pakistan. Subsequent political, economic and social upheaval in Sri Lanka has led to the decision to switch the playing of the tournament to the UAE, although Sri Lanka will retain the hosting rights and the opportunity to earn much needed income of around $6 million.

A further complexity exists in that the format alternates between editions. Until and including 2016, the format had been 50-over One Day International. It was decided that the 2018 edition would be played in the T20 format, the 2020 edition as ODI and in 2022 under the T20 rules again. The pandemic has disturbed this plan so, in order to bring the sequence back into line, the 2020 Cup will be played in T20 format (in 2022) and the 2022 Cup to ODI format in 2023.

Officially, the upcoming tournament is billed as 2022 Asia Cup, opening on Aug. 27 and ending on Sept. 11. It is unlikely that the identity of the team which has seized the final place will be known until Aug. 24.

The UAE will be competing against Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuwait. Teams will play each other once in a round robin format, with the winner being the team with the most points. It will face the daunting prospect of joining India and Pakistan in Group A. This pair will lock horns on Aug. 28 in what should be a spicy affair in Dubai. Group B will comprise Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The top two teams in each group will progress to the Super 4 stage.

After the hectic weeks between Aug. 10 and Sept. 2 — longer should the UAE reach the Super 4s — the UAE men’s team will turn its attention, no doubt, to the T20 World Cup in Australia. There, it will play its first group stage match on Oct. 16. Its qualification for this tournament marks a major step forward for a team which has reached a ranking of 11th in T20 cricket and 13th in ODIs.

It is no surprise that the Emirates Cricket Board also has ambitions to grow women’s cricket. On June 25, 2022, by beating Malaysia in the final of the ACC Women’s T20 Championship, the UAE women’s team matched the world record for the longest unbeaten run in all T20 international cricket.

This 20-match record had been set by England’s women in 2012. Prior to six unbeaten matches in the ACC tournament, the UAE team won all four of its matches against Hong Kong in April, after winning all five matches in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Women’s Gulf Cup in Oman in March 2022. The unbeaten run had started in November 2021 in the T20 Asia World Cup qualifiers in Dubai, where the team won all of its five matches and propelled itself into the final qualifying stage for the 2023 World Cup, due to be held in South Africa in February.

The qualifying tournament will take place in Abu Dhabi between Sept. 18 and 25, 2022. It will be contested by eight teams: Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland and the US in Group A; Papua New Guinea, Thailand, UAE and Zimbabwe in Group B.

The top two teams in the tournament will progress to the World Cup. After the qualifying tournament, the UAE women’s team will compete in the ACC Women’s Asia Cup in Bangladesh in October.

These hectic schedules reflect success through good coaching and planning. There can be little doubt that cricket is flourishing in the UAE for both men and women, with no let-up in prospect.


Running silver and bronze for Saudi as football, handball teams advance

Running silver and bronze for Saudi as football, handball teams advance
Updated 12 August 2022

Running silver and bronze for Saudi as football, handball teams advance

Running silver and bronze for Saudi as football, handball teams advance
  • Yousef Masrahi finishes second in the 400m competition, while teammate Mazen Al-Yassin finishes third

Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Masrahi on Wednesday took silver in the 400m as the Kingdom’s football and handball teams advanced in their respective competitions at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey.

With Vice President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Fahd bin Jalawi in attendance, Masrahi finished second in the final with a time of 45.80 seconds, while teammate Mazen Al-Yassin took third place and the bronze medal with a time of 45.95 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Saudi national U-23 team reached the semifinals of the football competition at Konya 2022 after beating Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday night.

The young Green Falcons’ goals came from Ziad Al-Juhani in first-half stoppage time and Turki Al-Mutairi in the 90th minute.

With this result, Saudi secured the top spot in Group B to advance to the last four, having earlier defeated Azerbaijan 1-0 in their first match and recorded a default 3-0 win after the withdrawal of the Iranian team before the start of the tournament.

Saudi’s handball team also qualified to the semifinals after defeating Morocco 29-25, having trailed 13-11 at halftime.

The result saw the team from the Kingdom top their group on goal difference from Qatar before the two teams clash on Friday.