Lewis Hamilton wins pole for inaugural Qatar Grand Prix

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after the qualifying session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit. (AFP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after the qualifying session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 November 2021

Lewis Hamilton wins pole for inaugural Qatar Grand Prix

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after the qualifying session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit. (AFP)
  • Bottas was 0.78 seconds faster than teammate Hamilton
  • Verstappen holds a 14-point lead over Hamilton headed into Sunday's race

LOSAIL, Qatar: Lewis Hamilton and Max Vetstappen qualified 1-2 for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, setting up a showdown between the Formula One championship contenders at the very start of Sunday's race.
Hamilton won the 102nd pole of his career, fourth of the season and first since the Hungarian Grand Prix in August. Hamilton trails Verstappen by 14 points in the championship fight with three races remaining.
He beat Verstappen by 0.455 seconds Saturday to win the pole at Losail International Circuit. The seven-time champion said his stomach had been bothering him since he arrived in Qatar, but a good night's sleep helped his recovery.
Hamilton said his stomachache made opening day at the new circuit difficult, and he was fourth in both of Friday's practice sessions.
“I really struggled throughout first practice and I was just really off,” Hamilton said. “I was here 'til midnight working with the engineers, who also always work so late, and found I lot of areas in which I can improve.”
Mercedes made changes in Saturday's final practice and Hamilton said in qualifying he was aided by smart strategy that sent him on track with little traffic and a strong lap by the driver.
“That last lap was beautiful, it was a really sweet lap,” Hamilton said. “This track is amazing to drive, it is incredibly fast. It felt good.”
Verstappen said Red Bull was lacking pace and noted that teammate Sergio Perez failed to advance to the final qualifying group. Perez will start 11th.
“It's been just a bit more tricky for us in qualifying,” Verstappen said. “We are struggling a bit more than normal. We've never done a race here, so there's a lot of unknowns.”
The race is the first in a 10-year deal between F1 and Qatar.
Valtteri Bottas, teammate to Hamilton at Mercedes, qualified third and was followed by Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri. Gasly has been fast all weekend but a tire puncture near the end of qualifying slowed him.
Fernando Alonso qualified fifth and was followed by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
The weekend opened with the Brazil GP still the main topic of discussion as Mercedes contested the FIA decision not to penalize Verstappen for running Hamilton wide off course last week in Sao Paulo. Mercedes requested a review of the decision, which the FIA denied in the middle of a Friday press briefing between the principals of the two warring teams.
It was a tense 30-minute session between Mercedes head Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, team principal for Red Bull, and both agreed they have no relationship. But Horner also publicly questioned the legality of the Mercedes.
Horner believes the rear wing used by Mercedes in Mexico and Brazil was illegal and gave the rivals a significant straightline speed advantage. He vowed to protest Mercedes if the wing is used again.
Wolff was adamant the Mercedes is legal.


‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 11 sec ago

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic
  • Winner in 1996, the Scotsman is relishing being back among the world’s best players at Emirates Golf Club

Twenty-six years after lifting the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic’s famous Dallah Trophy, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, the tournament’s 1996 champion, is relishing his latest shot at Dubai glory.

Two-and-a-half decades after famously playing a driver off the deck on the 18th fairway — a shot that effectively sealed his maiden Dubai title — Montgomerie is back in the emirate alongside a world-class field comprising multiple Masters, Open and Major winners, numerous Ryder Cup veterans, as well as serial DP World Tour and PGA Tour event winners.

With two of the event’s headline stars, Collin Morikawa, the world number two, and Viktor Hovland, the world number five, not even born when Montgomerie triumphed on the Majlis Course, the eight-time Order of Merit winner is keen to enjoy himself against a youthful Dubai field.

“I really enjoy it in Dubai,” Montgomerie said. “It’s a great honor to have my name above the door at a course not too far away from here, and it’s always nice to come to Emirates Golf Club as a past champion. I have one plaque in the world and it’s here on the 18th fairway, so it’s a very special place for me. I do enjoy coming back here and playing the golf course, it’s stood the test of time and I think I speak for all the players when I say we enjoy coming here.”

As a regular in Dubai since the 1980s, Montgomerie is in an ideal position to evaluate the ever-evolving landscape surrounding Emirates Golf Club.

“The city has sprung up around the course,” Montgomerie said. “They were ahead of the game and realized the potential out here — and I say here because in those days it was quite a way out.”

Following its promotion to a Rolex Series Event this year, and a fresh look and feel around the Majlis Course on the back of title sponsor Slync onboard, Montgomerie is embracing the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic’s “new era.” 

Everything is moving forward in the right way. The prize money is $8 million, who can argue with any of this and in the January sunshine no less — let’s enjoy ourselves,” Montgomerie said.


Saudi Arabia launches ‘Sports Career Day’ to connect job seekers with sports sector

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)
Updated 26 January 2022

Saudi Arabia launches ‘Sports Career Day’ to connect job seekers with sports sector

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia launched the “Sports Career Day” initiative on Tuesday to connect qualified job seekers and sports institutions to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The three-day initiative, which is being organized by the Leaders Development Institute, was inaugurated by Deputy Sports Minister Badr Al-Qadi, on behalf of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sport, at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex in Riyadh.
The minister was briefed on the activities of the first day, which included several workshops, sports commentary trials, TV presenting, job fairs, and a number of personal interviews conducted by the participating sports organizations and bodies.
48 governmental, semi-governmental and private sports entities and various institutions are participating in the Sports Career Day, including the Ministry of Sports, the Quality of Life Program, the Leaders Development Institute, Sadu Company, and Sawaed, in addition to the Saudi Football Association, the Saudi Professional League, and the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee. A number of sports clubs are also taking part, most notably Al-Nasr, Damak and Al-Wahda, as well as sports federations and several parties participating virtually through the Saudi Athletes Network.
29 workshops will be held by 15 different entities over the three days, and the topics include sports entrepreneurship, professional fields in the sports sector, social responsibility, data science applications in sports, the Quality of Life and Future of Saudi Sports Program, management consultancy, sports marketing, and other subjects aimed at developing the sports sector.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Sports announced that it will exceptionally raise the capacity of attendance in the Saudi match against Oman to 100 percent, in an effort to support the national team’s important journey in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The match, which is the seventh in the final round of the Asian qualifiers, is set to be held on Thursday at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
The decision came following approval from the concerned authorities following up on the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry said.
It added that only fans who have been fully vaccinated will be permitted to attend the match, and urged the public to fully adhere to the precautionary measures and staff to take necessary action if violations are detected, in order to preserve health and safety.


Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare
Updated 26 January 2022

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare
  • Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament
  • Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight

YAOUNDE: Achraf Hakimi scored a brilliant free-kick to send Morocco through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations after a 2-1 win over Malawi on Tuesday.
Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament, a shock early lead with a stunning goal from 40 meters at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.
But Youssef En-Nesyri headed Morocco level in first-half stoppage time before Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight.
That quarter-final was due to take place at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde but will be moved after a fatal crush outside the ground on Monday which killed eight people and injured 38.
As with the earlier match between Senegal and Cape Verde in Bafoussam, a minute’s silence was observed before kick-off and players of both teams wore black armbands.
Morocco, bidding for a second Cup of Nations title and first since 1976, fell behind on seven minutes when Mhango caught Yassine Bounou off his line with a superb long-range strike.
The Atlas Lions responded by creating a series of chances as Imran Louza stung the palms of Charles Thomu, who then did well to keep out Hakimi’s powerful free-kick and the follow-up from Louza.
Mhango dragged wide for Malawi after a terrific long ball from Micium Mhone, but the Flames found themselves under sustained pressure as Morocco captain Romain Saiss volleyed against the bar.
En-Nesyri prodded weakly at Thomu from close range before the Malawi goalkeeper tipped Hakimi’s low drive onto the post and then denied Sofiane Boufal with his legs.
Morocco were finally rewarded for their persistence on the stroke of half-time as En-Nesyri rose to power Selim Amallah’s deep cross past Thomu.
Hakimi appealed vociferously for a penalty in the second half when his cross struck the arm of Malawi defender Dennis Chembezi, but the Paris Saint-Germain star took matters into his own hands to secure victory.
His late equalizer against Gabon had secured top spot in the group stage, and Hakimi delivered again with another magnificent free-kick 20 minutes from time to end Malawi’s impressive run.


Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals

Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals
Updated 26 January 2022

Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals

Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals
  • The women's quarter-finals will wrap up with American Danielle Collins targeting a second Melbourne Park semi-final against giant-killing Frenchwoman Alize Cornet
  • Medvedev knows he needs to keep a lid on his temper, which was pushed to the limit in the last round under severe examination by serve-and-volley specialist Maxime Cressy

MELBOURNE: Title favorite Daniil Medvedev will need to keep his cool Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open after a mini-meltdown in the previous round.
Should the Russian second seed get past young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the night match on Rod Laver Arena, then the prize could be a last-four showdown with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The women’s quarter-finals will wrap up with American Danielle Collins targeting a second Melbourne Park semifinal against giant-killing Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, and Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek taking on veteran Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
The men’s US Open champion Medvedev knows he needs to keep a lid on his temper, which was pushed to the limit in the last round under severe examination by serve-and-volley specialist Maxime Cressy.
“It was long and it was not easy, they were all tough sets,” said Medvedev after a tetchy performance where he clashed with the umpire, complained of bad luck and screamed “It’s boring!” at Cressy’s relentless tactics behind his big serve.
The US Open champion admitted he was relieved to come through the most severe examination of his title credentials so far.
“If I didn’t win the fourth set I would have been in a tough mental shape,” said Medvedev, the de facto top seed after the deportation of defending champion Novak Djokovic on the eve of the tournament.
He faces ninth seed Auger-Aliassime who took a confidence-boosting win against the 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic in four sets in the last 16.
“It’s amazing. It puts my belief even higher, I lost three times to Marin in the past, this is my first win against him,” the 21-year-old said.
Tsitsipas survived a late-night fright to reach his third Australian Open quarter-final where he has an afternoon encounter with Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner.
Tsitsipas was staring at defeat 2-1 down before he clawed back to beat the 20th seed Taylor Fritz in five sets of classic punch and counter-punch tennis.
“It was an epic match. I gave everything out on the court today, I am very proud of myself with the way I fought,” said the 23-year-old Tsitsipas.
The 20-year-old Sinner made light of his debut on Rod Laver Arena to end the hopes of Australia’s Alex de Minaur in straight sets and reach the last eight.
“It was a tough test for me, because he’s an incredible player,” said Sinner.
Cornet has reached her first Slam quarter-final at the 63rd attempt, where she will face 27th seed Collins, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2019.
Asked what her goals were now after reaching a first quarter-final, Cornet replied: “Going further.”
“I mean, I’m not gonna stop now.”
Collins is climbing back up the rankings after “scary” surgery last year for endometriosis.
Her side of the draw has opened up nicely after second seed Aryna Sabalenka, third-ranked Garbine Muguruza, sixth seed Anett Kontaveit and former world number one Simona Halep all exited early.
“I think that all of us can appreciate each other’s toughness and tenacity and what we do,” said Collins of Cornet, with both known for their fierce competitive instincts.
Both the 2020 French Open champion Swiatek, who is just 20 years old, and Kanepi, 16 years her senior, will be in their first Melbourne Park quarter-final.
“When I had that French Open run, it was all pretty surreal,” said Swiatek.
“Right now I feel like I really have to work for it if I want to win another (Slam).”
Kanepi admitted she knew little about her opponent Swiatek.
“I haven’t watched her, I never played her, and I don’t know how her ball feels,” she said. “So we’ll see when I play her. I expect to play good.”


Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports

Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports
Updated 26 January 2022

Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports

Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports
  • Often compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Serb has 17 goals in Serie A this season
  • Juventus are ready to pay around 70 million euros for the youngster

ROME: Italian giants Juventus are close to signing Fiorentina’s rampaging 21-year-old striker Dusan Vlahovic, Italian media reported widely on Tuesday.
Often compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Serb has 17 goals in Serie A this season and Juventus are ready to pay around 70 million euros for the youngster as they seek to fill the goal gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo.
With only 18 months remaining on Vlahovic’s deal in Florence, speculation around his destiny has risen considerably.
In the summer Fiorentina held off interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid, while Arsenal are also said to be watching closely.
Juventus lost Ronaldo’s goals this season after he moved on to Manchester United and Vlahovic appears a good fit.
Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport said Juventus had offered just short of 70 million Euros ($79 million) while Sky Italia reported a global figure of 75 million euros.
Fiorentina owner Italian-American businessman Rocco Commisso offered Vlahovic an improved contract in October and insisted he would not be held to ransom when the player refused.
“Our annual turnover is around 75 million euros, so we can’t risk losing him on a free transfer,” Fiorentina director Daniele Prade said this week.
The fee would be the biggest in Serie A history for a winter break transfer.
The current record came when AC Milan paid 40 million euros to Brazilian club Flamengo for Lucas Paqueta in January 2019.
It has been a rapid rise to stardom for the 21-year-old, who went from cheering on Partizan Belgrade in the stands to making his club debut less than a month after his 16th birthday in early 2016, before moving to Italy two years later.
Described by his former Partizan Under-21 coach Milan Ristic as the biggest talent he has seen come out of the former Yugoslavia, Vlahovic has also become a fixture in the Serbian national team.