Lewis Hamilton clinches pole position for inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Update Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 December 2021

Lewis Hamilton clinches pole position for inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
  • Brit heads into historic race with 103rd pole of his career, Mercedes teammate Bottas in second position

JEDDAH: Lewis Hamilton made history by becoming the first driver to clinch a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole position after edging out teammate Valtteri Bottas and world championship title rival Max Verstappen in qualifying on Saturday.

The two Mercedes drivers secured a one-two grid position, which will give them the advantage over the Red Bull driver on the Jeddah Corniche circuit, where overtaking may prove difficult.

It was the 103rd pole of Hamilton’s career, his fifth of the season, and comes off the back of a stellar qualification drive in the previous round in Qatar.

With Hamilton trailing Verstappen by eight points in the championship fight with just one more race remaining after Jeddah, the qualification victory for Hamilton felt crucial.

The seven-time world champion beat Finnish driver Bottas by just over a tenth of a second, and was 0.142 seconds ahead of Verstappen in third.

Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc was half a second back in fourth and Mexican Red Bull driver Sergio Perez rounded out the rest of the top five.

It was a difficult end to the session for Verstappen who hit the wall on his last flying lap, proving the perils of the relentlessly quick Jeddah circuit.

“I don’t really understand what happened (on the final flying lap),” he said. “I locked up a bit. P3 is disappointing but today did show that the car is quick around here ... so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Hamilton admitted the track is a tough challenge, while paying tribute to teammate Bottas who will be leaving the Mercedes garage at the end of the season.

“What a tough track this is,” he said. “It’s amazing what they’ve built, the speed and the pace around here is phenomenal.

“It’s a great result for the team and a great job by Valtteri, he’s the best team mate there’s ever been in this sport,” he added.

Bottas also sounded like he enjoyed the speed of the Jeddah streets.

“This was an important qualifying,” he said. “I was on the limit, this track is tough but I really enjoyed it. I will do my best tomorrow.”

Verstappen, with a slight lead over Hamilton with just two races left, will hope he can claim his first title on Sunday if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes outside the top six.

But belief remains strong in the Mercedes camp that Hamilton can close the gap in Jeddah and seal a dramatic championship victory in Abu Dhabi.


Promoter Eddie Hearn hoping Anthony Joshua emerges world champion in Saudi for a second time

Promoter Eddie Hearn hoping Anthony Joshua emerges world champion in Saudi for a second time
Updated 12 sec ago

Promoter Eddie Hearn hoping Anthony Joshua emerges world champion in Saudi for a second time

Promoter Eddie Hearn hoping Anthony Joshua emerges world champion in Saudi for a second time
  • Two-time British world champion faces Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk at Rage on the Red Sea in Jeddah on Saturday
  • 32-year-old Joshua previously won the heavyweight world title in Saudi Arabia in 2019

When Anthony Joshua steps into the ring to face Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah on Saturday, Aug. 20, it will almost feel like he is fighting in front of a home crowd.

The British boxer, a two-time unified heavyweight world champion, will have a chance to regain the title he lost to his Ukrainian opponent last September when the two rivals meet in a rematch at Rage on the Red Sea.

The 32-year-old has made Jeddah his training base over the last month, and promoter Eddie Hearn hopes Joshua will leave Saudi Arabia a world champion yet again.

“This is our second fight in Saudi Arabia. The first one, ironically, was another rematch that Joshua had to try and win,” said Hearn of Joshua’s previous victory in 2019 against Andy Ruiz. “So, we’ve got good vibes about going back to the Kingdom. The aim for Saudi was always to try and do the undisputed Heavyweight World Championship. The biggest prize in the sport is the Heavyweight World Championship. So, when we did Joshua-Ruiz, the pandemic really slowed that development down. And when this fight came around, it was challenging principally, and everybody got in touch.

“We had a tremendous experience there last time. Joshua is very comfortable there, so much so that he’s been out there for weeks already. Normally, you’d come out a week before the fight, if you’re traveling, and he’s been there for four weeks. He loves it there. He’s feeling confident. And it’s a huge fight for boxing.”

Hearn said that the relative sanctuary of Jeddah has provided Joshua with an ideal preparation period away from the glare of media he would expect in his home country.

“Obviously, a lot of people know him in Saudi, but in England, he can’t breathe without someone taking a photo, someone bothering him,” said the British promoter. “He gives his time to everybody, and it can be quite draining. So, he loves the fact that he can be in Saudi. He loves it there, he feels comfortable there. And he can just chill with his friends in the hotel, he can go out, he can get coffee. His preparation’s been great. He’s got a new trainer for this fight in Robert Garcia. It’s a very tough fight. Usyk is pound for pound probably No. 1 in the sport.

“But Joshua is in a great place. He feels very comfortable in Saudi. And he’s ready.”

Boxing at the highest level may still be new to Saudi Arabia, but it is making big strides toward rivaling established hubs such as London and Las Vegas in terms of holding big-name bouts.

“I have incredible resources. Financially as well, they’re putting a lot behind the events,” Hearn said. “So, you’re going to get a first-class event in terms of arena, press conferences, hotels — everything is done to the highest possible standard, and we feel very comfortable. I couldn’t quite believe when I went back to Jeddah, six or seven weeks ago, the difference in the place that I saw four years ago.

“When you see a different place, you see so many changes, the vibrancy, the energy around the event. Joshua and Usyk were shooting the promo in the square, and people were excited. Prince Khalid [bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud], my good friend who really drives boxing in Saudi Arabia, has a vision for the sport and a love for the sport. And I know how much he cares for the sport. And that matters to me.”

Hearn sees that his aim to get his fighters the best possible fight deals aligns with Saudi’s own desire to promote the sport and, eventually, produce world-class boxers of its own.

“You must always try and get the fighters the best deal because it is a dangerous sport,” Hearn said. “But it’s more than that. There’s a real movement for boxing in Saudi Arabia, and we’re behind it, and I think next week you’re going to see not just a tremendous event but interest from the public there also. And as participation levels increase at a grassroots level, you’re going to start seeing fighters emerge. And when you see fighters emerge, that’s when everything will change there. Can you imagine how big it could be if a fighter went on and won an Olympic medal or won a world championship? It would be huge.”

Saturday night’s card in Jeddah will see the super lightweight Saudi-Egyptian fighter Ziyad Al-Maayouf take on Mexico’s Jose Alatorre.

“You need local fighters,” said Hearn. “It’s all very well coming to Saudi Arabia to say we are developing boxing in the region. But what are we developing? Boxing is so important on so many levels for young people. Fitness, mental health, physical health, discipline and respect. But you still want talent coming through. There’s no reason why over the years, if the coaching is good enough, we can’t see some good fighters emerge. It’s very important that you see those young fighters coming through.”

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic may have somewhat stalled the rise of boxing in Saudi Arabia, but Hearn believes the time is right to kick-start its growth again.

“The commercial interest, the participation interest, the interest from the public is getting bigger all the time,” he said. “When we filmed the promo in the square, you could see people were genuinely interested. The Ruiz fight did a lot for boxing in the Kingdom, but we lost a bit of momentum because of the pandemic. But interest is there, from a public perspective, from a commercial perspective, and it's a huge event in Saudi next Saturday.”

As a message to the fans, Hearn has promised a spectacular event on the Red Sea.

“Just enjoy. We’re desperate for Joshua to win,” he said. “He’s obviously a friend of ours, and we’ve been with him for his professional debut, but Usyk is, pound for pound, great. It’s going to be a tremendous fight, it’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere. It’s the World Heavyweight Championship. And we can’t wait to put on a huge event in Saudi Arabia next Saturday.”


Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence

Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence
Updated 41 min 35 sec ago

Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence

Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence
  • On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks have been conducted

MOSCOW: Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner on Monday filed an appeal against her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported Monday.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted on Aug. 4. She was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
Griner played for a women’s basketball team in Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
Lawyer Maria Blagovolina was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying the appeal was filed, but the grounds of the appeal weren’t immediately clear.
Blagovolina and co-counsel Alexander Boykov said after the conviction that the sentence was excessive and that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.
Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but said she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.
Before her conviction, the US State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that the US had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death.”
On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks have been conducted.
“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the Foreign Ministry’s North America department, told state news agency Tass. “These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle.’“


Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to reach football final at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to reach football final at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to reach football final at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to reach football final at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • Two more weightlifting medals take Kingdom’s overall tally at Konya to 20

KONYA: The Saudi national under-23 team qualified for the final of the football competition at the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games after beating Algeria 2-1 on Sunday night.

The young Green Falcons started the match in dominant manner and took a two-goal lead thanks to strikes by Haitham Asiri in the 14th minute, and Ahmed Al-Ghamdi in the 20th.

Algeria reduced the deficit to one goal five minutes before the break, but the Saudi team saw out the match successfully despite having Mohammed Maran sent off in the 85th minute, and enduring six minutes of stoppage time.

Saudi Arabia last reached the final of the football competition at the games when the tournament was held in Makkah in 2005.

Meanwhile, Saudi success in weightlifting continued with two more medals for Ali Al-Othman, raising the overall tally in Turkey to 20 (one gold, 11 silver and eight bronze). The Kingdom’s weightlifting team has claimed 11 of the total.

Al-Othman took silver in the clean and jerk with a lift of 192 kilograms and bronze for finishing third overall with 349 points.

The Saudi women’s 3×3 basketball team opened their campaign with a close 20-19 victory over Qatar, while the men’s handball team lost the bronze medal match 30-21 to Iran.


UAE’s Al-Mansoori wins in Lithuania to take lead in world title race

UAE’s Al-Mansoori wins in Lithuania to take lead in world title race
Updated 15 August 2022

UAE’s Al-Mansoori wins in Lithuania to take lead in world title race

UAE’s Al-Mansoori wins in Lithuania to take lead in world title race
  • Team Abu Dhabi star produces immaculate display for maiden F2 Grand Prix victory

KUPISKIS: Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori powered his way into the lead in the 2022 UIM F2 World Championship today with a commanding victory in the Grand Prix of Lithuania.

After securing his first F2 pole position 24 hours earlier, Al-Mansoori produced an immaculate performance to claim his maiden Grand Prix success by 2.416 seconds from Sharjah Team’s Sami Seliö.

It was a mature and impressive display from the Emirati driver who has gradually grown in confidence since joining Team Abu Dhabi last season.

The result more than made up for Al-Mansoori’s disappointment in Lithuania last year when he was forced out of the race after being rammed from behind while chasing a podium finish.

“I’m very happy, and I want to thank my team for all the hard work they put in to make this happen,” he said, before leaping from the pontoon into the water to celebrate his success.

After problems in qualifying led to him starting the second round of the 2022 season in seventh place, teammate and reigning world champion, Rashed Al-Qemzi, claimed sixth position.

It might have been a lot better for Al-Qemzi but for an incident which brought the race to a temporary halt on the first lap after he had started superbly.

Al-Mansoori, who admitted to feeling pre-race nerves, showed no signs of that as he made a perfect start to reach the first turn in the lead.

Al-Qemzi also got off to a flyer and was quickly up to fourth before losing the three places he had gained when a collision between Swedes Johan Österberg and Bimba Sjöholm brought out a yellow flag.

With Österberg flipping and going out immediately, and Sjöholm exiting after the restart, Al-Mansoori continued to lead comfortably from Seliö.

He drove flawlessly through the 45 laps as he recorded a victory which gives him an eight-point world championship lead from first round winner, Germany’s Stefan Hagin, who finished fifth on the day.

UIM F2 World Championship leading positions (points):

1. Mansoor Al-Mansoori (UAE) 35

2. Stefan Hagin (Germany) 27

3. Sami Seliö (UAE) 22

4. Giacomo Sacchi (Monaco) 21

5. Duarte Benavente (Portugal) 14

6. Tobias Munthe-Kaa (Norway) 12

7. Edgaras Riabko (Lithuania) 8

8. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) 5


Alaba free-kick gives Real Madrid win to start title defense

Alaba free-kick gives Real Madrid win to start title defense
Updated 15 August 2022

Alaba free-kick gives Real Madrid win to start title defense

Alaba free-kick gives Real Madrid win to start title defense
  • The winner arrived with 15 minutes remaining at Almeria’s Power Horse Stadium, as Alaba strode onto the pitch and curled a free-kick in off the upright after Luka Modric had been fouled just outside the box

MADRID: David Alaba scored with a stunning free-kick immediately after coming on as a substitute as reigning champions Real Madrid came from behind to beat Almeria 2-1 in their opening game of the season in La Liga on Sunday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side trailed to an early goal by Largie Ramazani away against their promoted opponents, but Lucas Vazquez equalized just after the hour mark.
The winner arrived with 15 minutes remaining at Almeria’s Power Horse Stadium, as Alaba strode onto the pitch and curled a free-kick in off the upright after Luka Modric had been fouled just outside the box.
Real were made to work hard for the points against an Almeria side who won last season’s second-tier title to return to La Liga after a seven-year absence.
“We had lots of shots on goal but once we got the first goal it made things much easier for us,” said Ancelotti.
“I am happy with the way the game went. We were not spectacular but there were lots of things to take into account, like the game on Wednesday and the heat.”
At one point it looked like Madrid might suffer a defeat in their opening league game of the season for the first time since 2008, with Ancelotti’s decision to rotate his squad not initially paying off.
The Italian had made five changes to the line-up that started in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki, when goals by Alaba and Karim Benzema gave the defending European champions the first silverware of the campaign.
Alaba and Modric were among the players dropped to the bench, while close-season signings Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni were handed first competitive starts for their new club.
Yet the game was just six minutes old when former Chelsea defender Rudiger was caught out by a ball over the top and Ramazani ran through to beat Thibaut Courtois.
Ramazani, the 21-year-old Belgian winger who used to be on the books at Manchester United, ran off to celebrate in acrobatic fashion as Saudi-owned Almeria enjoyed a dream start to their top-flight comeback.
Yet the hosts needed some inspired goalkeeping from Fernando Martinez to keep them ahead into half-time, with the standout save coming low to his left to deny Rudiger five minutes before the break.
Vazquez then had the ball in the net in the 43rd minute only to be denied by a very tight offside call, but the full-back was the man who dragged the away side back level in the 61st minute as he pounced on a loose ball in the area to score.
Almeria, who had already seen a hanging Vinicius cross strike the frame of their goal on its way behind before that, soon conceded again.
When Modric was fouled just outside the box by Rodrigo Ely, Austrian defender Alaba was waiting on the sideline for the chance to come on.
The break in play allowed him to replace Ferland Mendy, and he came straight on to take the free-kick and score in stunning fashion to complete the latest comeback from Ancelotti’s team.
Earlier, Japan star Takefusa Kubo marked his Real Sociedad debut by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win at Cadiz.
Kubo, 21, moved to San Sebastian last month on a five-year deal from Real Madrid, after never managing to break into the first team at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Signed by Madrid from FC Tokyo as an 18-year-old in 2019, he was farmed out on loan to Mallorca, Villarreal and then Getafe, before returning to Mallorca last season.
Carlos Soler’s penalty gave Valencia a 1-0 win over promoted Girona in their first La Liga outing under new coach Gennaro Gattuso.
Valencia held on after having Swiss defender Eray Comert send off early in the second half.
Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Rayo Vallecano in their opening game at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Atletico Madrid begin their campaign away at Getafe in one of three matches to be played on Monday.