Carlos Sainz grateful for ‘F1 dream come true’ ahead of Abu Dhabi race

Special Carlos Sainz grateful for ‘F1 dream come true’ ahead of Abu Dhabi race
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Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz arrives ahead of practice for the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 10, 2021. (Reuters)
Special Carlos Sainz grateful for ‘F1 dream come true’ ahead of Abu Dhabi race
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Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz during qualifying for the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 11, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 December 2021

Carlos Sainz grateful for ‘F1 dream come true’ ahead of Abu Dhabi race

Carlos Sainz grateful for ‘F1 dream come true’ ahead of Abu Dhabi race
  • Spaniard hails his ‘best season to date,’ speaks on Hamilton vs. Verstappen showdown
  • Sainz is in a three-way battle with his teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris for P5 in the championship

ABU DHABI: As he gets ready to wrap up his maiden Formula One season with Ferrari on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, Carlos Sainz has not just fulfilled a lifelong dream of driving for the Maranello marque, but has the chance to secure his highest championship finish should things go his way at Yas Marina Circuit.

The Spaniard is in a three-way battle with his teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris for P5 in the championship, and is just 8.5 points behind the former and 4.5 points adrift of the latter entering the final race of the season.

Should he eclipse both of his rivals, Sainz would improve on the sixth-place championship finishes he achieved with McLaren in 2019 and 2020 and it would bode well for his upcoming sophomore season with the Prancing Horse.

Irrespective of where he lands in the standings after Sunday’s season finale, Sainz handled the pressure of driving for the most iconic team in F1 in impeccable fashion, and earned praise from Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto for how well he adapted to learning a new power unit in his first year in the red car.

“The better the driver, the quicker the process, and I think that Carlos in that respect has been very strong. We knew he was a good driver and this season he’s simply demonstrating it as well,” said Binotto on Friday.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, a former Ferrari team principal, said that Sainz is “without a doubt the big surprise of 2021.

“I have to say that he has surprised me. His adaptation, his solidity, his performance, his speed,” the Italian was quoted as saying by MARCA.

Sainz, who is in his eighth year in F1, says that 2021 has been his most enjoyable season to date. The 27 year old grabbed three podiums with Ferrari this campaign — in Monaco, Hungary and Russia — and had top-eight finishes in each of his last nine races heading into Abu Dhabi.

“I think it’s one of my favorite seasons in F1 in terms of just enjoying F1 and enjoying being part of this sport and this team,” said Sainz on Thursday.

“It’s been quite hectic — a lot of races, but also a lot of good times. I managed to enjoy myself and at the same time I managed to improve myself during the year. I feel like I’m finishing the season much stronger than I started it; that shows that there’s important progression inside the team.

“I’ve seen changes inside the team also that have gone in the right direction, so honestly the feeling going into next year is very positive. We’re going through a good moment and with good momentum.”

Being able to find joy in the process despite the added pressure of becoming a Ferrari driver is not an easy balance to strike, but Sainz has found comfort in knowing that he gets to live his dream every day.

“It comes with a lot more pressure, it also comes with a bit of a busier schedule, being a Ferrari driver and having to have so many commitments, so it does make the season a bit more packed, a bit more stressful, a bit more with extra pressure,” he admits.

“But it’s been fairly easy for me to keep reminding myself that I am achieving a dream, that is to drive for the best team in Formula One and the most historic team in Formula One, and it’s a dream come true for me since I was a kid, to be driving for Ferrari.

“And if I keep reminding myself of this kind of thing then I actually go into the weekend always excited, always with good energy, always trying to learn, trying to become better, to make sure that if the chance of fighting for a world championship with Ferrari ever arrives, I’m going to be as prepared and as ready as possible.

“This has given me a good balance this year. It has allowed me to make another little step as a driver and to make me finish the season on a high and now ready for whatever comes in 2022.”

Sainz says that he feels “100 percent ready” to fight for the championship if the car becomes more competitive next year and is satisfied with how well he adapted to a new team this season, and how quick he was from the get go.

“When you think I’m still in the fight for P5 in the drivers’ championship, third in constructors’ standings looks good, so yes, I must have done a pretty decent season to be in that position,” he concludes.

Looking at the fierce battle taking place at the front of the grid as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen enter the final race on equal points, Sainz describes the situation as an “ideal scenario” for F1, and finds himself caught up in the gripping action, anxious to see how it all pans out.

He refuses to weigh in on who should be considered the driver of the season, though.

“Unfortunately on social media there is a lot of polarization. I wouldn’t say abuse between fans, but very polarized, and it makes the fight a bit less exciting when you see the two sides fighting each other so much. I think it’s just better to be a bit more neutral, enjoy the fight and let the best man win,” said Sainz.

“I’m not going to comment personally on who’s been my driver of the season, particularly because of that. If I will say one then one side will criticize me and say ‘mo, Lewis has had a better car,’or if I say Max, it’s too polarized. I just don’t want to take a stance because it doesn’t make sense looking at how polarized it is on social media.

“I think they’ve both done incredible seasons and they’re both driving at an incredible level. From my side, I just wish that they can keep it clean this last weekend and give it a good showdown, for the image of the sport more than anything else; for the benefit of Formula One and to show that we are still a sport, not only a show and show good sportsmanship and a good showdown in the grand final.”

On Saturday, Sainz out-qualified his teammate and will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from P5, with Leclerc two positions behind. But Norris put together a stunning lap to clinch P3 in qualifying, and will start in front of both Ferraris.


Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
Updated 12 sec ago

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
SINGAPORE: Sergio Perez won a rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday leaving his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to wait at least another week to retain his Formula One world championship.
The Mexican took the chequered flag 7.5sec ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but could be stripped of the victory by stewards who were investigating a possible safety car infringement.
Carlos Sainz was third to make it a double podium for Ferrari in the night race that started more than an hour late because of a storm.
it was the first grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win and have other results go his way. He finished seventh after a rollercoaster race.
The Dutchman was always going to struggle after starting eighth on the grid and his task was made trickier by an early evening deluge that delayed the start till 9:05 p.m. (1305 GMT).
When the field eventually tore away from the grid in a shower of spray, Verstappen almost stalled and dropped back from eighth to 13th.
The 25-year-old cut through the field before flat-spotting his tires trying to pass Lando Norris for fourth after a safety car restart.
“I was up with Lando and as soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and I went straight on,” said Verstappen who was forced to pit for fresh rubber and dropped to last place.
“It’s not what I’m here for. Not with a car like that. It was incredibly messy.”
It means his world championship lead over Leclerc has been cut to 104 points ahead of next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. Perez is two points behind Leclerc.
Verstappen will need to be 112 points ahead at the end of next Sunday’s race in Suzuka to retain his title and can do so if he wins and Leclerc fails to finish second.
Leclerc started on pole but Perez slipped past before the first turn and drove a perfect race to hold off the Monegasque for his second GP win of the season.
“It was certainly my best performance,” Perez said. “I controlled the race. The last three laps were so intense. When I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything today.”
Leclerc started on pole but had a sluggish getaway on intermediate tires in the slippery conditions allowing Perez to reach the first corner in the lead.
“I pushed all the way,” said Leclerc. “The bad start put us on the back foot and it was a really difficult race after that.”
Sainz started fourth and managed to force his way past Lewis Hamilton on turn one, but he felt he could never threaten the front two and crossed the line 7.7sec behind Leclerc.
“It was very tough out there,” Sainz said. “I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn’t challenge the top two guys.
“I had to settle for P3, but the good thing is I didn’t do any mistakes and could bring the car home and be quick toward the end of the race.”
The McLaren pair of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth, Lance Stroll sixth in the Aston Martin ahead of Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel, the winner in Singapore the last time the race was run in 2019, was eighth, with Hamilton and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton had been in the battle for pole but had a torrid time, complaining early about his tires and later slithering into a barrier necessitating a new nose before coming home ninth.
“I think we started off with a really decent weekend, it was really unfortunate at the end,” said Hamilton.
“I was trying, obviously difficult to overtake, that lock up into turn seven, ugh, when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.”

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3
Updated 02 October 2022

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3
  • Haaland has scored hat-tricks in each of his last three Premier League home games to take his tally to 17
  • City could have scored many more than the four they managed in a blistering first half performance

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored hat-tricks as Manchester City thrashed Manchester United 6-3 to move to within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
Haaland has scored hat-tricks in each of his last three Premier League home games to take his tally as a City player to 17 in 10 competitive games for the English champions.
Antony’s strike and Anthony Martial’s late double ensured United avoided a record defeat in the Manchester derby as they remain in sixth, nine points off the top.
Since also conceding four times inside the first 45 minutes at Brentford in August, United had bounced back with four consecutive Premier League wins to offer hope they are heading in the right direction under Erik ten Hag.
But the Red Devils were given a rude awakening of the gulf that still exists between the Manchester giants.
City could have scored many more than the four they managed in a blistering first half performance that swept away any doubts caused by an inconsistent start to the season from Pep Guardiola’s men.
Within four minutes it took two goal-line clearances and a fine save from David de Gea to deny Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva the opening goal.
Four minutes later, City did open the floodgates when Foden swept home Silva’s cross for the Manchester native’s first derby goal.
Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick hit the post and Foden blasted another big chance wide before Haaland inevitably made his mark.
United were left to bemoan the absence of Raphael Varane to defend a De Bruyne corner as he received treatment on an ankle injury that forced him off at half-time.
Without the Frenchman, there was no match for Haaland’s presence in the penalty box as his header crossed the line before Tyrell Malacia’s attempted clearance.
Moments later, City showcased their ability to counter-attack as Jack Grealish fed De Bruyne, who perfectly picked out Haaland to convert on the stretch at the back post.
Haaland then turned provider with a low cross that Foden converted to leave United trailing 4-0 at half-time for the third time in a year.
Unlike, in a 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Liverpool last season and at Brentford last month, there was some semblance of a United response after the break.
Antony smashed home his second goal in as many Premier League appearances since a £82 million ($92 million) move from Ajax.
But Haaland quickly retook center stage with a thumping finish to meet Sergio Gomez’s cross.
City were on course to match the record margin of victory in a Manchester derby when Haaland set up Foden to smash home and complete his hat-trick.
That was Foden’s final involvement as he was withdrawn in a quadruple change as Guardiola could afford to also hand a rest to De Bruyne, Gundogan and Grealish.
United took advantage of City taking their foot off the accelerator in the final 10 minutes as substitute Martial scored twice to cut the arrears.
The Frenchman bravely headed in the rebound after Ederson parried Fred’s shot and then emphatically fired home from the penalty spot.


UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi
Updated 02 October 2022

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi
  • Competitions for teens, youth, masters’ categories held Saturday at Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship kicked off on Saturday at Abu Dhabi’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City with the UAE taking home the most medals.

The tournament is being organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro.

Saturday’s competitions, which saw grapplers take part in the teens, youth, and masters’ divisions, ended with Commando Group taking first place, Palms Sports — Team 777 coming second, and Al-Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club securing third place. In terms of country rankings, Colombia and Brazil took second and third places, respectively, behind the UAE.

Abdel Moneim Al-Hashemi, chairman of the UAEJJF, president of the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Union, and senior vice president of the International Jiu-Jitsu Federation, praised the winners at a ceremony held following the action.

Youssef Al-Batran, board member of the UAEJJF, said: “The championship’s remarkable success reflects the joint efforts of the UAEJJF and AJP which have attracted hundreds of jiu-jitsu professionals from more than 50 nations to the UAE capital and produced an excellent competition atmosphere.

“Events like these strengthen Abu Dhabi’s status as the world’s jiu-jitsu capital,” he added.

The athletes from Brazilian academies in particular put on outstanding performances on Saturday. Among them was Jorge Pereira, a black-belt holder from the Brazilian JSBJJ Academy, who competed in the 77-kilogram masters’ category and scooped gold.

He said: “We hold the AJP championships in great regard since they help us advance our careers and raise our rankings. I have been constantly participating in AJP tournaments all over the world.

“I came to Abu Dhabi from Brazil not only to compete for medals but also to prepare for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”

In turn, Ayaz Suleymanov, a black belt from Renzo Gracie Azerbaijan, who won gold in the masters’ 94-kg category, said: “I signed up for this event as part of our rigorous training for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Today’s competitions were a remarkable experience. The Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi gave us a memorable learning experience that will help us advance our skills.”

The UAE girls stood out in the tournament’s elite field of competitors from the region and around the globe. Mariam Al-Ali, a blue belt from Palms Sports — Team 777, managed to win the youth women’s 48-kg category.

She said: “Today’s competitions offered us a great chance to develop and perfect our skills as we go up against some of the best international players from different international clubs and academies. It significantly contributed to the development of our technical and physical skills.”

AJP general manager, Tareq Al-Bahri, said: “The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is crucial to several players’ professional careers because of the volume of points it provides and the impact it has on their annual rankings. Additionally, the competition offers a chance to be ready for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”


Saudi Arabia lose to Oman by 6 wickets in U-19 cricket World Cup qualifier

Saudi Arabia lose to Oman by 6 wickets in U-19 cricket World Cup qualifier
Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi Arabia lose to Oman by 6 wickets in U-19 cricket World Cup qualifier

Saudi Arabia lose to Oman by 6 wickets in U-19 cricket World Cup qualifier
  • Defeat to hosts came in 2nd fixture of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2 — Asia qualifiers taking place in Muscat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday lost by six wickets to hosts Oman in their fixture of the ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2 — Asia qualifiers taking place in Muscat.

The Saudi team had been bowled out for a total of 103 in 37.3 overs. Oman managed to score 104 from 27 overs with six wickets to spare.

It was Saudi Arabia’s second defeat in Group A of the eight-team qualification campaign which also includes Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore, and Thailand, who make up Group B, and features 16 matches over nine days.

The top two teams will then advance to the 2023 Asia Qualifier alongside already-qualified Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, and the UAE, with a place at the International Cricket Council U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 at stake.

Saudi Arabia had lost their opening fixture to Bahrain by 57 runs and will now face Bhutan in their final group match on Monday.


Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb makes strong start in Morocco

Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb makes strong start in Morocco
Updated 02 October 2022

Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb makes strong start in Morocco

Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb makes strong start in Morocco
  • Battle begins in earnest Sunday as French driver looks to build on lead in world title race

Sebastien Loeb made a solid start to the Rallye Du Maroc as he set out to extend his lead in the World Rally-Raid Championship with BahraIn Raid Xtreme.

Loeb recorded the third-fastest time on the opening day in his BRX Prodrive Hunter, as Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah in a Toyota Hilux set the pace on the 8.67-kilometer prologue, which served as a warm-up for the main action to follow over the next five days.

Orlando Terranova, Loeb’s BRX team-mate, finished the stage in fifth place, one spot adrift of French driver Guerlain Chicherit in another Prodrive Hunter.

Loeb started the rally leading Al-Attiyah by one point in the race to become the first FIA World Rally-Raid champion, with the final round, the Andalucia Rally, to follow in Spain from Oct. 18 to 23.

The nine-time World Rally Champion and fellow Frenchman Fabian Lurquin snatched that slender advantage during the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge back in March, and they know that one small mistake or twist of misfortune could decide the title race.

The prologue was little more than a sprint for the three Prodrive Hunters and the other 80 starters in the cars and trucks category, before the rally begins in earnest on Sunday with the first of five long desert stages, a 316-km competitive section from Agadir to Tan-Tan.

The route covers more sand than in previous years, with bivouacs at Tan-Tan and Laayoune, and stages that are similar to those seen in Saudi Arabia in recent years for the Dakar Rally.

Argentine Terranova, who took his BRX Hunter to a fine fourth-place finish in the Dakar in January, said: “I am happy to be back again rallying.

“My personal target is to do a good rally and get quicker as the rally progresses. This is a big test for the Dakar, as Morocco is a tough rally, but one that I enjoy too.”

Chicherit, partnered in the third BRX Hunter by fellow Frenchman Alex Winocq, said: “Rallye du Maroc is very hard for the cars and for the crews.

“In short, one kilometer in Morocco counts double or triple in normal conditions. I will do everything I can and if we are in the game, it will give us confidence for the Dakar,” he added.