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.


Saudi Arabia exits World Cup with newfound confidence

Saudi Arabia exits World Cup with newfound confidence
Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia exits World Cup with newfound confidence

Saudi Arabia exits World Cup with newfound confidence
  • With Herve Renard motivating the team in his emblematic white shirt on the sidelines, Saudi Arabia proved tough to beat
  • Performance could also help promote a possible joint bid by Saudi Arabia with Egypt and Greece to host the 2030 World Cup
LUSAIL, Qatar: From a generational-defining win over Lionel Messi and Argentina to the recent reports that Cristiano Ronaldo could soon be on his way to play soccer in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia has caused a sensation at the World Cup.
The Green Falcons have nothing to be ashamed about after being eliminated following a 2-1 loss to Mexico on Wednesday.
The second-lowest ranked team in the tournament at No. 51 — one spot behind host Qatar — and ahead of only 61st-ranked Ghana, Saudi Arabia was competitive from start to finish at the first World Cup in the Middle East.
“We did our best. Today it was more difficult for us,” said Hervé Renard, Saudi Arabia’s French coach. “But we don’t have to forget what we did together.”
The Saudis opened with a surprising 2-1 victory over Argentina and also played solidly in a 2-0 loss to Poland before conceding two second-half goals to Mexico to finish last in Group C.
Salem Al-Dawsari, the team’s star No. 10, pulled a goal back in added time, before the Saudi players bent over on the field at the final whistle in prayer and then stood up to applaud their fans.
Strong goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais prevented Mexico from scoring another goal — which could have sent the South Americans through to the round of 16. Instead, it was Argentina and Poland who advanced in the most wide-open group of the tournament.
With Renard motivating the team in his emblematic white shirt on the sidelines, Saudi Arabia proved tough to beat with a team featuring all 26 players based at home.
The fact that none of the Saudis play abroad may have been a surprise factor but the reality is that the country’s best players don’t need to go to Europe for rich contracts when they are paid handsomely in the lucrative Saudi league.
A high-paying contract is exactly what could lure Ronaldo to join six members of the Saudi national team at Al Nassr, one of the country’s leading clubs.
The reports linking Ronaldo with Al Nassr come after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had his contract terminated by Manchester United.
Saudi-owned Newcastle United is also reportedly in the market for Ronaldo.
But whether Ronaldo goes to a Saudi or Saudi-owned club or not, the country’s national team leaves Qatar with plenty of newfound confidence.
The performance could also help promote a possible joint bid by Saudi Arabia with Egypt and Greece to host the 2030 World Cup.

Indictments requested for Agnelli and others in Juve scandal

Indictments requested for Agnelli and others in Juve scandal
Updated 4 min 44 sec ago

Indictments requested for Agnelli and others in Juve scandal

Indictments requested for Agnelli and others in Juve scandal
  • Former vice-president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene are also named
  • A date for the preliminary hearing to decide whether to indict and proceed to trial is expected to be announced in the next week

TURIN, Italy: The Turin prosecutor’s office has requested indictments of former Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, 10 other former board members, and the club following an investigation into alleged false accounting.
Former vice president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene — who left the club on Monday when Agnelli and the entire board of directors resigned — are also named, as is former Juventus director of sport Fabio Paratici, who has moved to Tottenham.
A date for the preliminary hearing to decide whether to indict and proceed to trial is expected to be announced in the next week.
Juventus maintains “the accounting treatment adopted in the contested financial statements falls within those allowed by applicable accounting principles,” and it has drawn that conclusion “on the basis of a solid set of opinions by leading legal and accounting professionals.”
In a lengthy statement issued by the club, it added: “Juventus remain convinced that they have always acted correctly and intend to assert their reasons and defend their corporate, economic and sporting interests in all forums.”
Prosecutors have been investigating since last year whether Juventus cashed in on illegal commissions from transfers and loans of players. The case is also exploring if investors were misled with invoices being issued for non-existent transactions to demonstrate income that in turn could be deemed false accounting.
The case involves player contracts, transfers and agent dealings from 2018-20.
At the start of the pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But prosecutors claim the players gave up only one month’s salary.
Turin prosecutors have also apparently discovered more secret payments to former player Cristiano Ronaldo that were not reported by the club.
Juventus are listed on the Milan stock exchange, which also opens it to regulatory scrutiny by the CONSOB watchdog. The club CFO, Stefano Cerrato, was caught on phone taps saying that if CONSOB questioned their moves, they would “razzle-dazzle” the regulators with fancy words, according to leaks to Italian media.
Trading in Juventus shares was flat on Thursday, after a negative 1.16 percent close on Wednesday at 0.2738 euros.


Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test
Updated 21 min 56 sec ago

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test
  • Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with quick-fire tons against a hapless Pakistan bowling attack
  • It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Four England batsmen scored hundreds Thursday as the visitors piled up a record 506-4 on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with quick-fire tons against a hapless Pakistan bowling attack before Ollie Pope (108) and Harry Brook (101 not out) compounded the hosts’ misery.
Ben Stokes was also not out, on 34, when bad light stopped play, having helped England break a 112-year-old record for the most runs on the first day of a Test — beating Australia’s 494-6 against South Africa at Sydney.
It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test.
After winning the toss England went straight into “Bazball” mode, the brand of freewheeling, aggressive play taken from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum.
England’s fiery batting — with 73 boundaries and three sixes — lifted the gloom over the start, which hung in the balance Wednesday after several of the tourists came down with a mystery virus.
As if the punishment from the top three wasn’t enough, Brook — playing only his second Test — cracked six consecutive boundaries off one over from debutant spinner Saud Shakeel.
He is only the fourth batsman to score six consecutive boundaries in a Test, following West Indians Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya.
Brook reached his maiden century off just 80 balls, capping a highly entertaining day for a crowd of 6,000 that included around 150 “Barmy Army” fans.
He added 176 for the fourth wicket with Pope, who fell to pacer Mohammad Ali.
Pakistan fought back briefly in the second session when they dismissed Duckett, Crawley and Joe Root (23) in the space of 53 runs, but that was shortlived.
England have set their sights on even more runs.
“It was obviously a very good wicket to bat on,” said Crawley.
“Hopefully, we can go on tomorrow and get more runs.”
Debutant leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood was the most successful Pakistan bowler with 2-160 on an unresponsive wicket.
“The pitch was similar to the one we had against Australia, but it should have been a bit more supportive,” said Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq, referring to the Test played earlier this year that yielded 1,187 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets over five days.
Duckett, who hit his maiden hundred after being recalled to the Test side following an absence of six years, was the first to go when he missed a reverse sweep off Mahmood and was trapped leg-before.
West Indian umpire Joel Wilson initially ruled it not out, only to change his decision on Pakistan’s review.
Duckett, who hit 15 boundaries, put on 233 for the first wicket with Crawley — an England record for the first wicket against Pakistan.
It beat the 1962 stand of 198 between openers Geoff Pullar and Bob Barber in Dhaka, then East Pakistan.
Crawley was bowled off a sharp delivery by Haris Rauf in the next over, the Test debutant’s first wicket.
The lanky Crawley hit 21 boundaries in his quickfire 111-ball innings, his third Test hundred.
Former skipper Root also fell leg-before to Mahmood, unsuccessfully challenging the decision.
Crawley showed his intent right from the start, hitting three boundaries off Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah’s first over of the match, and bringing up his half-century off just 38 balls.
He could have become the first England batter to score a century before lunch on day one of a Test but was left nine short.
England are on their first Test tour to Pakistan in 17 years.

Related


Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil
Brazil's forward Rodrygo reacts during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match against Switzerland. AFP
Updated 34 min 21 sec ago

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil
  • Substitute Rodrygo set up Casemiro’s late goal in their 1-0 win against the Swiss, which followed a 2-0 victory against Serbia in their World Cup opener
  • Casemiro believes Rodrygo, who plays for Real Madrid, has the talent to be Brazil’s next big star

DOHA: Rodrygo is the complete striker: the 21-year-old Brazilian can play on the left, the right, as a No.10 or as a false nine.
And after his decisive second-half performance against Switzerland on Monday he looks well-placed to finally earn his first start for the Selecao, maybe even in Neymar’s playmaker role.
Substitute Rodrygo set up Casemiro’s late goal in their 1-0 win against the Swiss, which followed a 2-0 victory against Serbia in their World Cup opener.
Brazil have already qualified for the last 16 ahead of Friday’s final Group G clash against Cameroon and coach Tite is likely to make changes, with Neymar still nursing an ankle injury sustained in their opening match.
Casemiro believes Rodrygo, who plays for Real Madrid, has the talent to be Brazil’s next big star.
“God gave him the gift of playing football. It’s beautiful watching him play,” the Manchester United midfielder, who used to play alongside Rodrygo at Madrid, said last week.
The five-time World Cup winners have an embarrassment of riches in the attacking department, even with Neymar injured and Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho left out of the squad.
Raphinha, Antony, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro and Richarlison are all providing competition for Rodrygo.
But the youngest player in Tite’s World Cup squad has one major advantage over the others.
“We’ve seen him playing as a false nine, a 10, the ‘Neymar” of Real Madrid, with the ability to play on the left and right,” Matheus Bachi, an assistant coach with Brazil, who is also Tite’s son, said recently.
“He’s a chameleon, but a chameleon who does all these functions very well.”
That versatility was evident when Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti started deploying Rodrygo in the center of the attack this season alongside striker Karim Benzema, rather than using his pace on the flanks.
“He’s a special forward, he can play in every position. He’s quick, intelligent off the ball and effective one on one,” said Ancelotti.
Rodrygo has seven goals and five assists in 19 club matches this season.
His two late goals off the bench for Real in the Champions League semifinal against Manchester City last season turned the tie on its head and the Merengue went on to lift the trophy.

- ‘Very smart’ -

Rodrygo’s versatility was well known at his first club, Santos — the same team that produced Pele and Neymar. 
He played as a No.10 in the academy but made his first team debut in 2017 on the left wing.
Neymar used to play on the left before he was moved into a more central position and back in 2017 Jair Ventura, who gave Rodrygo his Santos debut, decided to develop his abilities “on the right, in the center and as a false nine,” he told ESPN in 2019.
That ability to play across the forward line has served Rodrygo well.
His performances soon alerted Real Madrid and he moved to Spain in 2019.
“He’s extremely professional and educated. He’s very smart, you explain something to him once and he understands it immediately,” said Ventura, the son of ex-player Jairzinho, a World Cup winner in 1970 alongside Pele.
Since his Brazil debut three years ago, Rodrygo has made nine appearances, but all as a substitute.
He scored one goal in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay and now has one assist to his name too.
And he has no doubt that he could fill the void left by Neymar.
“I feel comfortable playing in every position up front. I’ve already played with the No.10 jersey in the junior categories but it’s only recently that (senior) coaches have started putting me there,” Rodrygo said recently.
“We already have our No.10 here, Neymar, but who knows for the future.”
The future may be now.


Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball
Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez gives a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 34 min 30 sec ago

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball
  • Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line at that tournament to prevent a certain goal from Dominic Adiyiah’s header right at the end of extra-time

DOHA: Uruguay great Luis Suarez refused to apologize on Thursday to Ghanaians over his infamous handball at the World Cup 12 years ago.
The South Americans take on the Africans in a must-win Group H clash in Qatar on Friday that is a repeat of the notorious quarter-final in South Africa in 2010.
Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line at that tournament to prevent a certain goal from Dominic Adiyiah’s header right at the end of extra-time.
Suarez was shown a red card but Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty and Uruguay went on to win the shoot-out and qualify for the semifinals.
Striker Suarez became an overnight hero in his homeland while Ghana missed out on becoming the first-ever African team to reach the World Cup semifinals.
Twelve years later, asked whether he knew that Ghanaians viewed him as the “devil,” Suarez said he had no regrets.
“I don’t say I apologize about that because I take the handball but the Ghana player missed the penalty, not me,” said Suarez, speaking in broken English.
“Maybe I can say I apologize if I tackle and injure a player and take a red card, maybe I can apologize. 
“But in this situation I take a red card, the referee said ‘penalty’. It’s not my fault because I did not miss the penalty, the player missed the penalty.”
There has been lots of talk since the World Cup draw was made about Ghana potentially seeking revenge and many of the African team’s fans have vented their ire at Suarez ahead of the crunch clash.
But Suarez insisted the game was in the past and that it makes no sense to talk about revenge.
“Those that are talking about revenge... were eight at the time, they have only seen it in images,” said the former Barcelona and Liverpool forward, now 35.
“You can’t misinterpret everything. When we played Portugal the players were talking about revenge for being knocked out (by Uruguay in 2018) but you can’t live in the past.”
Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said there was much more at stake for both teams than vengeance.
Uruguay must win to have any chance of progressing to the last 16 while Ghana could also be eliminated if they do not triumph.
“I don’t know how Ghana will approach it, whether or not it’s revenge,” said Alonso.
“For us it’s a decisive match, that’s what matters to us. We’re doing the best we can, respecting our opponents, but we don’t view it that way.”