Max Verstappen wins F1 world championship in thrilling, controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Update Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (AP)
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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (AP)
Update Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (AP)
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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (AP)
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Updated 12 December 2021

Max Verstappen wins F1 world championship in thrilling, controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen wins F1 world championship in thrilling, controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

ABU DHABI: From the moment that Max Verstappen joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2014, there was an inevitability that he would one day become Formula One world champion.
That it came in the shape of a sensational last lap sprint in Abu Dhabi on Sunday which toppled seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton from his throne will make it even sweeter to the 24-year-old, the first Dutchman to wear the crown.
"My goal when I was little was to be a Formula One driver," said Verstappen after the finish in Abu Dhabi.
"You dream of podiums and victories. But when they tell you that you are world champion, it's incredible."
The 36-year-old Hamilton has been a sensational champion with Mercedes but Verstappen's victory suggests the arrival of a new world order.
His pace and talent has long been evident but it is his calmness under pressure and willingness to go toe to toe with a genuine F1 great, even when things got hairy, that has marked out this season's rise to the top.
At Silverstone, Verstappen ended up in the crash barriers; at Monza he crash-landed his Red Bull on top of the Mercedes. In Saudi Arabia, Hamilton crunched into the back of the Red Bull after Verstappen braked to let him pass.
The incidents on the track have led to a war of words off it. The Dutchman labelled the seven-time world champion a "stupid idiot" while Hamilton accused the young pretender of being "over the limit" in Jeddah.
In Abu Dhabi, Verstappen produced one of the most unlikely wins imaginable with a last lap dash that confounded the experienced Hamilton.
Not once, though, did the challenger take a step back or wilt under the pressure.
"He seems to deal with the pressure better than other people," said two-time world champion Fernando Alonso earlier in the season.
"Everyone is different, but it seems that for him it is not a big deal."
Verstappen is used to the spotlight, the pressure and, with already 20 years on the track, is experienced beyond his years as a racing driver.
According to his father Jos Verstappen, who raced in over a hundred Grand Prix between 1994 and 2003, Max first clambered into a go-kart when he was four and a half years old.
"He was keen, watching all my races, he knew what was going on. He was brought up with racing," Jos told the official F1 podcast Beyond the Grid in 2019.
"I never had to tell him racing lines, he knew."
In Abu Dhabi, the two shared what Max called a "special" moment. His dad was in no doubt about his son's achievement.
"I am very proud of him," said Jos. "Max was the driver this year and he deserved it."
His father was not the only influence on his early racing career; his mother is Belgian ex-kart driver champion Sophie Kumpen. Her uncle competed in motocross and rally and her cousin Anthony Kumpen raced NASCAR in the United States.
Titles followed and the teenage Verstappen made the step up to Formula Three, winning 10 races in his debut season when he finished third in the championship which was won by Esteban Ocon, a year his senior and now with the F1 Alpine team.
Verstappen would almost certainly have gone on to win the Formula Three title but after one season he made the step up to the biggest stage.
After taking part in practice at the 2014 Japanese GP, he made his F1 debut for Toro Rosso at the Australian GP in in 2015.
Aged just 17 years and 166 days, he was the youngest ever driver in the sport -- and still had not passed his regular driving test.
"For me it was never about age," said Jos. "It was so natural what he was doing. It was impressive. Max is an exciting driver. He's much better than me."
That first season saw him take his first points and get involved in his first scrap. A shunt on Romain Grosjean in Monaco saw Verstappen labelled "dangerous" by Williams driver Felipe Massa but he went on to land the FIA's Rookie of the Year title.
In May 2016, he was promoted to the Red Bull team, replacing Daniil Kvyat, and the results were impressive and immediate. In his first race in Spain, he qualified fourth and then held off Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to become the youngest ever winner, aged 18, in F1.
Vestappen notched six top-five finishes, including four podiums, in his first eight races.
After two seasons as runner-up, he had a better car which at times has enabled him to eviscerate the Mercedes.
"You just knew Max was not going to give it up," said Red Bull princial Christian Horner on Sunday.
"He had come so far this year and then to see him close it out, become world champion -- an amazing feeling."


Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
Updated 11 min 59 sec ago

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
  • In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m

STOCKHOLM: Armand Duplantis warmed up for next month’s world championships in perfect style at Stockholm’s Diamond League meet on Thursday, delighting home fans by setting an outdoor pole vault record.

While Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs was a late withdrawal from track’s blue riband event, the men’s 100m, Duplantis ensured there was drama guaranteed to the end in the field.

In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m.

The US-born vaulter then nailed 5.93 and 6.03m before clearing 6.16 on his second attempt, the best-ever performance outdoors that bettered by 1cm his previous outdoor best set in Rome in September 2020.

“I feel like I am definitely in shape to win my title and maybe to do something special in Eugene,” said the 22-year-old Olympic champion who holds the overall world record of 6.20m, set at the world indoor championships in Belgrade in March.

The outdoor record, Stockholm-based Duplantis said, felt “quite amazing... but really wasn’t that much of a surprise for me.”

“There’s better things that I can do. I felt really good jumping today but it wasn’t like I did everything so perfect that I don’t think I can do any better.

“It’s extra special when you’re jumping on the track where you train. I live about 10 minutes away so you want to defend your home territory first and foremost!“

With little time to fine-tune preparations ahead of the Eugene worlds, Jacobs— a shock gold winner at the Tokyo Olympics last year — pulled out of the 100m in another blow to his injury-hit season.

His coach Paolo Camossi, however, played down the latest setback for his sprinter, who kicked off the season with world 60m indoor gold in Belgrade before a thigh injury in mid-May disrupted track plans.

“The situation is under control,” Camossi said. “He has a little pain in his glute muscle.

“It would have been too risky to run today, that’s why we decided to withdraw him from the 100m. The risk is just too high with the eye on the world championships in Eugene next month.”

In the absence of Jacobs, South African Akani Simbine clocked a season’s best of 10.02sec to win the 100m ahead of the fastest European this year, Britain’s Reece Prescod (10.15).

World champion Dina Asher-Smith of Britain edged Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, the world indoor 60m champion, in a photo-finish in the women’s 200m, both sprinters credited with 22.37sec.

Femke Bol ensured that, come Eugene, there will be anything but a smooth ride for American Sydney McLaughlin, who set a new world record of 51.41sec in winning the women’s 400m hurdles at the US trials last weekend.

The Dutch hurdler won in Stockholm in a Diamond League record of 52.27sec and her clash with Olympic champion McLaughlin and US teammate and reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad will undoubtedly be one of the track highlights of the world champs.

“I am still hoping to do something very special also in Eugene,” Bol said. “It was a good race today but not perfect. In the end, I am very glad for this time.

“I am so excited for Eugene. When you see the results from the Hayward Field stadium, I am so excited to go there and I have some great competitors out there.”

India’s Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra threw a national record of 89.94m, but that was only good enough for second place behind Anderson Peters of Grenada (90.31).

“I thought I could throw even over 90m today,” said Chopra, whose gold in Tokyo was India’s first ever Olympic track and field triumph.

“I am close to 90m now and I can throw it this year. Despite the fact that I did not win tonight, I feel very good because I did my best.”

Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos bested Karsten Warholm’s meet record as he set a world lead of 46.80sec in the men’s 400m hurdles.

“I am so proud about this performance. My preparations went well and this result shows it,” said the Brazilian who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I think about the world record every day, every night, the Japanese capital.


Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race
Updated 30 June 2022

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race
  • Nine horses participating in Italian round to win cup by racing over 2km distance

LONDON: The San Siro Racecourse in Milan will host the fourth round of the 29th edition of the UAE President’s Cup World Series for Purebred Arabian Horses, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

The cup’s races are supported and closely monitored by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, who also works to ensure the sustainability of the UAE’s efforts to enhance promote purebred Arabian horses globally.

The cup began in May in France, followed by the US and Tunisia, which is the first country in the Arab region to host the series, before returning to Europe, as part of the UAE's efforts to encourage owners and breeders and showcase Emirati heritage.

Nine horses are participating in the Italian round to win the cup by racing over a distance of two kilometers.

Matar Suhail Al-Yabhouni, chairman of the Supreme Organizing Committee of the cup, said the event in Italy would be attended by owners and breeders and will receive major media coverage, noting the ongoing plans to support activities involving purebred Arabian horses.

Faisal Al-Rahmani, general coordinator of the cup, said the event in Italy will be a successful gathering of horses from around the world, highlighting the significant turnout of Italian and European horses.


Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
Updated 30 June 2022

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
  • World’s leading integrated energy, chemicals firm extends support of esports in Saudi Arabia
  • Aramco will be title partner of Aramco Sim Arena during Gamers8, starting July 14

RIYADH: Gamers8, the world’s largest esports and gaming event, has announced that Saudi Aramco will be a strategic partner of this summer’s showpiece in Riyadh.

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, the eight-week event beginning July 14 will stage elite tournaments featuring a series of festivals, concerts, and shows. Aramco will be a title sponsor of the Aramco Sim Arena, a simulator zone for racing enthusiasts to compete in daily community tournaments.

Beyond gaming activities, Gamers8 and Aramco are using the competition to identify top local simulated racing talent for the development program launched during Gamers Without Borders.

The top sim drivers selected will receive specialized training with international professional sim drivers and coaches in the UK. A documentary film team will follow the trainees’ journey for future broadcast.

Ahmed Al-Bishri, chief operations officer of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aramco on board as a strategic partner, and thank them once again for pledging their support to the esports and gaming sector in Saudi Arabia.

“Gamers8 is set to be an incredible, showpiece spectacle in Riyadh this summer, blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. The addition of Aramco as a strategic partner adds another layer of excellence to an event that will be an unforgettable occasion.”

Gamers8 will focus on four main pillars, which include professional esports, festivals, music, and The Next World Summit, an esports and gaming conference that will bring together sector leaders and experts from around the world.


Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
Updated 30 June 2022

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
  • Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark

COPENHAGEN: Raucous crowds at the Copenhagen Tivoli theme park gave the Tour de France the kind of reception organizers could only have dreamed of on Wednesday.

The loudest cheers were for Danish riders such as Jonas Vingegaard and for the biggest names led by champion Tadej Pogacar.

Staff at the park said only rock stars had attracted such crowds before.

Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates’, said he was excited too.

“As a team we are ready, and me and as an individual I’m ready too, so I can’t wait to start of Friday with the time trial,” the Slovenian said.

Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark.

Tivoli Park has around 25 fairground rides. On Wednesday the 176 cyclists added one, riding round a special 1km track to be greeted by thousands of smiling, cheering and filming fans.

“I feel great, especially today with all these people in Copenhagen, you can only be happy.” said Pogacar.

Title challengers Primoz Roglic and Vingegaard, both of Jumbo Visma, said they believed their team’s two-leader strategy could finally deliver cycling’s most treasured prize.

Roglic, a Slovenian, came second in 2020 and Vingegaard in 2021, both times behind Pogacar.

“As long as we work together, doing as good as possible together, we believe that we can beat him,” Roglic said,

Roglic pulled out in week one last year afer a fall and on Wednesday denied feeling threatened by his junior partner Vingegaard, who shone in his absence.

“We make each other stronger. When you have strong individuals around, the whole team gets stronger,” said the 32-year-old triple Vuelta a Espana winner.

Vingegaard said he and Roglic enjoyed going for a beer together.

“Primoz and I are good friends also out of bike racing,” said the 25-year-old, , a former fish-factory worker from the small community of Hillerslev on Denmark’s North Sea coast.

Both Roglic and Vingegaard talked of surviving the first week.Team boss Merijn Zeeman rejected the notion.

“I don’t like the term ‘surviving’ because we are not afraid. We stay on the bike and stay up front,” Zeeman said of Jumbo’s tendency to race from the front.

“Surviving sounds like we are not sleeping at night because we are afraid of the first week.”

“In the best scenario, both of them are better than Pogacar.”

“It’s not a secret that Pogacar is the big favorite.

“We need everybody to be at his top level and we definitely need a two-leader strategy.

The once-mighty Ineos team last won the race with Egan Bernal three years ago.

On Wednesday, 2018 champion Geraint Thomas said he was more of a chaperone to Dani Martinez of Colombia and British rider Adam Yates as they chase Pogacar and Jumbo.

“Its going to be hard to beat them, but the vibe in the team is as good as ever, we have some good guys, there’s a good atmosphere and we are looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Thomas, who promised an aggressive race.

“Adam and Dani are the leaders of the team and I want to help them, so I’ll be swearing at them at 60kmph in the wind, and I’m going to enjoy that.”

Yates has just recovered from Covid-19, but was looking relaxed and happy.

“It’ll be every man for himself,” Yates said.

“Me and Poggo had some good battles. I just hope to be at my best.”

Later on Wednesday, the Tour teams were due to parade in central Copenhagen with excitement building toward Friday’s Grand Depart, with Ineos rider Filippo Ganna favorite in a downtown time-trial.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” the Italian said.

“We’ll see Friday if we can all celebrate together.”


How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
Updated 30 June 2022

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
  • The sport has long had a reticence to confront these concerns, and despite being better remunerated, players face greater pressure than ever before

On Friday, England will host India at Edgbaston, Birmingham, in a Test match which was initially scheduled to start last year, Sept. 10, at Old Trafford, Manchester, but had been delayed over COVID-19 concerns.

That game did not take place because of an overnight decision by the Indian party, fearful about COVID-19 spreading through its camp, to declare this had a significant impact on their ability to field a team. This was despite none of the players testing positive the day before the game. It was members of support staff who had done so, resulting in players isolating in their hotel rooms. Minutes before the gates were due to open at 9 a.m., news of the cancellation seeped out, to the dismay, disbelief and disappointment of all those involved, except the Indians, it seemed.

They left England over the following two days to fly to the UAE, where the Indian Premier League was due to resume on Sept. 19, having been curtailed halfway through in early-May because of COVID-19 concerns in India. The Indian team’s decision in Manchester split the cricketing world. One view was that, coming on top of months of isolation during the pandemic, the new isolation had been the straw which broke the camel’s back in terms of players having the mental ability to cope with the fatigue from yet another bio-bubble.

An alternative view, vigorously denied, was that the fear of catching the virus, so close to the resumption of the IPL, would mean that the players would not have been able to take their places in their team bubbles until after quarantine requirements had been satisfied in the UAE. The Board of Control for Cricket in India specified six days of quarantine. Thus, leaving England between Sept. 11 and 12 gave them just enough time to play in the IPL on Sept. 19, whereas leaving on Sept. 14 and 15 would not have allowed this. There were also issues over whether the cancellation, over COVID-19 concerns, would be covered by insurance; or if the game had to be declared forfeited.

Feelings ran high in both camps. It was not until Oct. 22, 2021, that a resolution was announced under which the match would be played between July 1 and 5, 2022 but at a different venue, Birmingham, rather than the original one in Manchester. The official reason was that, because of other events, there would be insufficient time to prepare a pitch at Manchester. The move also took out of the equation the possibility of any residual ill-will existing there. Nevertheless, it is scant consolation for ticketholders of the original match, who are not able to watch the rearranged one, nor local traders who lost business. Manchester will host South Africa in August.

There has been almost no public commentary on the substance of the negotiations between the Indian and English cricket boards, the implications of the agreement for insurance claims, and also the conditions under which India agreed to play. The match will complete the four-match series, with India holding a 2-1 advantage. Since September 2021, the two teams have undergone shifting fortunes. Both have different captains and coaches. After desperately poor performances in Australia and the West Indies, England have been re-energized by new management, having beaten New Zealand 3-0 in a Test series, which ended last Monday.

India was beaten 2-1 by South Africa in a three match Test series in December 2021/January 2022, after which its highly successful captain, Virat Kohli, resigned, following tensions with the BCCI. Under his successor, Rohit Sharma, India beat Sri Lanka in a two match Test series in February 2022. It is ironic that he has tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the upcoming Test and, with the appointed vice-captain ruled out by injury, the Indians have appointed a pace bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, as captain, in an unusual move.

What is clear is that COVID-19 continues to impact not only this series but cricket, in general. The mental health and well-being issues cited by the Indian camp last September have also applied to other cricketers during the pandemic. The new England captain, Ben Stokes, took a break from the game in July 2021 to deal with his own issues, thus missing the series against India. It is another quirk of fate that he joins the series for the final match.

By its very nature, cricket has long had an uneasy relationship with mental health and a reticence to confront it. Cricketers spend much time alone, both on and off the pitch, with ample opportunities for reflection and rumination. Worries about form, technique and injury can generate self-doubt, which can be preyed upon by opponents. This scope for introspection has received impetus from experiences generated by the pandemic. These have created abnormal relations with families, friends, teammates, spectators, opponents and media. They have been superimposed upon the normal issues which confront cricketers performing as individuals within a team environment.

Cricket has also attracted attention as a sport which, since the early 20th Century, has allegedly suffered a higher-than-average proportion of suicides by professional players. Studies of these cases have sought to uncover the role that cricket may have played. The evidence is inconclusive, because of small sample sizes, a lack of rigorous data collection and a lack of clarity about causes of death. The only linkages seem to be that the individuals had either depressive histories and/or health/financial problems in their post-playing days that brought them to their ultimate decision.

Cricketers are now better remunerated but the pressures to perform seem greater. Some former professional cricketers have talked openly about this subject, yet reluctance to reach out for help still appears to exist, despite increasing avenues of support becoming available. Although the extent that mental health issues contributed to the decision at Manchester last September remains opaque, a new awareness of their impact has been created. Acknowledgement should not be regarded as weakness. Cricket has a fresh opportunity to systemically address them across its realm.