F1 returns to Australia after 3 years, on revamped track

F1 returns to Australia after 3 years, on revamped track
A welcome back Melbourne sign sits above pit straight at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on April 6, 2022, ahead of the 2022 Formula One Australian Grand Prix. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2022

F1 returns to Australia after 3 years, on revamped track

F1 returns to Australia after 3 years, on revamped track
  • Lewis Hamilton has raced 13 times in Australia and won the event in 2008 and 2015

MELBOURNE:  Formula One returns to Australia for the first time in three years on Sunday and Daniel Ricciardo hopes the break – and track renovations he had a say in determining – will help turn around his fortunes on his home circuit.

McLaren driver Ricciardo and his F1 rivals are preparing for a new Albert Park layout at the Australian Grand Prix – they won't drive on the redesigned, resurfaced circuit until Friday’s two practice sessions ahead of qualifying Saturday.

The Australian driver’s input resulted two corners being removed and five others widened in a bid to offer more overtaking opportunity on the circuit.

“Not taking credit, but I was a little bit involved in the talks about revamping the circuit a few years ago when they had the first idea of what to do to try to make the racing a bit better,” Ricciardo said.

“It has always been a fun track but on Sundays it has been a little bit tricky for overtaking just through the layout and the nature of it. As a race now you’re going to see a totally different Sunday here in Melbourne.”

Defending F1 series champion Max Verstappen, who won the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, said he’s pleased to be back in Australia after the 2020 and 2021 GPs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a while . . . the atmosphere is always so good there too,” Verstappen said. “It will be interesting to see the track updates, I think they will make quite a big difference, especially in Turn Six where the most significant change has happened. There should be more overtaking opportunities now, too, which is always positive.”

Ricciardo said it was particularly hard to take when the 2020 event – at the pandemic's global start – was called off while thousands of spectators lined up outside the gates to enter the Albert Park circuit.

“It was pretty heartbreaking and that’s from a selfish point of view as a driver,” Ricciardo said. “But for everyone that was here expecting to see a race, too. So very happy we’re back.”

Ricciardo has had a poor start to the season, finishing 14th in the F1 season opener in Bahrain on March 20 in a race won by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and failing to finish a week later when Verstappen won.

In Saudi Arabia, Ricciardo moved up from 14th to ninth, and appeared set to score his first points of the year. But after being overtaken by his teammate Lando Norris, Ricciardo’s engine cut out with fewer than 15 laps to go.

In Australia, Ricciardo finished second in 2014 before his car was disqualified for breaking fuel flow laws. His best valid finish is fourth, but he’s failed to finish two of his past three races in Melbourne, which has lost its season-opener status.

“Honestly, now that we’ve missed it for a couple of years, I’m just kind of thankful that it’s on the calendar,” he said. “Right now, it doesn’t really bother me where it is. As long as we’ve got an Aussie Grand Prix then I’m happy.”

Red Bull, which made their debut here in 2005, will be seeking their 75th series pole position. Both Verstappen and fellow team driver Sergio Pérez made their F1 debuts on the Albert Park track –Verstappen’s first start was in the 2015 race for Toro Rosso, four years after Pérez had finished seventh on debut with Sauber, only to be disqualified for a technical infringement.

Lewis Hamilton has raced 13 times in Australia and won the event in 2008 and 2015. He also has eight poles and nine podium finishes here. He finished second behind Valtteri Bottas when the Australian race was last held in 2019, with Verstappen rounding out the podium in third.

This season, Hamilton finished third at Bahrain and 10th in Saudi Arabia after his comeback in the latter race was halted by pit-lane confusion. The Mercedes driver maintained his pre-season stance that his team is a “long way away” from returning to the front.


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 9 sec ago

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 9 min 41 sec ago

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.


Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
  • First medal for the Kingdom in this age group

The Saudi Arabian youth bowling squad have claimed bronze in the team category of the IBF U-21 World Championship 2022 in Sweden.

The tournament took place from June 20 to 29 at Helsingborg’s Olympia Bowl. This is the country’s first ever team medal at this age group, following the individual bronze that Abdulrahman Al-Khelaiwi won in the 2017 edition of the competition.

Representing the team were Bandar Al-Yaba, Ahmed Abu Al-Rish, Muhammad Abu Al-Rish, and Ziad Al-Tuwairib.

Despite losing to their Czech counterparts in their last-four match of the team competition, the young Saudis still made the podium as joint third place finishers along with Australia.

The rules of the tournament state that both losing semifinalists be awarded bronze medals.