Verstappen sizzles in the sun to dominate final practice

Verstappen sizzles in the sun to dominate final practice
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action during practice for the F1 French Grand Prix, Circuit Paul Ricard, at Le Castellet, on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 July 2022

Verstappen sizzles in the sun to dominate final practice

Verstappen sizzles in the sun to dominate final practice
  • The 24-year-old Dutchman clocked a best lap in one minute and 32.272 seconds to outpace Carlos Sainz
  • Sainz will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid alongside Jan Magnussen of Haas

LE CASTELLET, France: World champion and series leader Max Verstappen sizzled in the sun on Saturday when he topped the times for Red Bull ahead of both Ferrari drivers in third and final practice session at the French Grand Prix.
Making the most of a superior straight-line speed, the 24-year-old Dutchman clocked a best lap in one minute and 32.272 seconds to outpace Carlos Sainz in the leading Ferrari by three-tenths of a second.
Sainz, who claimed his maiden Formula One triumph at the British Grand Prix earlier in July, will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid alongside Jan Magnussen of Haas after the two Ferrari-powered cars took more new engine parts.
Charles Leclerc, who trimmed Verstappen’s advantage in the title race to 38 points by winning the Austrian Grand Prix, was third fastest six-tenths down on the pace.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was fourth for Mercedes ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and George Russell, in the second Mercedes.
It was a measure of Verstappen’s dominant pace that he was more than a second quicker than his Red Bull team-mate on another hot day in the south of France.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was seventh for Alpine with a late lap to lift him ahead of Alex Albon of Williams, Lando Norris of McLaren and Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri.
Both German drivers Mick Schumacher and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel endured difficult sessions and wound up 19th and 20th respectively for the Haas and Aston Martin teams after completing only 12 and 11 laps.
In scorching conditions, the session began with only seven cars venturing out and Perez setting the first lap time in 1:33.628 after seven minutes — a time obliterated immediately by Verstappen in 1:32.837 — but little else for the sell-out holiday crowd to enjoy.
As the air temperature rose to 34 degrees, the fans raised a cheer for Pierre Gasly as he passed the grandstand named after him before the Mercedes set times more than 1.5 seconds adrift of the champion. “1.7?” said Hamilton. “Jeeze...”
Ferrari were also struggling to match the Red Bull pace and Leclerc, pushing hard, spun through a full 360 degrees on his hard tires before Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda of Alfa Romeo each survived brief ‘moments’ in pursuit.
Vertappen’s pace on medium tires remained the standard to catch as his rivals tested ‘softs’ and ‘hards’ before galvanizing themselves for a late flurry of qualifying simulation runs.
With 12 minutes remaining, both Leclerc and Sainz had improved to second and third, but were still 0.1 seconds adrift, with Hamilton fourth, four-tenths down. At this time, Red Bull were still to use soft tires.
The stubborn Sainz persisted and went top after 51 minutes of the hour, replacing Verstappen in 1:32.626, an advantage of 0.182 to enthuse the ‘prancing horse’ fans sweltering in the open grandstands.
Finally taking softs, Verstappen re-joined the fray to beat the Spaniard by 0.354 seconds while Leclerc conceded his tires were ‘dead’, a familiar Ferrari problem at the high-degradation Paul Ricard circuit.
By this time, the track temperature was 57 degrees — hot enough to pose a serious challenge to cars, drivers and teams and certain to make strategy a major factor in Sunday’s race.


Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup
Updated 25 September 2022

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

AUCKLAND: Teenager Garang Kuol, who is being chased by Newcastle United, made his international debut on Sunday in Australia’s 2-0 away win over New Zealand in their final World Cup warmup.

A Mitchell Duke header and Jason Cummings’ penalty in the second half at Auckland’s Eden Park ensured Australia head to the World Cup with two straight wins over their neighbors.

Attacker Kuol, who only turned 18 in mid-September, plays for the Central Coast Mariners but is reportedly set to sign for Premier League side Newcastle United in January.

The fleet-footed teenager came on with 20 minutes left and made his case for a spot in the squad for Qatar when he prised open the New Zealand defense in the buildup to Cummings’ penalty.

“He’s a kid, he’s just turned 18. I told just to go out and enjoy himself,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold.

“I just wanted to give him the experience.

“He showed some quality when he came on, but this is just the first step for him.”

This was Australia’s last game before their opening World Cup match against reigning champions France in a Group D also containing Tunisia and Denmark.

“Overall it was a good performance, but we know the boys can do better,” added Arnold, who changed his entire starting lineup from the side which beat New Zealand 1-0 in Brisbane last Thursday.

“The first half was scrappy, but for the second half the boys really came through.”

New Zealand missed out on a place at the Qatar finals after losing a playoff to Costa Rica.

Australia initially labored against a New Zealand side fired up in front of a crowd of 34,985 watching their first men’s home international for five years.

The Eden Park surface was in impressive condition apart from the odd divot less than 24 hours after hosting a rugby Test match between New Zealand and Australia. Burly New Zealand striker Chris Wood had an early chance, but the Newcastle man was forced off after 30 minutes following a heavy challenge.

Australia squandered the best chance of a goalless first half when Duke drew New Zealand keeper Oli Sail, but Marco Tilio fluffed his shot at an open goal from six yards out. Australia raised the tempo after the break and broke the deadlock early in the second half when Connor Metcalfe floated in a cross from the left and Duke sent his header past Sail.

The visitors doubled their lead when Kuol broke down the left and squared into the middle, where Cummings’ shot was eventually blocked by a New Zealand hand. Scotland-born Cummings stepped up to drill home the penalty and seal Australia’s morale-boosting win.

It was a sad end to the international career of New Zealand captain and former West Ham defender Winston Reid, who retired after the game.

The home skipper came off with 16 minutes left to a standing ovation. “We would have liked to have done better, but it was really nice to play my last game at home,” said Reid.


Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title
Updated 25 September 2022

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

SEOUL: Ekaterina Alexandrova overcame nerves to win the third title of her career as she dismantled injury-hampered top seed Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7/4), 6-0 in the final of the Korea Open on Sunday.

The two battled to a lengthy tiebreaker after an evenly matched hour-long first set in front of more than 10,000 spectators, a record for the Seoul event.

But everything changed in the second set as Russia’s second-seeded Alexandrova dominated the former French Open champion from Latvia, who required a medical timeout at 3-0 down for a foot problem.

“I think it was tough for me to start because I was really nervous and I couldn’t find the rhythm in the first couple of games,” said Alexandrova, 27.

“But the longer we played, the better I felt on the court.

“I think maybe somewhere in the end of the first set I finally found the rhythm and I just continued to keep it that way in the second set.”

The Russian is enjoying the best season of her career, having also won the Libema Open in the Netherlands in June, and is set to rise to a career-high 21 in the world.

“You always want to achieve more,” Alexandrova added.

“I want to go higher and maybe end the year top 20 in the best-case scenario.”

Ostapenko had advanced to the Korea Open final after former US Open winner Emma Raducanu retired in the third set of their semifinal with injury.


Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home
Updated 25 September 2022

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home
  • The side led by German coach Monika Staab previously played only Seychelles and Maldives abroad

The Saudi women’s national football team made history on Saturday night at Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium with a 3-3 draw against Bhutan in their first ever international played on home soil.

The team, led by German coach Monika Staab, had previously played only two internationals, against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.

Bhutan took the lead in the fifth minute through Bima Shoden, before Bayan Sadaka equalized with a powerful shot from outside the penalty area 10 minutes later.

The visitors retook the lead through Dickie Yangdon on 40 minutes and extended their advantage only two minutes later with a goal from Sonam Shoden to leave the Falcons trailing 3-1 at the break.

However, Staab’s team produced an inspired second half performance with Al-Bandari Mubarak reducing the deficit in the 75th minute, before Noura Al-Ibrahim managed a 90th minute leveler.

The Saudi team will meet the same opponents again on Wednesday at Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium in the Asir region.


Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir
Updated 25 September 2022

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir
  • ‘It’s great to make such a good start to the Saudi Toyota Championship’
  • Kingdom’s driver ready for round 2 at Rally Qassim from Oct. 12-14

ABHA: Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz stayed clear of trouble to clinch an emphatic victory at the Abha-based Rally Asir, round one of the 2022 Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

The Saudi was fastest on both selective sections on Friday and Saturday and a time of 1 hour 36 minutes and 54.6 seconds for the longer of the two stages earned the Toyota man a winning margin of 26 minutes and 1.5 seconds.

Al-Rajhi said: “This was a challenging rally, not easy, but the car was perfect and Dirk did a great job with the navigation. It’s great to get back to winning ways and to make such a good start to the Saudi Toyota Championship.”

Event stewards awarded Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora a 12-minute penalty for a timing infringement on Friday afternoon and the Czech was pushed down from second to sixth place before the final 186.73-kilometer selective section got underway. The Ford F-150 driver’s misfortune promoted Al-Saif into second place and the Can-Am driver started the day 14:44 behind Al-Rajhi.

The final day’s action was split into two sections and passed between Tareeb and Al-Qa’ah. Al-Saif and his Spanish co-driver Oriol Vidal were unable to hold on to their position and set the fourth quickest time in the Black Horse Can-Am Maverick X3. The Saudi duly finished fourth overall, sealing victory in the T3 category in the process.

Zapletal was second on the day and managed to overhaul four crews, including Al-Saif and third-placed Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri and his Peruvian co-driver Hector Garcia, to regain second position in the overall standings. Khalid Al-Feraihi and French navigator Sébastien Delaunay finished fifth.

Hamad Al-Harbi and Russian co-driver Alexey Kuzmich managed to fend off a late challenge from Dania Akeel and her Uruguayan navigator Sergio Lafuente to confirm sixth overall and second in T3 in their Al-Shegawi Racing Can-Am. Akeel was seventh, despite finishing the stage with a cracked windscreen after hitting a tree branch.

Saudi Border Guard team driver Jafar Al-Qahtani secured eighth and outright success in the T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles. SBG teammate Haylan Al-Subaie and Ahmed Al-Shegawi were second and third in the showroom section.

Both Saeed Al-Mouri and Maha Al-Hamali failed to finish the opening stage and the duel for the T4 category win was fought out over the final morning with both drivers carrying massive time penalties from the previous day. Al-Mouri and his Jordanian co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud pipped Al-Hamali and her Spanish co-driver María de Los Angeles to the day’s stage win and snatched T4 success, courtesy of having less time penalties for missing waypoints.

Mubarak Al-Zubaidi and Abdullah Al-Sanad joined Muneef Al-Salmani on the list of retirements, as 17 crews tackled the final stage. Ibrahim bin Sahnan and Fahad Al-Maioweed withdrew during the morning.

The event was organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, the Saudi Motorsport Marshals Club and the Saudi Motorsport Company, in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors Toyota.

Round two of the championship will be Rally Qassim from Oct. 12 to 14.

 

Asir Rally 2022 positions after leg 2 over 186.73 km:

 

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Saudi)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany) Toyota Hilux: 3:19:58.7

 

2. Miroslav Zapletal (Czech)/Marek Sykora (Slovakia) Ford F-150 Evo: 3:46:0.2

 

3. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi)/Hector Garcia (Peru) Nissan: 3:49:42.4

 

4. Saleh Al-Saif (Saudi)/Oriol Vidal (Spain) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 3:50:6.4

 

5. Khalid Al-Feraihi (Saudi)/Sébastien Delaunay (France) Nissan: 3:55:21.7

 

6. Hamad Al-Harbi (Saudi)/Alexei Kuzmich (Russia) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 4:07:45

 

7. Dania Akeel (Saudi)/Sergio Lafuente (Uruguay) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 4:16:48.2

 

8. Jafar Al-Qahtani (Saudi)/Ali Al-Yami (SAU) Nissan (T2): 4:51:57.4

 

9. Haylan Al-Subaie (Saudi)/Hussam Al-Zahrani (Saudi) Nissan (T2): 4:55:50.3

 

10. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Saudi)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (Saudi) Nissan (T2): 5:00:10.9

 

11. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (Saudi)/Omar Al-Lahim (Saudi) Nissan: 5:05:23.6

 

12. Ahmed Al-Gashami (Saudi)/Nawaf Al-Enezi (Kuwait) Nissan: 5:26:18.3

 

13. Majed Al-Thunayyan (Saudi)/Fahad Al-Sufinay (Saudi) Nissan: 6:34:47.7

 

14. Saeed Al-Mouri (Saudi)/Ata Al-Hmoud (Jordan) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4): 22:47:18

 

15. Maha Al-Hamali (Saudi)/María de Los Angeles (Spain) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4): 24:11:56.9


Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead
Updated 25 September 2022

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead
  • After birdies at the first, third and fifth Atthaya picked up four shots in her last three holes

 

 

LOS ANGELES: Thai rookie Atthaya Thitikul fired an eagle and eight birdies in a 10-under par 61 on Saturday to seize the lead in the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

The 19-year-old chasing a second LPGA victory, had a 13-under par total of 128 and a one-stroke lead over Japan’s Yuka Saso, who carded a 6-under par 65 at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

Former amateur No. 1 Lilia Vu carded her second straight 65 for solo third on 130 heading into the final round of the 54-hole event.

Atthaya teed off on 10 and picked up three strokes in her first nine holes.

After birdies at the first, third and fifth she picked up four shots in her last three holes.

She eagled the seventh, where her four-iron approach from 210 yards out left her two feet from the pin, and birdied the eighth and ninth.

“I think my mind was blank and just nothing there,” she said of her mindset as she picked up steam coming in. “Just hit a shot, just tap it in, putt it in, just like totally blank.”

She said she plays her best golf when she keeps her mind clear and her plan is to “keep that blank mind for tomorrow.”

The 19-year-old has plenty of experience to draw on come Sunday.

Her 11 international victories include a win in the Ladies European Thailand Championship as a 14-year-old amateur in 2017.

Since winning her first LPGA title in March she has top-10 finishes in the Women’s PGA Championship, the Evian Championship and the Women’s British Open.

“I think (I’ll) just do my best out there and I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it,” she said. “You’re not going to be in the same moment anymore so just keep trying my best.”

Saso, who was among six players sharing the overnight lead, had six birdies without a bogey and she’s hoping she can add a victory to what has been an otherwise average season.

Last year she made her first LPGA title a major when she won the US Women’s Open, but she had her last top-10 finish in January.

Nine players shared fourth place, four shots off the lead. The group included overnight co-leaders Megan Khang, Ryann O’Toole and Lee5 Jeong-eun.

But South Korean Kim Sei-young, who was also among the first-round leaders, faded with a 1-under-par 70 that featured a triple-bogey at the par-four 14th.