Alpine boss Szafnauer confident he’ll win F1 Piastri ruling

Alpine boss Szafnauer confident he’ll win F1 Piastri ruling
Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer during a press conference ahead of Belgian Grand Prix, at Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, in Belgium on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 August 2022

Alpine boss Szafnauer confident he’ll win F1 Piastri ruling

Alpine boss Szafnauer confident he’ll win F1 Piastri ruling
  • Alpine is in dispute with its reserve driver Piastri, who said he doesn't want promotion to the Alpine seat vacated by Fernando Alonso
  • The matter will go before F1's Contract Recognition Board (CRB) next week

DUBAI: Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer remains confident that Oscar Piastri will drive for his team next season when the matter is decided by a Formula One board.
Alpine is in dispute with its reserve driver Piastri, who said he doesn’t want promotion to the Alpine seat vacated by Fernando Alonso.
Piastri has been linked to the vacant McLaren slot for 2023. The matter will go before F1’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) next week.
“What we’re doing to retain him is going to the CRB on Monday and we’ll have the CRB decide which contract that Oscar signed takes precedence. Once we have that ruling we’ll look forward and see how we go,” Szafnauer said Saturday. “I’ve seen both sides of the argument and we’re confident that Oscar signed with us back in November. There are certain things that need to be in the contract and I’m confident they are there.”
The domino effect started at the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July.
First, four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel announced he was retiring at the end of 2022, leaving his Aston Martin seat open. Then, the day after that race, Alonso stunned Alpine by announcing he was joining Aston Martin next year.
Alpine had offered the 41-year-old Alonso a one-year deal with an option for another year, but he accepted Aston Martin’s longer offer.
Then, Alpine said late the next day it was promoting Piastri into Alonso’s seat only for the 21-year-old Piastri to flatly refuse it on Twitter.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,” Piastri tweeted at the time. “This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
That’s not how Szafnauer sees it.
“His promise to us was to race with us if we put him in our car, so that’s what we’re pursuing,” Szafnauer said. “Going to the CRB is the logical next step when you believe you have a valid contract with the driver and he signed something else.”
If Piastri wins, though, Alpine will need to replace him: possibly with Daniel Ricciardo, who is splitting with McLaren at the end of this year.
But Szafnauer believes history could be on his side.
“This has happened in the past. I just happened to be there when it happened to Jenson Button, when he signed for Williams but BAR Honda rightfully took up their option on Jenson,” he said. “Jenson really wanted to go to Williams, BAR Honda won at the CRB and then had a great relationship with Jenson culminating in a world championship (in 2009).”
Szafnauer said Piastri — whose contract is through 2024 with an option at the end of ‘23 — seemed happy when he was told he’d replace Alsonso.
““He happened to be in the simulator and I went and found him and he smiled and was thankful,” Szafnauer said. “So we made the (press) release really quickly.”
Alonso was a free agent when the move happened, meaning the two-time F1 champion was free to talk with Aston Martin and other teams.
“There was paddock rumor on Sunday that it could happen, so not that big of a surprise. The surprising bit was that we went a long way with Fernando in our negotiations with him,” Szafnauer said. “We got to the final hurdle and Fernando indicated that he was ready to sign. The only surprising bit was that it was announced Monday morning, when Sunday night he indicated there was no need to rush.”
Although Szafnauer insists he does not feel let down by Alonso, he had thought he would stay.
“When I left Fernando on Sunday, he told me ‘Look, don’t worry we’ve got time. I’m going to be on my boat in Greece over the holiday.’ He invited me for a coffee. He said, ‘If you’re in Greece come to my boat,’” Szafnauer said. “We put in front of him a contract we’d be happy with ... Although he wanted a longer deal, he intimated to me that 1+1 was fine.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who sat alongside Szafnauer at a news conference on Saturday, remains tight-lipped about who will replace Ricciardo.
“I don’t want to comment on any driver names or scenarios,” he said. “It’s something we will address from next week onwards.”
Seidl’s relationship with Ricciardo remains strong enough for them to share beer and a dinner, he said, adding that he felt sad for the Australian driver. Ricciardo won the Italian GP last September for his eighth F1 win but has largely been outperformed by Lando Norris this season and last.
“It wasn’t a secret that despite all the effort on Daniel’s side and our side, despite the huge commitment levels on both sides, we simply didn’t manage to achieve the results we all had in mind,” Seidl said. “It didn’t change anything in terms of the respect for Daniel, in terms of (the) driver he is. But at the same time it was important to have clarity now making our plans for next year.”


Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time
Updated 09 December 2022

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time
  • The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country”

MELBOURNE: Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked tennis player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview Thursday. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play — go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also plays golf frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.


Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters
Updated 09 December 2022

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters
  • The German side have now reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive season

PARIS: Polish striker Ewa Pajor scored twice as Wolfsburg defeated Roma 4-2 on Thursday to book a place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinals.

Five days after celebrating her 26th birthday, Pajor struck in the 24th and 53rd minutes, becoming the tournament’s top scorer this season with six goals.

Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir and Lena Lattwein also found the net as the 2013 and 2014 champions from Germany moved to 10 points from four games in Group B.

Wolfsburg are three ahead of Roma and six ahead of Sankt Poelten after the Austrians only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Czech side Slavia Prague.

The German side have now reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive season.

In Group A, Kadidiatou Diani was on target twice in the first half as PSG swept past hapless Vllaznia in Albania 4-0.

Swiss striker Ramona Bachmann and French midfielder Magnaba Folquet completed the victory in the second half.

Vllaznia have now conceded 19 goals in four games without scoring once.

PSG are three points behind leaders Chelsea who dropped their first points of the campaign following a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid.

Scottish international Caroline Weir gave the Spaniards a first-half lead.

However, the Londoners salvaged a point on the hour when Real goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez saved a penalty from Guro Reiten only to then see the ball rebound off her back and into the net.


France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
Updated 09 December 2022

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
  • Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match

DOHA: Defending champions France take on England in a mouthwatering World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday that pits superstar Kylian Mbappe against a forward lineup packed with youthful zest.

The two European heavyweights, separated by just 20 miles (32 kilometers) of ocean, have surprisingly met just twice on the biggest stage, but not since 1982.

France, crowned world champions for the second time in Russia in 2018, eased past Poland in the last 16, with two goals from Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and one from Olivier Giroud.

England beat Senegal 3-0, turning on the style for an ultimately comfortable win against the African champions after a shaky start.

Mbappe, 23, is the Qatar tournament’s top scorer, with five goals in just four starts, while Giroud’s strike against Poland made him France’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match, which takes place in the desert setting of Al-Bayt Stadium.

England’s pacy rightback Kyle Walker, likely to have the task of shackling Mbappe on Saturday, is anxious to avoid the impression that the fleet-footed attacker is the only threat.

“I know he’s a top player but we’re not playing tennis. It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team game,” said the Manchester City defender.

“We know he’s a great player and that’s why he’s the focus of all questions. But let’s not forget (Olivier) Giroud, who has scored countless (goals), and (Ousmane) Dembele, for me just as good on the other wing.”

The France midfield has coped well in the absence of the injured N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, with Antoine Griezmann impressing, but if there is a potential weakness in Didier Deschamps’ lineup it could be in the fullback positions.

Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez will face a tough test against whoever they face, with Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling all in the mix.

That wealth of attacking options means England will also have enviable game-changing options on the bench.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot is predicting an open match.

“England are a team with similar characteristics to us, really quick players out wide, attacking full-backs and midfielders who like to get forward,” he said.

“But I am not sure we need to say that we have to be wary of them. They will also be very wary because we can cause them problems.”

Southgate is in a tricky position. Does he stick or twist? Does he let his young attackers off the leash or bolster his defensive options?

The England coach came under fire in the buildup to the World Cup after a miserable winless run even though he has credit in the bank from reaching the semifinals in 2018 and the final of last year’s Euro 2020.

England are joint top scorers in Qatar heading into the quarterfinals, with 12 goals from their four games.

Their standout player has been marauding teenager Jude Bellingham, who has formed an impressive partnership alongside the more defensive-minded Declan Rice.

Like France, England’s potential weakness is at the back, with central defender Harry Maguire vulnerable to pace.

Southgate said the match was the “biggest test we could face.” 

“They are world champions, with an incredible depth of talent and outstanding players. They are very hard to play against and score goals against,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic challenge. It’s a historic rivalry with great games from the past. It’s a brilliant game for us to be involved in and test ourselves against the very best.”


Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
Updated 09 December 2022

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
  • United cruised to a comfortable 5-0 victory over the Saudi Pro League champions but injuries to Chris Wood and Joelinton could cause headaches for coach Eddie Howe
  • The Magpies are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later

RIYADH: Newcastle United look set to return to the UK from their training camp in Saudi Arabia facing a striker crisis, with Chris Wood becoming the latest casualty during the Magpies’ victory over Al-Hilal in their friendly on Thursday.

Joelinton, who also left the game following a knock, grabbed a first-half double at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium before Miguel Almiron netted another brace and youngster Dylan Stephenson rounded off a 5-0 victory that ensured the Magpies lifted the Diriyah Season Cup.

But the bigger news from a United perspective was the injury to New Zealander Wood, who in the absence of Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, looked set to lead the Magpies when senior football resumes following the World Cup break. United are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later.

The severity of the injury to Wood is yet to be determined but a lengthy spell for him on the sidelines would be a disappointing and troublesome end to what has otherwise been an incredibly positive trip to Riyadh.

United fans will also be hoping that Brazilian wonder Joelinton’s departure from the game was simply precautionary, although the sight of him limping midway through the second half will cause concern.

United donned their third jersey, often dubbed the “Saudi kit,” for the match against the Saudi Pro League champions and handed a debut to Loris Karius in goal, with Eddie Howe keen to extend the former Liverpool keeper’s stay on Tyneside. Matt Targett and Karl Darlow missed out through illness.

This is the second visit by the Magpies to the Kingdom this year, after spending two weeks in Jeddah in January, and they have enjoyed a warm welcome in the capital. This was more than evident in the stands on Thursday where local and foreign fans wearing black and white could be seen scattered among the Blue Power, the vocal heart of the lively home faithful.

Jacob Murphy, Howe’s most-used player during his 13 months as head coach, came within inches of breaking the deadlock with the first meaningful attack of the match. He clipped the ball under Abdullah Al-Mayouf in goal but the keeper got a touch that just prevented the ball from crossing the line and he gathered at the second attempt.

Murphy then turned provider and Joelinton made no mistake with a powerful header after the winger dinked the ball in from the right.

While the final result betrayed the gulf in class between the sides, it was far from evident during a close first 45 and the visitors had Karius to thank for keeping things level early on. They will doubtless have been delighted to see him display some surprise sharpness, despite not having started a competitive game since February 2021.

Star player Odion Ighalo was the first to test Karius, with a low drive that was stopped by the United keeper. Al-Hilal caused the visitors some problems down the left but it was a move down the right that should probably have been rewarded with a penalty. Sven Botman felled the tricky Matheus Pereira but referee Alturais Khalid was not interested.

Just before the break the lead doubled as Joelinton beat Al-Mayouf after breaking clear of the Al-Hilal back line thanks to a precise through ball from Joe Willock.

Karius then had to be at his best once again to deny Andre Carrillo, tipping the ball around the post as the hosts ended the half as the dominant force.

Changes during the break, including the introduction of Almiron, one of the most in-form players in the English top flight, had an immediate effect when play resumed.

The Paraguayan clipped the bar with a trademark curling effort on 50 minutes, before he stole the ball from Carrillo, jinked past another defender and stroked home a third goal for the Magpies.

Elliot Anderson then hit the upright but his deflected effort rebounded clear of danger despite the lurking United forwards.

It seemed like only a matter of time before United added to their tally, though, and, sure enough, Almiron latched onto a cross-field ball by Sean Longstaff and volleyed it home to make it 4-0.

The last word was reserved for one of the Newcastle youngsters to come off the bench, as Ryan Fraser, also introduced as a substitute, squared the ball for Stephenson to tuck in his first goal at senior level.

Fireworks and ticker tape greeted Newcastle as they raised the golden trophy, which they will be hoping is the first of many under Saudi ownership and head coach Howe.

While trophies are the ultimate ambition, of course, in the shorter term Howe will be hoping for good news about the injuries to Joelinton and Wood, both of whom have proved to be crucial cogs in the Newcastle machine over the past year.


Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum
Updated 09 December 2022

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum
  • Husein was approached by the museum earlier to include his story and take his oars he used at the Tokyo 2020 Games

RIYADH: Saudi rowing captain Husein Alireza was inducted into the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

The museum hosts exhibits from athletes whose background and stories they find to be unique and inspiring.

Husein was approached by the museum earlier to include his story and take his oars he used at the Tokyo 2020 Games, where he reached the quarterfinals in the Men's Single Sculls, to include them with their permanent exhibits.

A ceremony was held in Lausanne where he officially donated his oars to the museum, becoming the first Saudi athlete to be so honoured.

In attendance was his father and President of the Saudi Rowing Federation, Ali Alireza, members of World Rowing and other international federations.

“These oars have literally had my blood, sweat, and tears on them,” Alireza said.

“I'm so honored and grateful on this occasion and I'd like to thank the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Olympic Committee for their unconditional support from the start of my journey.

“I want this to give inspiration to the youth and let them know you can do what I can do and you can do it better,” he added. 

Alireza is currently preparing for the World Rowing Championships to be held in Serbia in September 2023.