Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Red Bull Racing's Mexican driver Sergio Perez drives ahead of Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore on October 2, 2022. (AFP)
Red Bull Racing's Mexican driver Sergio Perez drives ahead of Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore on October 2, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 19 October 2022

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
  • First grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019
  • Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win

SINGAPORE: Sergio Perez won a rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday leaving his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to wait at least another week to retain his Formula One world championship.
The Mexican took the chequered flag 7.5sec ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but could be stripped of the victory by stewards who were investigating a possible safety car infringement.
Carlos Sainz was third to make it a double podium for Ferrari in the night race that started more than an hour late because of a storm.
It was the first grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win and have other results go his way. He finished seventh after a rollercoaster race.
The Dutchman was always going to struggle after starting eighth on the grid and his task was made trickier by an early evening deluge that delayed the start till 9:05 p.m. (1305 GMT).
When the field eventually tore away from the grid in a shower of spray, Verstappen almost stalled and dropped back from eighth to 13th.
The 25-year-old cut through the field before flat-spotting his tires trying to pass Lando Norris for fourth after a safety car restart.
“I was up with Lando and as soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and I went straight on,” said Verstappen who was forced to pit for fresh rubber and dropped to last place.
“It’s not what I’m here for. Not with a car like that. It was incredibly messy.”
It means his world championship lead over Leclerc has been cut to 104 points ahead of next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. Perez is two points behind Leclerc.
Verstappen will need to be 112 points ahead at the end of next Sunday’s race in Suzuka to retain his title and can do so if he wins and Leclerc fails to finish second.
Leclerc started on pole but Perez slipped past before the first turn and drove a perfect race to hold off the Monegasque for his second GP win of the season.
“It was certainly my best performance,” Perez said. “I controlled the race. The last three laps were so intense. When I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything today.”
Leclerc started on pole but had a sluggish getaway on intermediate tires in the slippery conditions allowing Perez to reach the first corner in the lead.
“I pushed all the way,” said Leclerc. “The bad start put us on the back foot and it was a really difficult race after that.”
Sainz started fourth and managed to force his way past Lewis Hamilton on turn one, but he felt he could never threaten the front two and crossed the line 7.7sec behind Leclerc.
“It was very tough out there,” Sainz said. “I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn’t challenge the top two guys.
“I had to settle for P3, but the good thing is I didn’t do any mistakes and could bring the car home and be quick toward the end of the race.”
The McLaren pair of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth, Lance Stroll sixth in the Aston Martin ahead of Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel, the winner in Singapore the last time the race was run in 2019, was eighth, with Hamilton and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton had been in the battle for pole but had a torrid time, complaining early about his tires and later slithering into a barrier necessitating a new nose before coming home ninth.
“I think we started off with a really decent weekend, it was really unfortunate at the end,” said Hamilton.
“I was trying, obviously difficult to overtake, that lock up into turn seven, ugh, when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.”


765K World Cup visitors fall short of Qatar’s expected 1.2 million influx

765K World Cup visitors fall short of Qatar’s expected 1.2 million influx
Updated 08 December 2022

765K World Cup visitors fall short of Qatar’s expected 1.2 million influx

765K World Cup visitors fall short of Qatar’s expected 1.2 million influx
  • The influx of visitors represents a 25 percent boost to the country’s resident population of 3 million

DOHA: Qatar received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, according to an organizers’ report obtained by Reuters, falling short of the country’s expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.

A huge surge in visitors at this stage is unlikely with only eight teams staying on in Doha, and eight games left out of the 64 in the tournament that began on Nov. 20.

Organizers had previously identified the peak period for international visitors to be Nov. 24-28 during the busy group stage, when 32 teams were playing four matches every day.

The Dec. 7 report was prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which organizes the tournament, and said that the first 17 days of the World Cup saw 765,859 international visitors, more than half of whom have now departed.

The report registered 1.33 million match ticketholders and 3.09 million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on Dec. 18.

A Qatari official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the figures. The SC did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

The tournament in Qatar, the first to be held in the Middle East, is considered one of the most expensive in terms of tickets, hotels and alcohol, sales of which are restricted.

Fewer international visitors than originally forecast led to an unexpected glut of accommodation but has also averted major over-crowding or traffic headaches in Qatar, the smallest country by both population and area to host the World Cup.

The influx of visitors represents a 25 percent boost to the country’s resident population of 3 million, of which only about 10-12 percent are Qataris.

“With over a week of competition still to go, a wave of new visitors has started arriving from the nations that made it to the quarterfinals,” the Qatari official told Reuters.

More visitors are expected to flock to Qatar for popular matches and after the country lifted entry restrictions for nationals and residents of fellow Gulf states.

Cumulative stadium attendance at the first 52 matches was 2.65 million, the document said.

Previously, world soccer’s governing body FIFA said that stadium attendance in Qatar had surpassed attendance at stadiums during a corresponding period at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Moroccan fans flew into Qatar on special flights arranged ahead of their team’s victory over Spain. It is expected that similar fights will be laid on to allow last-minute fans to fly in from overseas to watch their teams advance through the tournament’s final three rounds.

Visitors to Qatar must obtain a Hayya identification card ahead of travel as it doubles as a mandatory entry visa during the tournament period. On Tuesday, Qatar dropped this requirement for Gulf Cooperation Council countries. 


Yankees agree to record $360m MLB deal with Judge: reports

Yankees agree to record $360m MLB deal with Judge: reports
Updated 08 December 2022

Yankees agree to record $360m MLB deal with Judge: reports

Yankees agree to record $360m MLB deal with Judge: reports
  • Judge’s contract is the richest in MLB history for any non-pitcher

NEW YORK: Superstar slugger Aaron Judge has agreed to a Major League Baseball record nine-year deal worth $360 million to return to the New York Yankees, according to multiple reports on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old US free agent outfielder, who smashed an American League record 62 home runs last season, had rejected a seven-year Yankees offer worth $213.5 million before the 2022 campaign.
His new deal, according to ESPN and MLB’s website plus multiple New York media outlets, means Judge made $150 million by betting on himself in the 2022 campaign, when he led MLB in homers, runs scored with 133 and runs batted in with 131.
Judge, who batted .311, was named the 2022 American League Most Valuable Player.
At an average of $40 million per season, Judge’s contract is the richest in MLB history for any non-pitcher, $4 million more per season than Mike Trout’s 12-year deal worth $426.5 million.
The only MLB players with richer per-year deals are pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
The National League’s San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres were also pitching offers at Judge, according to reports.
In the 2022 season, Judge chased the AL and Yankees one-season homer record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. The late-season drama of his quest extended to October 4, when he smashed his 62nd homer against the Texas Rangers.
Judge, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, sparked the Yankees to 99 wins and their sixth consecutive playoff appearance since his arrival. New York was swept by eventual World Series champion Houston in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.


Dutch, Argentines meet again with World Cup history in the air

Dutch, Argentines meet again with World Cup history in the air
Updated 08 December 2022

Dutch, Argentines meet again with World Cup history in the air

Dutch, Argentines meet again with World Cup history in the air
  • Argentina have the pride that comes from being two-times world champions
  • Netherlands carry the baggage of being three-times beaten finalists

DOHA: Merely a glance at their iconic orange or blue and white striped shirts is enough to evoke memories of World Cups past and more history will surely be written on Friday when the Netherlands face Argentina in their quarterfinal.

Argentina have the pride that comes from being two-times world champions while the Netherlands carry the baggage of being three-times beaten finalists.

The game is far from being a nostalgia-fest, however, pitting one of the greatest forward of all time against one of the finest defenders of the modern era, with Lionel Messi trying to unpick a defense marshalled by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.

The game also pits the youngest manager in the tournament against the oldest.

Argentina’s 44-year-old coach Lionel Scaloni, in his first major tournament, will have to out-think the wily 71-year-old Louis van Gaal, whose resume includes league titles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich as well as a Champions League victory with Ajax.

The South Americans came into the tournament, as always, with high hopes in their homeland of a victory to match those celebrated in 1978 and 1986, while the Dutch had more tempered expectations given their failure to qualify four years ago.

It has been smooth progress in Qatar for the Dutch though, who topped their group and then beat the US in the last 16 with some comfort and style, looking solid at the back and — despite critics labelling them dull — — increasingly effective in their attacking play.

With Memphis Depay’s fitness gradually improving and Cody Gakpo having enjoyed a good tournament, the Dutch have a punch to their attack that many feared would be missing.

Argentina began the tournament with a shock loss to Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, but recovered to finish first in the group. Messi then turned on the style as they overcame Australia to book their place in the last eight.

Van Gaal unsurprisingly sees Messi’s creativity as a serious threat but he raised some eyebrows when he also hinted at the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s lack of defensive work-rate.

“Messi is the most dangerous creative player, he is able to create a lot and to score goals himself. But when they lose the ball he doesn’t participate much, this gives us chances,” he said.

Surprisingly, given their pedigree, Argentina have never beaten the Netherlands inside 90 minutes in their nine meetings in World Cup and friendly encounters.

But it is their victory on penalties in Sao Paulo in the semifinal in 2014 that lingers in the mind for Van Gaal, who was in charge of the Netherlands at the time.

Van Gaal noted that while Messi was neutralized by the Netherlands in that game it counted for little given that the Argentines advanced after a shootout to end the Dutch dream of finally celebrating a World Cup title.

A fonder memory for Dutch fans is of the 1998 World Cup where Dennis Bergkamp secured a place in the last eight with a wonderful last-minute finish in a 2-1 victory.

Bergkamp is one of many superb talents that the Netherlands has produced since they made the world take notice of them in the 1970s with a team inspired by the brilliant Johan Cruyff.

Widely considered to be one of the best teams never to win the World Cup, the Dutch finished runners-up in 1974 and 1978 — in the latter final losing 3-1 to hosts Argentina.

Top technical skills and clever tactics have been part of the Dutch game ever since but World Cup success has evaded them, with only the 1988 European Championship title offering some consolation.

There is no player of the level of Bergkamp, Cruyff or Marco van Basten in this current version of the team in orange, with perhaps only the towering center-half Van Dijk meriting comparison in terms of class.

But the Argentines, who know their football history and their struggles with the Netherlands, expect to face a well-drilled team which so far in this tournament has not looked in much trouble.

“It’s not as brilliant as previous Dutch teams, but they are very clear on what they do,” said Scaloni. “This is going to be a great match between two historic teams.”


Miedema fires Arsenal closer to Women's Champions League last eight

Miedema fires Arsenal closer to Women's Champions League last eight
Updated 08 December 2022

Miedema fires Arsenal closer to Women's Champions League last eight

Miedema fires Arsenal closer to Women's Champions League last eight
  • Miedema found the net after 16 minutes as the London side opened a three-point lead over defending champions Lyon

PARIS: Dutch international Vivianne Miedema scored the only goal as Arsenal defeated Juventus 1-0 on Wednesday to move to the brink of the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals.

Miedema found the net after 16 minutes from a Stina Blackstenius cross as the London side opened a three-point lead over defending champions Lyon.

They also have a five-point advantage on Juventus with just two group games left later this month.

Earlier, Lyon romped past Zurich 4-0 in their Group C clash with striker Melvine Malard scoring twice.

American international Lindsey Horan put Lyon 1-0 up on 14 minutes before Malard made it 2-0 with a towering header on the six-yard line after 65 minutes.

Malard nodded home again with 10 minutes remaining before Delphine Cascarino’s long range shot deep into injury-time made it 4-0.

“We’re back in it,” said Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor. “Now we have to win our last two games... our destiny is in our hands.”

In Group D, Bayern Munich defeated Barcelona for the first time in four attempts as a 3-1 win took them level on nine points with the Spanish side at the top of the table.

Klara Buehl, on her 22nd birthday, and Lina Magull put the German side 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes in front of a crowd of 24,000 at the Allianz Arena.

Lea Schueller added a third on the hour mark before Brazilian forward Geyse hit a consolation for the Spanish vistors five minutes later.

Benfica are third with six points after coming from behind to defeat Swedish outfit Rosengard 3-1.

The home side took an early lead through Olivia Schough after 30 minutes.

But Benfica’s Canadian striker Cloe Lacasse scored twice in three minutes just before halftime with Nycole Raysla making it 3-1 shortly after the restart.


Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup

Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup
Updated 07 December 2022

Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup

Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup
  • Vinícius Júnior arrived in Qatar without knowing if he was going to get a chance to start for Brazil
  • He said Ancelotti was one of the people who gave him guidance ahead of soccer’s biggest tournament

DOHA: Brazil forward Vinícius Júnior praised Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti for his success at the World Cup.
Vinícius Júnior arrived in Qatar without knowing if he was going to get a chance to start for Brazil, but heading into Friday’s quarterfinal match against Croatia, no one questions his spot in the lineup or his importance for the team.
He said Ancelotti was one of the people who gave him guidance ahead of soccer’s biggest tournament.
“I talked with Ancelotti and he gave me a lot of advice to help me become a starter with Brazil. He gave me a lot of confidence,” the 22-year-old Vinícius Júnior said Wednesday. “He was always was tough with me when he needed to be. He is like a father to me.”
Vinícius Júnior was often questioned at Madrid while Zinedine Zidane was the coach, but quickly established himself as a starter with Ancelotti in command. The Brazil forward said the Italian coach is always sending him messages.
“He is good not only with the technical aspects of the game, but also with how he deals with his players,” Vinícius Júnior said. “I have been improving a lot and Ancelotti has helped me with that. He and (Brazil coach) Tite are very similar and they talk to each other a lot.”
Vinícius Júnior, who has a goal and two assists in the three World Cup games, said he also learned from Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who will be one of his opponents on Friday at Education City Stadium.
Vinícius Júnior said the pass he gave for Lucas Paquetá’s goal in the round of 16 against South Korea, using the outside of his foot, was something he learned from Modric at Madrid.
“He is always teaching me things, on and off the field,” Vinícius Júnior said. “He helps me every day, making sure I’m always improving. He is a reference to me, playing at a high level at 37 years old, that is something rare. I’m happy that I’ll be playing against him, and let the best team win.”
Within Brazil’s national team, Vinícius Júnior said he also gets advice from Neymar.
“He told me how the World Cup is different than anything else,” Vinícius Júnior said. “He told me that, and I always remember it. And when the national anthem played, I realized what it all meant.”
Vinícius Júnior was among the Brazilian players criticized for their dance celebrations at the World Cup. He had already been targeted because of that while with Madrid. But he promised even more dancing if Brazil keeps succeeding in Qatar.
“The goal is the most important moment in soccer, not only for those who score them but for the entire country,” he said. “We still have many celebrations left, and hopefully we can keep scoring and dancing like this until the final.”