Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris to win Spanish GP and increase F1 lead

Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen competes during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on June 23, 2024 in Montmelo, on the outskirts of Barcelona. (AFP)
Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen competes during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on June 23, 2024 in Montmelo, on the outskirts of Barcelona. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2024
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Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris to win Spanish GP and increase F1 lead

Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris to win Spanish GP and increase F1 lead
  • Verstappen started from second on the grid behind pole-sitter Lando Norris
  • Once overtaken, Norris tried to mount a late challenge but Verstappen upped the pace to cross first

MONTMELO, Spain: Max Verstappen steered his Red Bull to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday to increase his lead in the Formula 1 drivers championship.
Verstappen started from second on the grid behind pole-sitter Lando Norris. But the three-time champion whipped past the McLaren driver by the first turn and then overtook George Russell on lap three of 66 and never looked back.
Norris tried to mount a late challenge but Verstappen upped the pace to cross first. Norris was second, followed by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in third.
Verstappen said that his moves to get past Norris and Russell so early proved crucial so he could build an advantage and keep the hard-charging Norris at bay.
“I think what made the difference in the race was the beginning,” Verstappen said. “I took the lead and had my buffer. After that we had to drive a defensive race.”
Verstappen got his seventh win in 10 races this season and claimed his third straight victory at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalonia.
Verstappen has 219 points. Norris moved into second place with 150, overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who fell into third place with 148 points after finishing fifth.
Norris put the blame on his poor start — when he lost two spots — for having to settle for second. The British driver got his first win at Miami in May and was gunning for a second victory.
“I should have won,” Norris said. “I got a bad straight, it is as simple as that.”
Hamilton’s third place was the first podium of the season for the seven-time world champion, who is in his last season for Mercedes before joining Ferrari next season.
Norris was beaten from the starting line by Verstappen and Russell, who whipped around both rivals from his start from fourth on the grid to take a surprise lead after the nearly 600-meter (yard) run to the first corner.
Verstappen was right behind Russell, however, and within two laps he swerved past him just after his team told him “(this) might be our best opportunity now.”
Once ahead, Verstappen managed his tires on the tough Barcelona track, and his Red Bull team pulled off two clean pit stops to avoid any mistakes.
Norris showed his great form by chasing down both Mercedes after a tire change. He got past Hamilton and then featured in a long duel with Russell midway through the race. Norris swerved past, Russell counterattacked to edge ahead, before Norris finally got in front.
But the jousting also favored Verstappen, who added to his lead.
Norris turned up the speed over the final 10 laps and was closing on the Dutchman, but he ran out of time and track. He crossed two seconds behind Verstappen.
Russell finished fourth, while it was a bad day for Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as neither Ferrari could contend with the front-runners. Sainz, the Spanish fan’s best hope for a win, finished sixth.
Norris’ McLaren partner Oscar Piastri was seventh. Sergio Pérez in the other Red Bull was eighth after his start from 11th place following a third-place grid penalty incurred in last round’s Canadian GP. Alpine pair Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10. Fernando Alonso was 12th in his Aston Martin.


Al-Ittihad sign Algerian midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract

Karim Benzema welcomes Houssem Aouar to Al-Ittihad’s training camp in Alicante, Spain. (X/@ittihad_en)
Karim Benzema welcomes Houssem Aouar to Al-Ittihad’s training camp in Alicante, Spain. (X/@ittihad_en)
Updated 17 July 2024
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Al-Ittihad sign Algerian midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract

Karim Benzema welcomes Houssem Aouar to Al-Ittihad’s training camp in Alicante, Spain. (X/@ittihad_en)
  • Aouar joins from Roma, where he scored four goals in 16 appearances last season
  • Midfielder previously played for hometown club Lyon in France’s Ligue 1, scoring 30 goals in seven seasons

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad have signed French-born Algerian international midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract.

Aouar joins from Roma, where he scored four goals in 16 appearances last season.

The 26-year-old midfielder previously played for hometown club Lyon in France’s Ligue 1, scoring 30 goals in seven seasons.

The signing ceremony took place at the team’s training camp in Alicante, Spain on Tuesday.

The event was officiated by the club’s CEO, Domingos Oliveira, and witnessed by sporting director Ramon Planes, following Aouar’s successful medical examination this morning.

Domingos Oliveira expressed his warm welcome to Aouar, noting that this move marks a significant new chapter in Aouar’s career. He emphasized that Aouar will contribute significantly alongside his teammates to achieving the high standards and results anticipated by the club’s fans and supporters.

Oliveira highlighted that Aouar’s signing aligns with the team’s technical requirements for a player possessing specific qualities that enhance the squad. This strategy is based on the technical needs identified by the sports committee and reviewed by the coach.

Houssem Aouar shared his enthusiasm about joining Al-Ittihad Club, recognizing its rich history, passionate fan base, distinguished players, and experienced coaching staff. He is motivated to deliver his best performance to represent the club and bring joy to its supporters.


FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants
Updated 17 July 2024
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FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants
  • The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults

PARIS: FIFA said on Wednesday it was opening an investigation into racist chants by Argentina players after they won the Copa America.
“FIFA is aware of a video circulating on social media and the incident is being looked into,” a spokesperson for world football’s governing body said.
They added: “FIFA strongly condemns any form of discrimination by anyone including players, fans and officials.”
The chants were heard during a live video posted on social media by Chelsea and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from the team bus in the wake of the Copa victory over Colombia in Miami on Sunday.
Some players, including 23-year-old Fernandez, sing a chant dating back to the 2022 World Cup final in which Argentina beat France.
The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults.
Chelsea had earlier announced they had launched an internal disciplinary procedure against Fernandez over the incident.
Fernandez has apologized and the club said in a statement it had launched an “internal disciplinary procedure.”
“Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behavior completely unacceptable,” it added.
“We acknowledge and appreciate our player’s public apology and will use this as an opportunity to educate.”
Fernandez, who joined Chelsea from Benfica for a Premier League record fee of £105 million ($136.8 million) in 2023, said in his apology: “The song includes highly offensive language and there is absolutely no excuse for these words.
“I stand against discrimination in all forms and apologize for getting caught up in the euphoria of our Copa America celebrations.”
The French Football Federation (FFF) complained to FIFA about the chants on Monday.
FFF president Philippe Diallo “condemned with the greatest firmness the unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks made against players of the France team.”
France beat Argentina in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup.


Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards
Updated 18 July 2024
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Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards
  • Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory
  • His Palestinian heritage serves as a profound source of motivation and pride ‘that means everything to me’

Riyadh: In the lead-up to UFC 304, slated for July 27 in Manchester, UK, Belal Muhammad, the formidable Palestinian-American welterweight contender, has honing his skills with a series  of rigorous training camps which have inluded sessions with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Mackachev in Dagestan.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, the 36-year-old reflected on his preparations and the profound significance of his upcoming bout against champion Leon Edwards.

“My training camp has been very good,” Muhammad said, detailing the final stages of his preparation. “It’s about being safe, staying uninjured, and making it to the fight week. It’s been a hard camp, but I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I can’t wait to get to Manchester and fight,” he added with palpable enthusiasm.

Ranked second in the welterweight division, Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory. “This is everything,” he stressed. “When I got into the UFC, all I wanted was to be the champion. Now, I see the finish line. I’m knocking on the door. All I’ve got to do is walk through it.”

Acknowledging the competitive landscape of the welterweight division, Muhammad assessed his opponents with a keen eye. “I see weaknesses in a lot of these guys,” he said. “I don’t think there are going to be easy fights, but looking at this division, Leon (Edwards) is my easiest fight,” he added.

Muhammad’s journey in mixed martial arts is deeply intertwined with his Palestinian heritage, which he views as a source of profound motivation and pride. “That means everything to me,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing I’m fighting for something bigger — to have my flag raised with the title, to give my people a voice.”

He highlighted the resilience and determination of his Palestinian community as a driving force in his career. “I can’t sleep. I can’t take any days off. I can’t be soft, because these people are hard. These people are so resilient. They push me every day to work harder. I’ve never seen a stronger people in my life.”

Addressing his Palestinian fans directly, Muhammad expressed solidarity and admiration. “Keep fighting. Keep staying strong. Keep being resilient because you’re changing the world,” he said, stressing the inspiration he draws from their unwavering support.

With the recent surge of MMA interest in the Middle East, Muhammad praised the region’s growing prominence in the sport. “It’s amazing to see the Middle East becoming a huge market for fighters and the UFC,” he said. “When you look at Arabs and Muslims, we’re not the tallest we’re not the biggest so you’re not gonna see a lot of us in the NBA. But now we have a different sport that we can take over. We can all be fighters,” he added optimistically, envisioning a future where Arab fighters continue to make significant strides in the sport.

Reflecting on his career’s evolution, Muhammad emphasized the lessons learned from both victories and setbacks. “I’ve had the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “After every fight, I analyze what I did wrong. I train year-round to be a better fighter,” he added, attributing his continuous growth to a relentless pursuit of improvement.

Muhammad started his MMA journey at 23, unlike many fighters who start at a much younger age, a factor that has always played on his mind as he trains, he said.

“I really think I’m behind a lot of these guys. So I’ve always had that mentality that I’m behind and have to keep learning, growing, and getting better. And I think that’s what separates me from the rest. Every single fight, I come as a different fighter.”

Maintaining mental focus and motivation amid the stakes of UFC 304, Muhammad revealed a deeply personal motivation. “I love to win and I hate to lose,” he admitted. “I never want to see my mom disappointed in me. I keep winning so she keeps a smile on her face,” he added, highlighting the familial support that fuels his drive.

As the countdown to UFC 304 progresses, Muhammad stands poised to seize the welterweight crown, driven by skill, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to his goals. With Manchester on the horizon, Muhammad’s journey to championship glory promises to captivate fans worldwide and inspire a new generation of fighters from the Middle East and beyond.


‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup
Updated 17 July 2024
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‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup
  • 3 tournaments taking centerstage at Boulevard Riyadh City with high-stakes drama in store until Sunday  

RIYADH: The Esports World Cup has three major competitions taking place this week at Boulevard Riyadh City, promising further entertainment after a fortnight of action.

Running for eight weeks until Aug. 25, the Esports World Cup has a record-breaking $60 million prize pool on offer across 22 competitions and 21 games.

Sixteen clubs are vying to reach the latter stages of the $5 million “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” with hometown heroes Team Falcons flying the flag for Saudi Arabia.

Having topped the Group A standings with four wins and two draws from seven matches, Team Falcons have emerged as top contenders for the $1.5 million first prize and are certain to receive incredible home support this week.

Also, two other tournaments make their highly anticipated Esports World Cup debuts. The $1 million “Counter-Strike 2” competition will see some of the world’s best clubs competing.

Working together in five-versus-five format, players must display exemplary tactics to eliminate opponents and reign supreme in this ultra-realistic team-based shooter game.

Also sharing the spotlight is “PUBG Mobile,” with 24 teams battling for the $3 million prize on Friday.


Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick
Updated 17 July 2024
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Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick
  • The Saudi Arabia team have already claimed top places in the ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ and ‘Free Fire’ competitions

RIYADH: Team Falcons remain on course for a historic hat trick of Esports World Cup titles after the hometown heroes reached the semifinals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” competition on Tuesday.

One of the front-runners for the $1.5 million first prize, the Saudi Arabia club entered the knockout stages in scintillating form, topping Group A with four wins and two draws.

This form continued with the support of a capacity crowd inside the SEF Arena.

A 2-1 victory against China’s WBG.XG set up a semifinal showdown with Canadian outfit Gaimin Gladiators.

This moves Team Falcons closer to their dream of winning the competition and adding to Esports World Cup victories in “Call of Duty: Warzone” and “Free Fire.”

The “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” is running throughout week three at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 23.