Archive for September, 2019

Grosjean no longer Suzuka’s ‘first lap nutcase’

The Frenchman made a storming start for Lotus from fourth on the grid to seize the lead and stay in front for half the race before Red Bull’s strategy put 2012 world champion and series leader Sebastian Vettel in the driving seat.

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Even then a second place might have been Grosjean’s consolation, had he not been held up by backmarkers and then overtaken on the penultimate lap by Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber on fresher tyres.

“I thought it was the day that the first victory was coming,” Grosjean, a former GP2 champion who has a chequered past, told reporters after appearing on the Suzuka podium.

“I said ‘our car is beautiful today, it’s going to be good…”

The Frenchman’s 2012 season was littered with first corner crashes, including one that brought him a race ban for the Italian Grand Prix, but Sunday’s start showed how much progress he has made.

“When I dropped the clutch I said ‘Whoah, that’s a good one, come on, come on go for it’. Amazing,” he said.

“Then when you’re leading it makes the thing easier on the first stint. We were very quick on the option (tyre).

“I think it would have been nice with Mark until the end of the race but we caught some slower cars, lapped cars, and they really blocked me a lot. I lost the position against Mark. I don’t know if I could have held him until the end.”

The race was a marked contrast to last year’s at Suzuka, when a furious Webber branded Grosjean a “first-lap nutcase” and berated him after they collided in the opening seconds.

Webber had been on the front row last year as well, alongside Vettel, but his hopes were wrecked by the Frenchman.

The crash left him fighting back to ninth.

The Australian, who is leaving Formula One at the end of the season for a new career in sportscars with Porsche, was far more complimentary on Sunday about his old sparring partner.

“I think it’s very clear that Romain has a very different mental approach to the job at the moment this year,” he said.

“He’s driven some quite strong races, putting together the whole weekend which is a sign of a driver starting to get a bit more relaxed and confident. A lot fewer mistakes, not just in races but in practice.

“You know, we’re not here to blow smoke up his arse but in the end he’s doing a very good job this year and it’s a big step for him…I hope he doesn’t improve too much more before the end of the year.”

Sunday’s third place was Grosjean’s fourth podium finish of the season and his second in a row after being overshadowed for most of the year by team mate and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Josh Reich)

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Cole ruled out of Poland qualifier

Baines is likely to keep his place in Roy Hodgson’s lineup against Poland, whose loss to Ukraine on Friday means they are unable to qualify.

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Given his strong club form there had been calls for Baines, capped 20 times by England, to replace Cole in the starting line up before he was withdrawn, but the 28-year-old said who ever played would do a good job.

“It’s difficult to say because each week is different, some times you’re on top form one week and for no reason the following game you’re not quite at it,” he told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

“I think the important thing is that the manager feels that both of us can do the job, that he can call on either one of us and I guess that’s all that matters really, that the job gets done.”

Baines was largely untroubled as England scored four second half goals against Montenegro, but despite Poland having little to play for, the match would be another step up.

“We know how big it was on Friday to keep it in our own hands really, to win the game and make sure were in a good position,” he said.

“We’ve got the job half done now, as the manager said, and we’ve got to try and finish it off. We know it will be a tough game, but we’ll be prepared for it.

“There will be a good crowd there and it’s a big occasion. It’s something that all the players at this level are accustomed to.

“It’s important we go and get the right result.”

England lead Group H by a point from Ukraine and will secure automatic qualification for next year’s finals in Brazil with a win over the Poles at Wembley.

Defender Kyle Walker will miss the match through suspension, while Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling had replaced the injured midfielder Tom Cleverly.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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Malala says she’s no Western puppet

Malala Yousafzai hit back at claims that she has become a figure of the West, insisting she was proud to be a Pakistani.

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The 16-year-old, who was shot by the Taliban for championing girls’ right to an education, claimed she retained the support of people in her homeland, and reiterated her desire to enter Pakistani politics.

The activist was shot in the head on her school bus on October 9 last year for speaking out against the Taliban.

She was flown for specialist care in Britain, where she has continued her education, while she has been feted and honoured in the West.

On Thursday, she won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize, while US President Barack Obama welcomed her to the White House on Friday.

Asked in a BBC television interview broadcast on Sunday about some people in Pakistan thinking she was a “figure of the West” and “a Westerner now”, she said: “My father says that education is neither Eastern or Western. Education is education: it’s the right of everyone.

“The thing is that the people of Pakistan have supported me. They don’t think of me as Western. I am a daughter of Pakistan and I am proud that I am a Pakistani.

“On the day when I was shot, and on the next day, people raised the banners of ‘I am Malala’. They did not say ‘I am Taliban’.

“They support me and they are encouraging me to move forward and to continue my campaign for girls’ education.”

She highlighted the problem of education in the midst of the Syrian conflict.

“We want to help every child in every country that we can,” she said.

“We will start from Pakistan and Afghanistan and Syria now, especially because they are suffering the most and they are on the top that need our help.

“Later on in my life I want to do politics and I want to become a leader and to bring the change in Pakistan.

“I want to be a politician in Pakistan because I don’t want to be a politician in a country which is already developed.”

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Vidmar refuses to say if keen on top job

Caretaker Socceroos coach Aurelio Vidmar is refusing to say if he’s interested in the top job on a full-time basis following the sacking of Holger Osieck.

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Osieck was axed after Australia lost to France 6-0 in Paris.

Vidmar will lead the team against Canada in the up-coming friendly on Tuesday night London time (0600 AEDT Wednesday).

Asked directly if he’d be interested in the top job Vidmar said: “At this stage I don’t even want to talk about any of that.”

Vidmar certainly doesn’t see Tuesday’s match as an audition of any sort.

“No, not at all,” he told reporters in London on Sunday.

“For us it’s a matter of trying to get a fit team out on the park and trying to perform as best we can.

“There are a number of players carrying injuries and niggles so we are scratching the surface really to have many fit players.”

Former coach Guus Hiddink is the frontrunner to replace Osieck.

Other foreign candidates include former Chile and Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa and ex-Chelsea manager Robert Di Matteo.

Australians Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold are also in the frame.

Vidmar said it was always an “unfortunate situation” when a head coach was dumped.

“It hasn’t been a very good time over the last couple of days.

“The way football works is I was the assistant coach and someone needs to take the game for the international game on Tuesday and that’s me. That’s how it is.”

Asked if it was time for an Australian manager to lead the Socceroos, Vidmar said: “Obviously, yes that would be nice and probably one day that’ll happen.”

The 46-year-old said he hadn’t been given any guarantee he’d remain assistant under any new regime.

“We are all under scrutiny – staff, players, the whole lot,” he said.

“That’s what normally happens when someone gets dismissed.

“At the end the organisation will have to make a decision about what’s going to happen moving forward.”

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Two million Muslim pilgrims begin hajj

Some two million Muslims have poured out of the holy city of Mecca to begin the annual hajj, their numbers reduced on fears of the MERS virus.

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Saudi Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabia told reporters late on Saturday that authorities had so far detected no cases among the pilgrims of the virus which has killed 60 people worldwide, 51 of them in Saudi Arabia.

The pilgrims moved from Mecca to nearby Mina valley by road, by train or on foot, the men wearing ihram, the seamless two-piece white garment that rituals require, the women covered up except for their faces and hands.

In Mina, a small site with 45,000 fire-resistant tents that can accommodate two million people, they will pray and rest before moving on to Mount Arafat on Monday for the climax of the pilgrimage rituals.

The recently constructed electric railway is scheduled to carry 400,000 of the pilgrims taking part in the world’s largest annual gathering.

Saudi Arabia has deployed more than 100,000 troops to ensure the safety of the pilgrims and has warned it will tolerate no demonstrations or disturbances.

Interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told a news conference on Saturday that the kingdom “will not allow any action that may subject the pilgrims’ safety to risk”.

Security forces are monitoring the holy sites in and around Mecca with 4,200 hi-tech cameras, some of which are so advanced that can cover a distance of 60 kilometres.

Authorities said more than 20,000 buses are ferrying the pilgrims to Mina using 58 tunnels under Mecca’s high mountains.

But some pilgrims, like Egyptian Mustafa Abu el-Wafa, decided to walk the 10-kilometre distance despite the heat and humidity.

“I am so excited that I finally managed to perform the hajj and come to the areas that the Prophet (Mohammed) had once been to,” Wafa said as he walked towards Mina.

From Mina, pilgrims will head to nearby Mount Arafat, where they spend Monday in prayer until sunset.

The oil-rich kingdom has also mobilised huge medical and civil defence resources to ensure the smooth movement of the pilgrims, around 1.4 million of whom come from abroad.

That figure is sharply down on last year’s 1.75 million.

Riyadh has imposed a 20 per cent cut this year on the quota for pilgrims coming from abroad.

It has also slashed the number of domestic pilgrims by half because of MERS virus fears and reduced capacity resulting from multi-billion-dollar construction work.

The fact that the kingdom accounts for the overwhelming majority of MERS cases reported around the world has raised concerns pilgrims could be infected and return to their homelands carrying the virus.

Despite being marred by deadly incidents in the past, including floods, stampedes and fires, in recent years, the hajj has passed nearly incident-free, thanks to multi-billion-dollar projects being implemented every year.

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