Lewis Hamilton remains imperious despite tyre concerns ahead of Bahrain Grand Prix. Two weeks after clinching his seventh world championship, with three races still to go, the Mercedes driver has turned up in Bahrain as if nothing had changed and everything was still at stake. Lewis Hamilton’s hunger has clearly been undimmed by his monumental achievement in becoming the most successful racing driver in history.
Another pole – his 10th of the season, the 98th of his career – was won in convincing style, by a quarter of a second from team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who seemed a little uncomprehending afterwards. And who would bet on Hamilton converting that into his 11th victory of the season on Sunday?
“He’s unbelievable,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said. “He’s won the championship and still so motivated and showing these kinds of performances.” Despite his monumental success, there are another couple of major landmarks awaiting Hamilton this season, should he sweep the final three races.
One is 100 poles – a truly remarkable achievement, considering the next highest score by any driver is 68. And the other is 13 wins in a season, which would equal the all-time record held jointly by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton has always said he is not one for statistics, even if the big ones clearly do resonate with him, and on Saturday he said: “It’s been an incredible year and anything from now is just an added bonus.” Hamilton said he was enjoying the new lightness of having the championship tied up. “With the pressure off, it’s a lot more enjoyable,” he said. And on paper, it’s hard to see anything stopping him on Sunday.
Hamilton has looked imperious all weekend, while Bottas has been struggling with his car, locking brakes repeatedly and generally not looking comfortable.
And Hamilton starts on the clean side of the grid, on the racing line, while Bottas is on the dirtier inside, where there is less grip. The main question marks are around strategy, with high tyre degradation indicating this could be a rare two-stop race.
Mercedes focused much of their work on Friday on assessing the 2021 tyres Pirelli gave all the teams to try, and are heading off into the unknown a little in the race, having not done race-simulation runs on either the medium or hard tyre, which will be the focus of the race.
And Max Verstappen, as ever, won’t be giving up without a fight. He had looked a potential threat for pole when he went fastest in final practice, only for the Red Bull to fall away when the sun set and the grip came up.
“The weekend was pretty positive,” he said. “Just lacking a little bit in qualifying. Let’s see what we can do. It is quite aggressive on tyres here and it should be quite an interesting race.”
Tyre concerns, again One of the key issues of the weekend was those 2021 Pirelli tyres, which all teams ran on Friday in preparation for next season. The drivers did not like them. At all.
Hamilton was particularly outspoken afterwards. “Unfortunately we have had the same tyre for the last two years,” he said. “At the end of 2019 they brought a new tyre and it was quite a bit worse. So we kept the tyre from last year.
“So they’ve had two years to develop a better tyre and they’ve arrived with a tyre that is three kilos heavier (per set) and is a second (a lap) worse.
“I know that doesn’t make much difference to the fans but from a drivers’ point of view we are working with brands at the forefront of technology and elevating and moving forwards and if we’re going back after two years of development, I don’t know what’s happened.
“It doesn’t feel good out there. It’s a worry. If that’s the best they can do, which it clearly is, we would be better to stay with this tyre.” He was far from alone. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel described the tyres with a swear word, adding: “I’ll be surprised if anyone likes them.
“They were not a step forward, the opposite pretty much. Probably worth a shot but I hope we don’t see these tyres again. They are quite a lot worse compared to the tyres we currently run.”
Pirelli’s F1 boss Mario Isola responded to the drivers’ concerns by saying that the new tyre was designed with one specific intention in mind – to improve structural integrity. This after a series of tyre failures this season, most famously affecting Hamilton on the final lap of the British Grand Prix.
Isola said the new construction would allow Pirelli to reduce pressures – as raising the pressure is the only method it has with the current tyres of making them more robust, and this creates its own problems in terms of grip and performance.
He pointed out that the cars were not optimised for the new tyre during testing on Friday, and that next year’s cars will be different anyway, as a result of technical changes made to lower downforce, at Pirelli’s request, to put less stress on the tyres.
Isola said he “fully respected” the drivers’ opinions, but added: “We are happy with the product we homologated and I think this slight difference in performance will be recovered in the pre-season test. I feel they will be at least as fast next year and I don’t see any issue with the performance.”
The drivers, though, are anything but happy. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz said they had expressed their concerns to the FIA, and would continue talks with the governing body and Pirelli to find a solution.
If this all sounds a bit esoteric, it’s anything but. The behaviour of the current tyres is regarded by many – drivers, engineers and more – as a fundamental problem affecting the quality of the racing.
The issue with the Pirellis is that they are prone to overheating, drivers cannot push to the limit without pushing them over their temperature threshold, and this affects both their ability to drive hard in races and follow other cars closely for any length of time.
Their concern is that Pirelli has known since 2015 that the drivers wanted tyres that did not require as much thermal management.
Pirelli says it is aiming to address this with the new tyre for the bigger 18-inch wheels being introduced for the new rules in 2022. But the drivers clearly feel it is not good enough that some steps have not already been made.
Sainz said: “On the drivers’ target letter, there has also been a lot of requests regarding performance, overheating and blistering, apart from safety.
“Safety is one of our highest priorities if not the highest, but after two or three years on the same tyres, you expect some improvement in the performance or at least in the overheating issues we have been having recently.
“That’s why the drivers are talking a bit more about making the tyre less prone to overheating, which in the race is what limits us in the race from creating a better show and pushing ourselves as F1 drivers.”
Wolff said Pirelli had “taken the drivers’ comments on board” and would make “tweaks” to improve the new tyre’s performance.
But he pointed to the failures of this season – in particular Lance Stroll’s high-speed crash caused by a puncture in the closing stages of the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello – as a reason not to abandon the new design. “We don’t want to go back there,” he said.
Source – BBC News
Nigerian soccer fans confident of AFCON win
Soccer fans in Nigeria have expressed their confidence that the Super Eagles will win the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
The Nigerian team qualified for the finals after defeating South Africa in the semi-final round of the competition. They face hosts Ivory Coast for the last game of the tournament today.
This will be the second match between both teams. The elephants of Ivory Coast suffered a 1- 0 defeat in their encounter with the Super Eagles at the group stage. Nigerian soccer fans say they are confident that the team will also win the final game.
Moshood Olatunji says, “We’re taking the cup. We’re not bragging and we’re not being pretentious and we’re not underestimating any group. But I think the Nigerian team started slow and they really worked as a team. The thing they had that I could see was the teamwork. They play for each other, they’re not playing for the coach, they’re actually playing for each other as a team. And I think if they carry that attitude into the finals, there’s no stopping us.”
Maxwell Ogbaje says, “I’m not surprised that we got to where we are today. We actually have a strong team. We have been at our best. It’s not just by chance, people see it that the one zero, one zero has always been a lucky thing, but it’s not. There’s actually good effort from the team that has brought that success.”
“Let them keep doing what they are doing especially the back 5. It’s a fantastic tactic that the coach Peseiro has been able to knock the boys with, so they should do what they do. They should be tight behind and they should take their chances. They should hit them on the counter and I believe if they are able to do that and they stay together, then Nigeria will be able to carry the day,” says Sam Maimagani.
It’s the eighth time Nigeria has made it to the finals in the Africa Cup of Nations and the 4th for Ivory Coast.
Nigeria is already a three-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations and a triumph in today’s encounter will make it the 4th in 10 years.
A win for Ivory Coast will make them a three-time champion of the AFCON. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu is expected to be at the game today to cheer the Super Eagles to victory.
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Bayern Munich wins 11th straight Bundesliga title
Bayern Munich leapfrogged rivals Borussia Dortmund to clinch their 11th consecutive Bundesliga title in a last-day drama in German football on Saturday, May 27.
In a climactic season finale, Bayern Munich ended up celebrating an unexpected title win while Dortmund’s dream of their first league trophy since 2012 was left in tatters following a 2-2 draw with Mainz.
Dortmund were leading by two points before their last match for the season but were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Mainz on Saturday, allowing Bayern to finish in first place with a goal difference.
RB Leipzig and sensational Union Berlin are third and fourth respectively and will also compete in the Champions League next season.
Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04 have been relegated, while VfB Stuttgart will go into the relegation playoff.
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India look to next generation at Women’s T20 World Cup
India is looking to a new generation of talented young cricketers led by teenage batter Shafali Verma to propel them to a first Women’s T20 World Cup title this month. Long-serving skipper Mithali Raj and record-breaking fast bowler Jhulan Goswami, trailblazers for women’s cricket in India, both retired last year.
New captain Harmanpreet Kaur said both players are still on hand to give advice, but it is time to look forward. Whenever we need they are always available to us, that’s what you expect from senior players,” the 33-year-old told a recent press conference.
“Nobody can fill their places, but the young girls who are getting the chances are doing well. One of the players who has grabbed her chance is Verma, an attacking opening batter who led India to victory in the inaugural U19 T20 World Cup in South Africa last month.
The 19-year-old will be back on familiar ground for the T20 World Cup, which is again in South Africa. It starts on February 10 and India are chasing a breakthrough first title, having been runners-up behind hosts Australia in the last edition, in 2020. Their first match is against arch-rivals Pakistan on February 12 in Cape Town.
Verma made her international debut at the age of just 15 and was in the team that reached the T20 World Cup final in 2020.
She also played in the one-day World Cup and was a member of the Indian side which took silver at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The youngster looks up to big-hitting England batsman Liam Livingstone for inspiration and considers Indian great Sachin Tendulkar a role model. After captaining India to victory in the U19 World Cup, Verma said: “This is just the beginning.”
“When I entered the Under-19s, I only focused on winning the Under-19 Cup and we have won that today,” ESPNCricinfo quoted her as saying. I will look to take this winning confidence with me and win the senior World Cup.”
Besides Verma, the India team also includes Smriti Mandhana, Richa Ghosh, Deepti Sharma and Renuka Singh. The women’s game is making inroads in the cricket-mad country, with the inaugural Women’s Premier League set for March, ahead of the men’s IPL.
Last month, India’s cricket board auctioned off five women’s IPL teams for $572.5 million. The new generation “are ready to be the representatives of the modern generation of women’s cricketers”, cricket journalist Sharda Ugra told AFP.
“The women’s IPL is going to start and they are the perfect representation of the kind of Indian women cricketers that belong to the T20 generation. They have the right mindset and they are very, very talented.
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