F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Race winner Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland with the trophy after winning the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, was felt.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.

UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions

Updated 24 June 2021

UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions

  • Games now tied on aggregate score after 90 minutes, goes directly to extra time then penalty shootout
  • UEFA president said the rule outlived its usefulness and inhibited home teams from attacking

NYON, SWITZERLAND: The away-goals rule was abolished Thursday by UEFA after 56 years as a fundamental way of deciding matches in its European club competitions.
The move was often proposed in recent years by club coaches who felt an idea from the 1960s was no longer relevant.
Games now tied on aggregate score after the regulation 90 minutes in the second leg will go direct to extra time and then to a penalty shootout.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin cited the “unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.”
UEFA cited several factors that “blurred the lines between playing at home and away” including more television coverage to better understand opponents’ styles, comfortable travel and better playing surfaces.
Čeferin said the rule outlived its usefulness and inhibited home teams from attacking “because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.”

‘All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games

Updated 24 June 2021

‘All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games

  • Germany's nail-biting 2-2 draw with Hungary in Munich on Wednesday set up a mouthwatering clash with England at Wembley
  • Since England beat Germany 4-2 in 1966 World Cup final, Germans have won all four knockout meetings in major tournaments

MUNICH: Germany wants to extend their dominance of England’s Three Lions at the knockout stage of international tournaments to 55 years when the powerhouses meet again in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Tuesday.
Germany’s nail-biting 2-2 draw with Hungary in Munich on Wednesday set up a mouthwatering clash with Gareth Southgate’s England at Wembley for a place in the quarter-finals.
“That will be an absolute highlight, now it’s all or nothing,” said Germany head coach Joachim Loew, who will step down after 15 years in charge following the tournament.
Since England beat Germany 4-2 after extra-time to win the 1966 World Cup final when Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick at Wembley, the Germans have won all four knockout meetings since at major tournaments.
That tally includes the semifinal of Euro ‘96, also at Wembley, when Southgate, the current England coach, missed the crucial penalty in a nail-biting penalty shootout.
That followed Paul Gascoigne’s famous tears in Turin before Germany again beat England in a penalty shootout in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Overall, Germany have only won 13 of 36 games compared to England’s 16 victories, while there have been seven draws.
Yet when it comes to knockout football, the 1966 triumph is England’s sole success against the Mannschaft.
Germany right-back Joshua Kimmich said “there is almost no nicer game” than playing England at Wembley.
The national side’s fortunes are being watched closely in Germany where 25.74 million viewers, 71 percent of the market, were glued to their television sets for the draw with Hungary.
The figure is sure to be surpassed when the Mannschaft plays England.
Having equalized twice in Munich, the Germans keep alive their dreams of a record fourth European crown.
“Yes!!!!!!!! Wembley calling!” wrote Leon Goretzka on Twitter after the Bayern Munich star came off the bench to smash home the crucial 84th-minute equalizer.
“We have no doubts and are full of self-confidence,” he continued.
The rest of the German squad were more down to earth.
“That was one of the most difficult games ever, you have to say,” admitted Loew, who was six minutes away from finishing his tenure with a humiliating defeat.
“What the team showed was an extremely good mentality and morale, we didn’t let it get to us.”
The Germans know that against England they have to better across the board.
“Wembley suits us,” said captain Manuel Neuer, “but we needed a more dominant and confident performance to go into the game (against England) with a top feeling.”
Kimmich echoed that sentiment, saying the Germans can ill afford to “compete” at Wembley “like we did today.”
Sloppy German defending — which has been a factor all season — allowed Hungary captain Adam Szalai to header the visitors ahead.
Germany equalized through Kai Havertz, but conceded another goal almost immediately when midfielder Andras Schaefer ghosted between two defenders to put Hungary 2-1 up before Goretzka spared Germany’s blushes.
A defeat to world champions France in their opening Group F game was followed by a stunning 4-2 win of holders Portugal on Saturday, yet Germany came perilously close to losing to Hungary.
Erratic German results have been a feature since their 2018 World Cup debacle when they finished bottom of their group, but the current side has the talent and potential to reach the Euro 2020 final.
“We know that if we play to our potential” at Wembley” we’ll be strong,” insisted Loew.
“But if we don’t implement a few things, we’ll be in trouble.
“The English have to play going forward at home.
“It will be an open game, more open than against Hungary.
“We have to correct a few things and be fully on our guard, there will be no quarter given there now.
“We have to do better, absolutely.”

Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 116-113 in Game 1

Updated 24 June 2021

Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 116-113 in Game 1

  • The Hawks handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason
  • Game 2 is on Friday night in MilwaukeeAtlanta Hawks guard Trae Young puts up a shot against Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis of the Milwaukee Bucks guard on June 23, 2021. (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)

MILWAUKEE: Trae Young scored 48 points, Clint Capela converted a go-ahead putback with 29.8 seconds left and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 on Wednesday night to open the Eastern Conference finals.
The Hawks improved to 6-2 in road playoff games this year and handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason.
“I felt we’ve built ourselves to be able to play on the road,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I’ve told them that. They’re built for this.”
Game 2 is Friday night in Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.
Young was two points off his career high.
“We keep fighting,” Young said. “It’s been fun playing with this group. We just keep fighting to the end, no matter what the score is. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting.”
John Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and 19 rebounds.
Khris Middleton missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Although Middleton scored 15 points, he shot 6 of 23 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.
“Offensively, it didn’t seem like we moved very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that turned a 98-96 deficit into a 105-98 advantage with 4:18 left. Holiday capped that spurt by sinking a 3-pointer after Antetokounmpo got the rebound on his own missed free throw.
But the Hawks scored the next five points, and the game went back and forth from there.
Middleton missed a pull-up jumper with about 43 seconds left with Milwaukee up 111-110. Young missed a driving layup attempt, but Capela grabbed his 19th rebound and scored to put the Hawks ahead for good.
After Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer, Young made two free throws with 17.3 seconds remaining. Antetokounmpo made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds left, but Young brought the lead back to three and closed the scoring by sinking two free throws of his own with 4.6 seconds remaining.

Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic started but clearly was at less than full strength as he deals with a sore knee. He scored four points and shot 1 of 6. ... Cam Reddish was available to play for the first time in four months but didn’t play. Reddish hadn’t played since Feb. 21 due to a right Achilles injury. Hawks coach Nate McMillan had said before the game the Hawks would cautious with Reddish by keeping him behind Tony Snell and Solomon Hill in the rotation. “We haven’t had the opportunity for him to get in any five-on-five since he’s been off,” McMillan said. “He’s been playing the last week or so some two-on-two, three-on-three.” … Atlanta is the third team since 1984 to make the conference finals despite having a losing record at the All-Star break. The others were the 2012 Boston Celtics and the 1984 Phoenix Suns. The Hawks were 16-20 at the break.
Bucks: Bobby Portis came off the bench with 4 1/2minutes left in the first quarter and ended up with 11 points and eight rebounds. Portis hadn’t played a single minute in the last three games of the Nets series. ... Milwaukee fell to 11-3 in playoff games at Fiserv Forum. … This is the fifth time the Bucks and Hawks have faced off in the playoffs and their first postseason matchup since the Hawks won 4-3 in a 2010 opening-round series. They’ve split the four previous matchups.

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

Updated 23 June 2021

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

  • A jury unanimously found Constable Benjamin Monk guilty of manslaughter but cleared him of murder
  • Monk used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson six times longer than standard

LONDON: A British police officer was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter in the death of Dalian Atkinson, a former professional soccer player who died after being Tasered and kicked in the head.
A jury unanimously found Constable Benjamin Monk guilty of manslaughter but cleared him of murder.
Former Aston Villa star Atkinson, 48, died in August 2016 after police were called to his father’s home in Telford, central England. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital and died around an hour after officers used a Taser to subdue him. Prosecutors said Monk used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Atkinson — more than six times longer than was standard.
Monk, 43, said he had been afraid for his life after Atkinson, who appeared to be having a mental health crisis, made threats and smashed a glass door pane. He claimed he acted in lawful self-defense, first using a stun gun eight times and then aiming kicks at the athlete’s shoulder. His boot hit Atkinson at least twice in the head.
The officer was convicted after a six-week trial. Atkinson’s family members said in a statement they were “hugely relieved that the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.”
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court are still deliberating on an assault charge against another police officer who was Monk’s girlfriend at the time.
It is extremely rare for police in Britain to be convicted of manslaughter or murder over deaths in custody or during contact with the public. According to the charity Inquest, the last such conviction was in 1986.
Atkinson was a forward who played in England’s top division for Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. During a Villa game against Wimbledon in October 1992 he scored one of the Premier League’s most famous goals when he ran from inside his own half, evaded a number of challenges, then chipped the ball over the goalkeeper.
He scored 20 Premier League goals for Villa and also netted in the 1994 League Cup final in the team’s 3-1 win over Manchester United. Atkinson also had spells with Real Sociedad in Spain, Fenerbahce in Turkey and in South Korea.


Suns sink Clippers with last-gasp Ayton dunk in see-saw thriller, take 2-0 lead in NBA West finals

Updated 24 June 2021

Suns sink Clippers with last-gasp Ayton dunk in see-saw thriller, take 2-0 lead in NBA West finals

  • Devin Booker shook off a nose injury, returning to the game o power the Suns to victory with another superb offensive performance
  • The Clippers were playing their fourth consecutive playoff game without forward Kawhi Leonard, who is out with a sprained right knee

LOS ANGELES: Deandre Ayton made the go-ahead catch and dunk with one second left and a bloodied Devin Booker scored 20 points as the Phoenix Suns shocked the Los Angeles Clippers 104-103 in game two of their NBA playoff series.
Booker shook off a cruel clash of heads that left him bloodied and bruised, returning to the game as the Suns took down the Clippers in a see-saw fourth quarter to win their ninth straight and seize a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
"It was like a Muhammad Ali fight with haymaker after haymaker going back and forth," said Suns guard Cameron Payne, who finished with a career-high 29 points.
Ayton scored the eventual game winner in a thrilling finish as the Suns perfectly executed on their final possession of the game.
The play started with an inbounds pass by Suns forward Jae Crowder who lobbed it directly to the front of the basket where a leaping Ayton was waiting. He caught and then dunked the ball in one motion to give to give the Suns a 104-103 lead with 0.7 seconds left.
Clippers Paul George then put up a desperation shot at the buzzer but it hit the front of the rim and bounced harmlessly away to end the game in front of the crowd of 16,600 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
"Jae made a great pass," said Ayton, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. "I am glad it counted. We just wanted to finish the game strong."
If game one in the series was the feel-out game then game two was the knockout punch. Booker had his nose bloodied late in the third quarter when he accidentally butted heads with Clippers' Pat Beverley.
The 24-year-old Booker needed two stitches and may have broken his nose. But rather than let it end his night, Booker returned to power his team to victory with another superb offensive performance.
"They put a lot of pressure on D-Brook. I hope his nose isn't broken," said Ayton.
Payne raised the bar to make 12 of 24 shots from the field and had nine assists with no turnovers. He was starting at guard for the second straight game with Chris Paul out after reportedly testing positive for Covid-19.
George scored 26 points and Reggie Jackson added 19 for the Clippers, who also fell behind 2-0 in their previous series against the top seeded Utah Jazz before rallying to win.
George missed a pair of free throws with 8.2 seconds left that could have put the game out of reach for the Clippers.
"We had a chance to win the game," said Clippers head coach Ty Lue. "We played, we didn't win this game, it is unfortunate. It happens.
"We got to go home and take care of business."
Game three is Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Clippers were playing their fourth consecutive playoff game without forward Kawhi Leonard, who is out with a sprained right knee.