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Red Bull and Mercedes in agreement over Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning this weekend

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin have both suggested that Lewis Hamilton will be the favourite to win this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen. The Brit currently trails his Red Bull rival by eight points in the Drivers’ Championship standings with just two races left to decide this year’s closely-fought battle for glory.

Lewis Hamilton in ‘constant contact’ with Mercedes chiefs over new car
Verstappen has edged Hamilton for the majority of the campaign to date and will have the opportunity to rubber-stamp his first title in Saudi Arabia.

He will clinch the individual honours if he wins on the streets of Jeddah and Hamilton finishes in seventh place or lower.

The Dutchman will also come out on top if he takes second place and his Mercedes counterpart fails to score a point.

However, the latter can fight back to secure a remarkable eighth Drivers’ Championship triumph if he wins both remaining Grands Prix regardless of what Verstappen does.

Hamilton has enjoyed a considerable pace advantage over his title rival in recent weeks and will be aiming for a third successive race victory in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton will be hoping for another Grand Prix victory in Jeddah
The defending champion will have the added benefit of a powerful new engine, with Mercedes set to reinstall the same unit that carried him to a dominant victory in Brazil earlier this month.

It seems as though the general consensus is that Hamilton will be the odds-on favourite to take the chequered flag once again this weekend as the grid travels to Jeddah for the very first time.

Red Bull chief Horner has suggested that Verstappen could be in for a long afternoon if Mercedes are successful in maintaining their impressive speed advantage at the penultimate Grand Prix of the year.

“I think it’s going to be tight [but] the next track arguably should favour Mercedes,” Horner told RaceFans.

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff expecting Red Bull tensions to flare up again

Lewis Hamilton may be helped by ‘interesting’ Saudi GP circuit

“Abu Dhabi, with the modifications made there, who knows, but it’s been incredibly tight so we go into those races eight points in the lead in the Drivers’ Championship, we’ve reduced the lead in the Constructors’ Championship to five points.

“So both are fully in play and that’s fantastic as we’re now at the climax of this world championship.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes engineer Shovlin is also confident that Hamilton will be in with a shout of winning the race and forcing a final-day title decider in Abu Dhabi.

“If we look at the track in Saudi, I think it should suit us,” explained the 48-year-old.

This year’s title fight looks set to go down to the wire

This year’s title fight looks set to go down to the wire
“For Lewis, we have got the more powerful engine to go in the car, so that’s going to give him a useful boost.”

However, Shovlin also pointed out that Red Bull have surprised Mercedes on plenty of occasions this season, refusing to rule out the possibility of Verstappen eventually crossing the line in first place.

“The track should suit the car but then we would have probably said that in Austin,” he added.

“We would have felt that we should be able to put together a decent setup and take the fight to Red Bull and they had a bit of an edge there. So we’re always cautious to go to a race thinking that it’s all going to go our way.

“What we do know, though, are the things that we’ve got to get right on the setup, what we need to get right on the tyres and how they’re working.”

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Djokovic ‘avenger’ sails through as Krejcikova stung by Tsitsipas rule – Aus Open round-up

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Barbora Krejcikova was one of the former Grand Slam champions on the women’s side to win overnight but was hit by the new bathroom break. Meanwhile, Miomir Kecmanovic continued to “avenge” Novak Djokovic with another victory.

 

 

Emma Raducanu, Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios are all out of the Australian Open but the action – and the controversies – are carrying on.

One Grand Slam champion was hit with a time violation for a long toilet break – and then claimed she had broken her necklace. And another brought her five-year-son into her post-match press conference.

Home favourite Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Rafa Nadal are all in action later.

Barbora Krejcikova is the first player hit by the Tsitsipas rule
Andy Murray complained about the Greek player taking a long toilet break during their clash at the US Open last year.

And since then a new rule has been introduced to stop players leaving the court for too long between sets.

In a battle between French Open champions, she lost the first set to Jelena Ostapenko – and then disappeared for eight minutes. On her return, she claimed she had broken her necklace.

After her 2-6 6-4 6-4 win, the Czech said: “Today’s match was very tough, I had to dig deep to get this win, so I’m very happy and proud of myself. I’m never going to leave without a fight and I’m happy to show that on the court.”

Garbine Muguruza branded Krejcikova “unprofessional” for taking a taking a medical timeout at a crucial time during their fourth round match at the US Open

She took a nine-minute toilet break against Garbine Muguruza at the US Open

Meet Leo Azarenka
The two-time Australian Open champion destroyed No.15 seed Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-2 in only 67 minutes – and gave her press conference with her son on her knee.

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And the first question was to five-year-old Leo. How did mummy play today?

He replied: “Awesome”.

The former world No.1 said: “It’s definitely not a distraction, I will never say that. Being a parent is not easy. He’s full of personality. I don’t know where he gets it from obviously.

“But I always feel privileged that I’m able to have him here. These kind of moments are really priceless for me. To be able to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”

Britain’s last singles player is back on a familiar court.
Andy Murray played both his matches in the John Cain Arena – the stadium where he also lost his first-round match in 2019.

And Nick Kyrgios describes the 10,500-seat arena – which is capped at 50% capacity – his favourite in the world because of the atmosphere generated by ground ticketholders.

And British No.2 Dan Evans will face No.9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last match there tomorrow not before 5pm local time.

Miomir Kecmanovic was supposed to play his fellow Serb Novak Djokovic in the first round – but instead got to play and beat lucky loser and world No.146. Salvatore Caruso.

Today the World No.77 beat another Italian – No.25 seed Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 6-7 6-2 7-5 – for the biggest win of his career. He will now face No.17 seed Gael Monfils.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Kecmanovic. “A week ago I was supposed to play the world No. 1 and didn’t have much of a chance there, but now I’m in the last 16, so I’m happy that I was able to use this chance and that I’ve been playing some really good tennis.”

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Royal Family LIVE: Horror as Meghan Markle ‘actively targeted’ by millions in £2.8m attack

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MEGHAN MARKLE has been “actively targeted” by a £2.8million “hate-for-profit enterprise” viewed by millions online, according to new data.

 

 

Research compiled by data analytics service Bot Sentinel found the Duchess was a victim of three anti-Meghan YouTube channels. The report found together the channels had accumulated a total of 497 million views and an estimated £2.8million in revenue.

Bot Sentinel said: “It’s our opinion that several of the most well-known and active hate accounts were actively targeting journalists and royal commentators to boost their visibility and amplify their hate campaign; in some cases, they were successful.” In 2019 Meghan claimed she learned she had been one of the “most trolled people” in the world.

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Hamilton disappointment still “very deep” – Wolff

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Toto Wolff has revealed the disappointment at losing last year’s F1 drivers’ title still runs “very deep” inside Lewis Hamilton.

 

 

According to Wolff, the disillusionment felt at the time at the way the end of the grand prix in Abu Dhabi was handled by FIA race director Michael Masi remains.

With an FIA inquiry ongoing and no details due until early February as to what plans are likely to be in place for this season, and whether Masi will continue in his role, it is likely doubts around Hamilton will continue for at least another couple of weeks.

Asked in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport as to how deep the disappointment runs after losing out on the drivers’ title, Wolff said: “It’s very deep. Lewis, I and the whole team are disillusioned.

“We love this sport because it’s honest. The stopwatch never lies. But if we break the fundamental principle of fairness and the stopwatch is no longer relevant, then you doubt this sport, that all your work, blood, sweat and tears can be taken away from you.

“It’s going to take a long time to digest. I don’t think we’ll ever get over that, especially Lewis as a driver. At least we can try together with the FIA ​​to do better in the future.”

Wolff is now expecting the FIA to come up with a positive plan of action, the results of which will not be fully ratified until a World Motor Sport Council meeting on March 18, two days before the first grand prix of a record-breaking 23-race season in Bahrain.

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“I expect actions and not just words,” insisted Wolff. “In a sport that’s supposed to be a sport, we can’t freestyle like that with the set of rules.

“Before the start of the new season, there must be clarity about the rules so that every driver, team and fan knows what is allowed and what is not.

“In the end, we provide entertainment, but no decision should break the rules for the sake of the show.”

If Hamilton does return, Wolff is fully expecting him to display the qualities of a seven-time champion and take the fight to whichever driver will prove to be his main rival.

“The capacity of Lewis is often wrongly questioned,” remarked Wolff.

“Even after the events in Abu Dhabi, he immediately congratulated Max. Lewis only wants one thing – fair competition on the track. We will deliver that.”

If Hamilton does return, Wolff is fully expecting him to display the qualities of a seven-time champion and take the fight to whichever driver will prove to be his main rival.

“The capacity of Lewis is often wrongly questioned,” remarked Wolff.

“Even after the events in Abu Dhabi, he immediately congratulated Max. Lewis only wants one thing – fair competition on the track. We will deliver that.”

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