Month: June 2019

Red Bull urge Renault to take risks in write-off season

Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh in the Spanish Grand Prix while Russian Daniil Kvyat was 10th but both were lapped.

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The performance gap with Mercedes also appeared to have widened, even if all of the Renault-engined cars finished the race for a change.

“I think it is a positive that we got four engines to the finish without any white smoke, so it’s a step forward from where we have been in previous races,” said team principal Christian Horner.

“Reliability seems to have been a step forward, so the focus desperately needs to turn to performance before too long.”

Horner said Renault knew what the deficit was to Mercedes but were nervous about pushing too hard and compromising reliability.

The Briton said it could be the second half of the year before any significant developments emerged and the team, who won four drivers’ and constructors’ championships in a row with Renault until last year, wanted that to speed up.

“I think we are so far on the back foot with reliability anyway that, to be honest with you, this year is pretty much a write-off. You have just got to go for it, even if you end up using 20 engines,” said Horner.

“It would be better to learn and make progress in preparation for next year than be conservative. It is far easier to make a fast engine reliable than it is to make a reliable car fast. Our philosophy has always been to push performance.

“It is not enjoyable being in a grand prix like today when you are just going around, you’re not really racing,” he added. “The determination is to get back. The frustration we have is that not all of it is in our hands.”

Asked whether he was also writing off Red Bull’s chances of winning a race this season, Horner indicated that was not something he was even thinking about.

“I think we are nowhere near winning a grand prix,” he said. “You could see we got lapped today. It’s better to focus on getting performance because we are on the back foot anyway.

“You’ve got nothing to lose by throwing caution to the wind.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

Liverpool’s shortcomings see top four hopes fade away

Liverpool went behind after five minutes at Stamford Bridge when John Terry headed Chelsea in front but Steven Gerrard grabbed an equaliser when he nodded home just before halftime.

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Brendan Rodgers’ men huffed and puffed in search of a winner to close the gap on fourth-placed Manchester United, who won 2-1 at Crystal Palace on Saturday, but had to settle for a point.

With two games remaining, Liverpool have 62 points from 36 matches, six behind Louis van Gaal’s United who also boast a better goal difference (+25 to +11).

“I think we got off to an awful start. A disappointing goal from our perspective,” Rodgers told Sky Sports.

“We got ourselves back into the game, a good header from Stevie, and I thought in the second half we were outstanding, we just lacked that bit of quality in the final third.

“It’s happened too much this season. We’ve started games poorly and we’ve been punished for it.”

Liverpool scored 101 Premier League goals last term, with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez netting 52 between them to help the Merseysiders finish runners-up to Manchester City.

However, Rodgers could not find a suitable replacement for Suarez following his move to Barcelona, while Sturridge has missed large parts of the season with persistent injuries.

Fellow forwards Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini have all been below par at Anfield as Liverpool failed to build on last season’s success.

Captain and talisman Gerrard will join LA Galaxy at the end of the season and the 34-year-old former England skipper said the club must bolster their ranks with new signings.

“We’ve shown we’ve come up a bit short. I think it’s important the lads get some rest, the owners try and dig deep and help Brendan out,” Gerrard told Sky Sports.

“There’s a great core of players here. This league is getting more and more difficult every year. We lost Suarez, we haven’t had Daniel Sturridge, it’s been tough.”

Rodgers agreed his squad lacks strength in depth.

“We are missing three in Suarez, Sturridge and young John Flanagan,” he told the BBC.

“The players we have had have given everything but we are fifth and that’s probably where we are at the moment.”

(Reporting By Michael Hann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Rosberg turns the tide with Spanish win

Hamilton, who had won three of the first four grand prixs, had lost the battle for pole position and a slow getaway from the front row left the Briton playing catch-up all race.

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Hamilton tried his best, clawing back second place from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, but Rosberg remained well out of reach and took the chequered flag 17.5 seconds clear of his title rival.

“It was a perfect weekend. Everything worked out: the car was great, nailed the setup for the race, for qualifying. Everything came together,” Rosberg told reporters after the ninth win of his Formula One career and third Mercedes one-two of the season.

“That still we are dominating in such a way is fantastic to see,” he added.

Hamilton now has 111 points to Rosberg’s 91, with 14 races remaining and Monaco — where the German has won for the past two years — next up.

After parking his car alongside Rosberg’s, Hamilton shook the German’s hand and patted him on the back in recognition of a job well done.

His race engineer had told the champion, who made three stops to Rosberg’s two after losing time with a slow first one, to resign himself in the closing laps on a circuit where overtaking is famously difficult.

“I don’t think it would be possible with the remaining laps, we’d be better just looking after this one, let him have it (the victory),” Hamilton was told.

“Is it impossible?,” the Briton replied, with the engineer’s reply confirming that there was no hope: “He is going to respond if we pick the pace up. It would be impossible.”

Hamilton agreed that it had been a simple case of damage limitation.

“I had quite a poor start, it’s been quite a time since I had such a bad start,” he added.

WRITE-OFF

Vettel, who had seized second place into the first corner, was happy to finish third but frustrated to see Mercedes still so far away.

“I’m not happy with the gap (to the front), not happy at all,” said the four-times world champion despite his fourth podium appearance of the year.

The victory was Rosberg’s first since Brazil in November and made him the ninth different winner in the last nine years at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen found himself in a Williams sandwich, finishing fifth behind fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas and ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh but lapped for Red Bull, with team principal Christian Horner effectively writing off the season for the former champions thanks to ongoing problems with the Renault engine’s reliability and performance.

“I think we are nowhere near winning a grand prix,” added Horner.

Romain Grosjean was eighth for Lotus, while team mate Pastor Maldonado retired with a broken rear wing, and Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz scored points at home with ninth place for Toro Rosso.

The final point went to Red Bull’s Russian Daniil Kvyat, who was cleared by stewards for a defensive move on Sainz.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who had hoped for his team’s first points of the year, retired after 28 laps with a brake problem that caused him to overshoot his pitstop as the jack mechanic leapt out of the way.

His team mate Jenson Button finished but said the race ranked among the scariest of his career and questioned whether McLaren would score this season.

“The first 30 laps…were the scariest laps of my life,” he declared.

Alonso’s lack of success with his new team, after five years at Ferrari, and the economic situation in Spain were blamed for empty seats earlier in the weekend but organisers said 86,700 turned up on Sunday.

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

Murray stuns clay king Nadal to win Madrid Masters

Following up his debut triumph on the red dust on Monday in Munich, Murray denied Nadal a third straight triumph in the Spanish capital — and record fifth overall — and raised fresh doubts over the Spaniard’s form heading into the French Open.

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The Briton’s strong performances this week suggest he may be a real contender in Paris, when holder Nadal, who has struggled for consistency since returning from injury and illness, will be bidding for a record-extending 10th Roland Garros crown.

“To play Rafa in Spain is extremely tough and this is the reason why we play tennis for these matches,” Murray said after receiving the trophy from Spain’s Queen Sofia.

“It’s one of the toughest things in tennis to try to beat Rafa on clay,” added the 27-year-old.

“I’ll keep trying to play well over the next few weeks with Roland Garros just around the corner.”

Murray had never beaten third-seeded Nadal on clay in six attempts but raced into a 3-0 lead at the futuristic magic box arena and fended off three break points to close out the set.

The world number three broke Nadal twice more to open a 4-0 lead in the second and finished him off on his first match point when the Mallorcan sent a weak forehand return into the net.

Nadal, 28, congratulated Murray for a “great season” and said he would try to keep working back to top form at this week’s Rome Masters before heading to the French capital.

“Obviously, this wasn’t the match I wanted or expected to play today,” Nadal said.

“Although it’s not nice to end it like this, it has been a very important week for me, very positive, in which I rediscovered sensations I had not had on a tennis court for a long time,” he added.

It was Murray’s 10th Masters crown and 33rd career title, while Nadal missed out on a record-extending 28th Masters and 66th title overall.

Nadal needed a win to stay fourth in the world rankings and he will drop to seven when they are updated, putting him outside the top five for the first time in a decade.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Maurice Newman – mad, bad or sad?

Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

AAP/Julian Smith

Having a platform, albeit a modest one, from which to try and catch the world’s attention is a great privilege.

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The number of competing voices in the blogosphere means that the size of the audience is often far smaller than one might like. In this regard, newspapers are still in the ascendant and writing for them has a good deal more impact. No-one demonstrates this possibility more vividly, perhaps, than Maurice Newman.

One thing Newman is not short of is opinions, and very consistent ones at that. But as I never tire of telling students, having an opinion is one thing; having a decent argument that is actually supported by some relevant evidence is quite another. Clearly there’s a case for speculative and provocative op-eds that don’t necessarily pass the fact-check test, but that doesn’t mean that such facts should be wilfully ignored.

What makes Newman’s views so noteworthy is not just their predictability and consistency, but that they are so dramatically and wilfully at odds with the prevailing scientific consensus in the area about which he claims to speak with authority. This is not the place to rehearse the well-known debates about climate change, but to point out that this is grist to the mill for the conspiracy theorists on the other side of the debate.

The fact is, as Robert Manne among others has pointed out, that the Murdoch press generally and The Australian in particular really do give a lot of space to climate contrarians, sceptics and outright denialists, such as Newman.

I don’t have any problem with a range of opinions being offered on contentious subjects, but it is hard not to conclude that Newman’s highly contentious, regularly repeated views are received sympathetically at The Australian because they are ideologically compatible with that paper’s pro-business, pro-development agenda, and its owner’s own sceptical views.

What gives Newman’s views additional weight and credibility for some is that he is chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council – something he never fails to include on his byline. Even if Newman’s views were simply confined to his relentless criticisms of the science of climate change, one might have thought this would have made him a rather embarrassing advisor for Tony Abbott. Now that Newman has embraced some of the more paranoid and/or laughable conspiracy theories about the United Nations, it is surely time for Abbott to disown him.

Newman’s latest in a long line of op-eds for The Australian claimed that Christina Figueres, a senior UN climate change official, is part of an authoritarian conspiracy to shut down the fossil fuel industry:

… the real agenda is concentrated political authority. Global warming is the hook … This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN. It is opposed to capitalism and freedom and has made environmental catastrophism a household topic to achieve its objective … In her authoritarian world there will be no room for debate or disagreement. Make no mistake, climate change is a must-win battlefield for authoritarians and fellow travelers.

This might be amusing if we read this on one of the many anti-UN, anti-climate change mitigation websites that proliferate and peddle delusional nonsense about powerful figures conspiring to impose a new world order. But when we read this in our only “serious” national newspaper then it rather ironically becomes easier to sympathise with Newman’s conspiracy theories – although not quite as he imagines them.

In Newman’s reading of the new world order it is the environmentalists who are in the ascendancy, of course, ably assisted by “compliant academics and an obedient and gullible mainstream media”. If only. Even the most cursory survey of the contemporary world serves as a reminder of the difficulty of achieving any kind of national, let alone international collective action on climate mitigation and much else besides.

In reality, chaos and disorder, not centralised authoritarian rule, are becoming more common. Sadly, the UN is most noteworthy for its inability to influence anything of importance. Capitalism remains the ascendant, unchallenged economic system, despite very real doubts about its compatibility – as currently configured, at least – with anything like a sustainable environment.

Maurice, your side is winning – more’s the pity.

It begs the question of what motivates Maurice? Does he have children, grandchildren? Just on the off-chance that the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists, the UN, and all of those limp-wristed liberals and greenies aren’t involved in an elaborate conspiracy to shut down capitalism, wouldn’t it be a good idea to at least consider the possibility that there actually might be something in all this climate change stuff?

You may not be around for much longer Maurice, but your offspring will. Being confident about your opinions doesn’t inevitably make them right. It is just possible that people who have dedicated their lives to understanding the climate rather than making money might know a bit more about it than you do.

Given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of understanding much less addressing the problem of a changing environment, a little intellectual humility all round might not be a bad thing.