Hamilton suggests boxing ring to settle Mercedes-Red Bull row

By Sports Desk June 05, 2021

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would like to see team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner don boxing gloves to settle their differences.

Hamilton and Verstappen are engaged in a title tussle in Formula One but have so far maintained pleasantries off the track in front of the media.

The same cannot be said for Mercedes chief Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Horner.

When Horner this week suggested his opposite number "keep [his] mouth shut" as the Silver Arrows struggled in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Wolff fired back that the Red Bull boss was "a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera".

For Hamilton, who qualified in second, and Verstappen, in third, the row was the source of some amusement in Baku on Saturday.

"We should get them in a ring," Hamilton offered.

Verstappen added: "Yeah, but I think the weight division is a bit of a problem. In the height, the reach...

"I mean I'm all for a ring anyway, even in Formula One – instead of penalties!"

Pressed for further comment, Verstappen said: "It's Formula One. There are a lot of stakes involved so everyone wants to win, everyone is competitive.

"I guess it's just a natural thing and it's good for people to read, right? A bit of fire behind it."

Hamilton said: "Naturally, they're the two top leaders of the teams and they've both contributed hugely to the success of both teams.

"[They are] great leaders and of course they're head to head because we are head to head in this tight battle. We generally just like to do our talking on the track, so we're just keeping our heads down."

Hamilton did just that in qualifying, although he had not anticipated such a competitive display.

The defending champion was seventh in FP1, 11th in FP2 and "still pretty much a disaster" in third in FP3.

However, Hamilton was only denied a 101st career pole by Charles Leclerc, who again profited from a late red flag – this time caused by an incident involving team-mate Carlos Sainz, having himself crashed last time out.

"Honestly, it's one of the greatest feelings for us, for the difficult experience we've gone through and being out of the top 10 all weekend and really struggling to understand and extract performance from our car," Hamilton said.

"It feels fantastic. Congratulations to Charles, who did a fantastic job given the difficult circumstances out there.

"Yeah, it's just a bit overwhelming, really happy to be up here, grateful to have got the lap in, and it puts us in for a much different race than we anticipated after yesterday."

Verstappen was less impressed by how qualifying panned out, bemoaning "all this s*** all the time happening" when the session was cut short.

With Red Bull concurrently leading both the drivers' championship and the constructors' championship for the first time since 2013, Verstappen is looking for the first back-to-back wins of his career.

Not since the Hybrid Era began in 2014 have his team had two victories in a row.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris, a distant third in the standings, will start from P9 due to a three-place grid penalty.

Norris, who has earned points at a career-best 10 consecutive races, qualified in sixth but was deemed to have continued on the track under one of the session's record-equalling four red flags.

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    Barty did see her run of holding serve ended, however, after 63 games without being broken, though it was a minor blip in another convincing win. 

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    Asked what was key to her dominant form, Barty said: "I think the most important thing is I just try to be me, continue to be me, that's all I can do.

    "That's what I’m good at, that's who I and who I want to be."

    Her comments were well received by the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, and Barty is delighted to be playing in front of spectators once again.

    "The last two years have been extraordinarily tough for a lot of people around the world," she said.

    "To have the crowd here, it brings a lot more to the tennis. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to play at home."

    Barty struck seven aces and registered a first-serve percentage of 78, while also hitting 23 winners and making exactly half the amount of unforced errors as Anisimova (17 to 34).

    "Amanda is an incredible athlete and incredible competitor. It's nice to see her back playing her best tennis," Barty continued.

    "I enjoyed sharing the court with her and testing myself against her. It was nice to be able to hold firm tonight."

    Asked in a post-match news conference about dropping serve for the first time in eight matches, Barty replied: "It didn't bother me too much.

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    "That's the chess game that we play. You go out there and have fun with it, see who can execute better on the day, and that's about all there is to it."

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    Ash Barty's dominant form at the Australian Open continued as the world number one saw off Amanda Anisimova to reach the quarter-finals.

    Anisimova shocked 2021 champion Naomi Osaka in the last round but the in-form Barty proved a step too far on Sunday.

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    DATA SLAM: BARTY'S HOLD STREAK OVER

    There was one negative for Barty, who failed to hold serve for the first time in 63 games when she was broken in the second set. However, the Queenslander responded to that streak ending with a display of her title-winning quality to reach a fourth successive Australian Open quarter-final.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 23/17
    Anisimova – 20/34

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 7/3
    Anisimova – 4/1

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 4/11
    Anisimova – 1/5

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