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Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages

Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence Speak to Andrea Dolfi for a few minutes, and chances are you’ll never watch another Formula 1 race in the same way again. For a start, you’ll know just what the Petronas part in reigning constructors world champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas…

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Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages

Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence

Speak to Andrea Dolfi for a few minutes, and chances are you’ll never watch another Formula 1 race in the same way again.

For a start, you’ll know just what the Petronas part in reigning constructors world champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team really stands for.

Dolfi is the head of R&D fluid technology solutions for motorsports at Malaysian oil and gas firm Petronas Lubricants International. Every time Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line first, chances are Dolfi and his team have played an important part in the victory.

The 2021 is already promising to be one of the most exciting in recent years, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas team principal, Toto Wolff, said before the recent Italian Grand Prix that Red Bull’s car arguably has the edge over his own team’s.

Dolfi shrugs off the suggestion.

“I’m not that convinced that we have such a huge gap to be closed,” he said. “I’ve seen this kind of statement from Toto many times in the past, and he does it to keep the team motivated. Overall, this is an opportunity for us to do even better, to be even more motivated.”

In fact, he welcomes the competition.

“It’s good for the sport to be honest with you, that somebody is behind our back,” Dolfi said. “I find it a very healthy situation to be in. It’s very good, we have a good season ahead.”

In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton held off the relentless pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win his record-extending 96th F1 race. In Imola, the seven-time champion somehow recovered to finish second after his race looked to be over when he spun into the gravel and hit the barrier. That he leads the drivers’ standing in a supposedly lesser car is, according to Dolfi, testament to his genius.

“The guy’s so motivated, he’s not second to any of his much, much younger colleagues,” he told Arab News ahead of Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix. “In terms of hunger, and willingness to strive for the best, he’s really an amazing performer. He’s able to compensate the gap with his talent.”

FASTFACT

In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton held off the relentless pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win his record-extending 96th F1 race.

Credit too goes to Hamilton’s team, Dolfi says, particularly to his strategist James Vowles.

“Vowles and Lewis are quite a well-established type of mini-team, they’ve known each other for a long time,” the Turin-based Italian said. “(Vowles) is bright chap, he knows his stuff. He’s shy, you don’t see much of him in the spotlight, but he’s a bright mind, strategy wise.

Dolfi has a background in chemistry and a Phd in biophysics, and his expertise goes beyond ensuring Formula 1 cars run smoothly, and very, very fast.

“Strangely enough my first career step was in a major pharmaceutical company dealing with vaccines, which are very much in fashion these days,” he said.

After working for a chemical company and living in the UK for six years, he joined Petronas in 2011. In 2018 he became head of research and development of fluid technology.

“I’ve gone through different roles but always had the responsibility of the motorsport activities as far as fluids are concerned,” Dolfi said. “We deliver five functional fluids to the Formula 1 car. The fuel, the engine lubricant, gearbox lubricant, the hydraulic lubricant which used to activate the gear shift. Last but not least is the coolant, which is a specialized coolant for batteries.”

The 2021 Formula 1 season has seen the reigning champions introduce an all-new Power Unit, the Mercedes-AMG F1 M12 E Performance; it is the work of a three-party team of engine manufacturer High Performance Powertrains (HPP), Mercedes (MGP) and Petronas.

“You have to bear in mind that the fuel is the primary source of energy. And the lubricant’s task is to deliver reliability because there is no point in running faster unless you cross the finish line,” Dolfi said. “That’s what scores the points. You have to be faster but you have to reach the end of the race and that’s what the lubricant has to deliver along with the performances.”

Most casual racing fans will be unaware of the inner workings of a Formula 1 car, and Dolfi highlights the pivotal role that oil plays in how the engine performs and what the car itself even looks like.

“It is strange, but when you think about it, how can oil impact the shape and the whole aerodynamic development of the car?” he said. “You would think those two are quite (separate), but in reality one of the key challenges for the lubricant is of course to protect the moving parts from wearing off, but it also serves as a coolant.”

Delivering a higher performance means a reduction in the surface area of the radiator; a narrower car, with less drag, leads, down the line, to more Hamilton podiums.

“So all we do is basically chase performances from our fluids without compromising reliability,” Dolfi said. “We think and rethink, Apollo 13-style, to sort out issues. It’s always going on.”

Bigger challenges lay ahead for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, and indeed Formula 1, from 2022. New regulation will require all F1 engines to be powered using E10 fuels, with the aim of reducing the CO2 footprint by 50 percent compared to 2018.

Will performance be compromised?

“I don’t think so,” Dolfi said. “Let’s put it this way, whatever you lose in terms of performance, and I’m not so sure you lose (much), you can compensate because the power unit is a very sophisticated, dynamic piece of equipment, it’s so complicated. And there’s lot that can be done to adjust.”

“The 2022 step, I don’t see any issue in terms of performance as far as we are concerned right now.”

Dolfi says that he and his team are constantly interacting with the Mercedes management team, including Wolff himself. There are monthly and quarterly meetings, and work continues throughout the winter break.

“Formula 1 is always on,” he said. “In-season, off-season, there’s no rest for us.”

And as for being dragged into the whole Formula 1 lifestyle, he is very candid, saying that race events don’t often require his presence.

“I must be honest, I don’t watch every race,” Dolfi said. “However my wife does, so I hope that counts.”

For now, the target for Dolfi and his team remains to ensure Mercedes and Hamilton retain their respective titles in 2021.

“For us it’s really a matter of pride, Dolfi said. “Petronas has been in motorsports for more than 25 years, and it is really a coronation of a journey that not so many can claim, even the established major oil and gas competitors which have been around the block for more than 100 years. Petronas is my age, from 1974. We’ve gone through a very, very good journey. We started to partner with Mercedes in 2010, moving forward from BMW who had quit Formula 1, a big renowned player. But the good thing is we are a bunch of guys who are up to the challenge.”

“It’s a good combination of motivated people, a company willing to invest, unbiased views, cross-integration and inclusiveness,” he said. “It’s a good story.”

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 of NBA playoff

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday. Kai Havertz’s first-half goal…

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 of NBA playoff

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment

DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday.

Kai Havertz’s first-half goal meant the newly crowned English champions could not complete a historic treble, but Al-Mubarak said he was “very, very proud” of what the club achieved in a difficult season.

“When you reach the Champions League final, which is the pinnacle in football and sport, I think it’s an incredible achievement,” he said. “We’ve been working hard for so many years to get to this point. It’s about building blocks, it’s about growing and achieving our targets. And to achieve targets, you’re going to miss targets. It’s part of life, it’s part of football. You win, you lose in a final, that’s football.”

Mubarak conceded that Manchester City’s involvement in the proposed European Super League was a mistake that he regretted, one that the club has learned form.

“It was a decision based on a view, which was a mistaken view, that this will improve and strengthen our position as a club,” he said. “What it missed was an important aspect which is how the fans felt about it.

“We will learn from it, I have no doubt. Our fans appreciate the heart and spirit of everything we do.”

Despite the disappointment in Porto, the season still delivered the Premier League and Carabao Cup triumphs.

“It’s been a remarkable season by any description but it’s also the culmination of years of hard work to reach a level of consistency, a level of expectation, that this club has reached now, which is a club that will compete year in, year out,” Al-Mubarak said. “You can’t win every year, but year in, year out, we’re going to be there. For 10 years in a row, we’ve been in the Champions League, no other English team has done that. Five Premier League titles in the last 10 years.”

Ten years ago, Al-Mubarak had set a target of winning five league titles in the next decade, and he now says that it wasn’t just hyperbole.

“It’s easy to say that now, but you’ve seen it happen over the last 10 years and that conviction wasn’t based on a prayer, it was based on clarity and planning, knowledge and the people we have in this club, a clear strategy and confidence in everyone to execute on it,” he said. “And then the talent. You need all of that. In a league the best team normally wins, and I think we’ve had the best team most of the time.”

“I know Sheikh Mansoor is immensely proud. His vision, going back to 2008 and what he wanted and expected over the next 10 to 12 years, has been achieved,” Al-Mubarak added. “And as we look at the next 10 years, his vision of what he hopes to achieve, I believe we are well positioned to achieve that.”

Manchester City started the 2020-21 campaign without fans and in relatively poor form, and had lost the league title to Liverpool the previous season, which for Al-Mubarak made it far more challenging one than previous years.

“It was a hybrid of two seasons because we were in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League in August, and we had no break,” he said. “There was a short period with almost no pre-season. You come back and start the news season, still in the midst of the Covid period. I remember very clearly, the Lyon loss gave us a big missing feeling. Losing the Premier League to Liverpool, in the way we lost it, then losing the Champions League, we needed to be mentally very strong to recover and come back.”

“Even at the lowest point I had no doubts that we would get it right.”

This summer club legend Sergio Aguero is leaving the Etihad for Barcelona and City’s chairman is already planning to strengthen the squad ahead of next season.

“We need to constantly bring in talent, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level, at the top,” Al-Mubarak said. “Having won the league it’s not the time to sit back and be content, that would be a big mistake. This is the time to send a message that you’re committed and bring in talent, not just for the squad but for the starting 11. We lose a legend in Sergio Aguero. Very big shoes to fill but I’m confident we will find the right player, and there are other areas of the team which need investment. Not too many, it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality.”

One thing City’s management has never wavered from is their full support for Guardiola, who has now been longer at the Etihad than at any of his other previous clubs.

“His record here, seeing his work ethic and his passion, you can’t not be confident,” said Al-Mubarak. “Another thing to note with Pep is the humanity that comes with him. He’s a very special human being. I knew he was in a tough spot, at a low point, probably back in November before he signed his contract, and I look back at our meeting when we sat together, had long discussions and really had a refresh, a realignment. I saw a man that was so disappointed, in his mind, for not delivering what he felt he needed to deliver for this club, a man who had so much hunger but felt he’d let us down.

“But he hadn’t, and that’s what I needed to make clear to him. I told Sheikh Mansoor I felt we would win the league, and I said I thought we would go far in the Champions League. I didn’t know if we were going to win it, but I thought we would go far.”

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Bahrain and UAE lead the way as Arab teams seal World Cup qualifying wins

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday. Kai Havertz’s first-half goal…

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Bahrain and UAE lead the way as Arab teams seal World Cup qualifying wins

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment

DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday.

Kai Havertz’s first-half goal meant the newly crowned English champions could not complete a historic treble, but Al-Mubarak said he was “very, very proud” of what the club achieved in a difficult season.

“When you reach the Champions League final, which is the pinnacle in football and sport, I think it’s an incredible achievement,” he said. “We’ve been working hard for so many years to get to this point. It’s about building blocks, it’s about growing and achieving our targets. And to achieve targets, you’re going to miss targets. It’s part of life, it’s part of football. You win, you lose in a final, that’s football.”

Mubarak conceded that Manchester City’s involvement in the proposed European Super League was a mistake that he regretted, one that the club has learned form.

“It was a decision based on a view, which was a mistaken view, that this will improve and strengthen our position as a club,” he said. “What it missed was an important aspect which is how the fans felt about it.

“We will learn from it, I have no doubt. Our fans appreciate the heart and spirit of everything we do.”

Despite the disappointment in Porto, the season still delivered the Premier League and Carabao Cup triumphs.

“It’s been a remarkable season by any description but it’s also the culmination of years of hard work to reach a level of consistency, a level of expectation, that this club has reached now, which is a club that will compete year in, year out,” Al-Mubarak said. “You can’t win every year, but year in, year out, we’re going to be there. For 10 years in a row, we’ve been in the Champions League, no other English team has done that. Five Premier League titles in the last 10 years.”

Ten years ago, Al-Mubarak had set a target of winning five league titles in the next decade, and he now says that it wasn’t just hyperbole.

“It’s easy to say that now, but you’ve seen it happen over the last 10 years and that conviction wasn’t based on a prayer, it was based on clarity and planning, knowledge and the people we have in this club, a clear strategy and confidence in everyone to execute on it,” he said. “And then the talent. You need all of that. In a league the best team normally wins, and I think we’ve had the best team most of the time.”

“I know Sheikh Mansoor is immensely proud. His vision, going back to 2008 and what he wanted and expected over the next 10 to 12 years, has been achieved,” Al-Mubarak added. “And as we look at the next 10 years, his vision of what he hopes to achieve, I believe we are well positioned to achieve that.”

Manchester City started the 2020-21 campaign without fans and in relatively poor form, and had lost the league title to Liverpool the previous season, which for Al-Mubarak made it far more challenging one than previous years.

“It was a hybrid of two seasons because we were in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League in August, and we had no break,” he said. “There was a short period with almost no pre-season. You come back and start the news season, still in the midst of the Covid period. I remember very clearly, the Lyon loss gave us a big missing feeling. Losing the Premier League to Liverpool, in the way we lost it, then losing the Champions League, we needed to be mentally very strong to recover and come back.”

“Even at the lowest point I had no doubts that we would get it right.”

This summer club legend Sergio Aguero is leaving the Etihad for Barcelona and City’s chairman is already planning to strengthen the squad ahead of next season.

“We need to constantly bring in talent, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level, at the top,” Al-Mubarak said. “Having won the league it’s not the time to sit back and be content, that would be a big mistake. This is the time to send a message that you’re committed and bring in talent, not just for the squad but for the starting 11. We lose a legend in Sergio Aguero. Very big shoes to fill but I’m confident we will find the right player, and there are other areas of the team which need investment. Not too many, it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality.”

One thing City’s management has never wavered from is their full support for Guardiola, who has now been longer at the Etihad than at any of his other previous clubs.

“His record here, seeing his work ethic and his passion, you can’t not be confident,” said Al-Mubarak. “Another thing to note with Pep is the humanity that comes with him. He’s a very special human being. I knew he was in a tough spot, at a low point, probably back in November before he signed his contract, and I look back at our meeting when we sat together, had long discussions and really had a refresh, a realignment. I saw a man that was so disappointed, in his mind, for not delivering what he felt he needed to deliver for this club, a man who had so much hunger but felt he’d let us down.

“But he hadn’t, and that’s what I needed to make clear to him. I told Sheikh Mansoor I felt we would win the league, and I said I thought we would go far in the Champions League. I didn’t know if we were going to win it, but I thought we would go far.”

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Sixers, Hawks advance in NBA playoffs

Leonardo Jardim looks to recreate Monaco-style success after taking over at Al-Hilal  LONDON: Al-Hilal fans have had a bewildering few months. The Riyadh giants celebrated Saudi Pro League title number 17 just last week and on Tuesday appointed their fourth coach in less than four months. In February Razvan Lucescu was dismissed after 18 months…

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Sixers, Hawks advance in NBA playoffs

Leonardo Jardim looks to recreate Monaco-style success after taking over at Al-Hilal 

LONDON: Al-Hilal fans have had a bewildering few months.

The Riyadh giants celebrated Saudi Pro League title number 17 just last week and on Tuesday appointed their fourth coach in less than four months.

In February Razvan Lucescu was dismissed after 18 months in the job and the Romanian was replaced by Rogerio Micale.

The Brazilian led the Riyadh giants through the group stage of the AFC Champions League – just – but was replaced by Jose Morais at the start of May.

A month later and there is a new man, also Portuguese, at the helm.

Leonardo Jardim has the most impressive CV out of all of them.

He will need all of his experience as he prepares to occupy one of the hottest seats in the world of football, but if he can get comfortable then this could be an interesting appointment. 

The 46-year-old, who has been handed a one-year contract with the option of an extension for a further 12 months, had been linked with a number of jobs in Europe since leaving Monaco in December 2019.

The reasons are clear as his first spell in charge of the French club was seriously impressive.

After stints in charge of Braga, Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon, he was appointed to take over at Monaco in the summer of 2014 with the club a shadow of the one that had won the French league in 2000 and reached the final of the UEFA Champions League four years later.

Despite selling influential players such as Rademal Falcao and James Rodriguez, Jardim steered Monaco to third and the quarter-finals of the Champions League in his first season.

And he won the Ligue 1 title in 2017, the first in 17 years, playing exciting football with a new group of exciting players such as Kylian Mbappe.

No doubt that this has been noted by the powers that be in Riyadh.

Here is a coach who has won major trophies in Europe and competed at the top table – but it is not just about results.

Jardim’s record in the transfer market was impressive and that bodes well as the team looks to build ahead for next season as well as the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League that are scheduled to start in September. 

Some of Hilal’s foreign contingent such as Peruvian winger Andre Carrillo, Luciano Vietto of Argentina, Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, Gustavo Cuellar of Colombia and French goal machine Bafetimbi Gomis will leave.

With Jardim’s contacts and past deal-making abilities, he has a lot to contribute in this area. 

It is not just about buying and selling players, however.

In Monaco, the coach demonstrated that he could get the most out of the players he had.

If he is afforded time, Jardim should be able to improve the existing squad and help take the players, especially the local stars, to the next level.

That would also be a major benefit for the national team and would surely be appreciated by Saudi Arabia boss Herve Renard.

Jardim played a big part in the development of Mbappe, giving the forward a debut at the age of 16, though the boss always knew he was going to lose the young star for big money to a mega club sooner rather than later.

Other talents such as Thomas Lemar of Atletico Madrid and Manchester City duo Bernando Silva and Benjamin Mendy thrived under the Venezuelan-born boss. 

At Monaco he was able to adapt his style to the players.

At the start of his first tenure, some of the football was functional and reactive but over time, as new talent such as Mbappe came in, Jardim was able to switch and Monaco became a thrilling team to watch.

In that 2016-17 title-winning season, no team in any of Europe’s big five leagues outscored the French champions. 

As it tends to do, unlikely and spectacular success attracts attention from richer clubs and after Monaco lost a number of their stars to bigger clubs, the results suffered.

Jardim may have been fired and out of work but if he had continued with such success then he would be now coaching at the top of La Liga or the English Premier League.

All in all, Jardim is a promising appointment: he is a coach who has helped develop some of the best players in the world, knows the transfer market, is tactically flexible and can also build a team if given time.

The Ligue 1 manager of the year in 2017 is coming into a club that has just won a second successive championship, and while the pressure and expectations are at a high level, so is the talent and the resources,

The most precious resource is time however.

Al-Hilal are going through a period of success but if the club and Jardim can work well together then they may be able to move to the next — and exciting — level.

 

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