Hamilton apologises to fans

Lewis Hamilton has apologised to his fans after another error dropped the Mercedes driver down to sixth on the grid for the British Grand Prix.


Having already thrown away potential pole positions in the previous two races in Canada and Austria, the 2008 world champion looked on course to claim top spot at his home grand prix, only to slow on his final run and lose out to team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton set the pace earlier in the final qualifying session but misjudged how quickly the circuit would dry out after a number of showers throughout the day and Rosberg stormed to pole – leaving the Brit once again ruing a missed opportunity to start from the front.

“I made a mistake today and pulled out of the lap when I should have kept going,” he conceded.

“It was a tough qualifying with the changing conditions and we got through most of it really well, until the most important part. It was my decision, a bad call, and that decided my qualifying.

“I’m so sorry to have disappointed the fans here today as their support has been fantastic and I’ll do what I can to have a great race for them tomorrow.”

Having started ninth in Austria after mistakes on both of his runs in Q3, Hamilton was fourth by the end of the opening lap and he is now aiming to repeat such a feat when the lights go out at Silverstone on Sunday.

“I need to have a start like I had in Austria two weeks ago and then do my best to get back to the front; you never know what might happen,” he added.

“It’s difficult when you’re just out of the car to express your emotions and see the positive but I’ll go back to the team and my family now and we’ll build up for tomorrow from there.”

Meanwhile, Sir Jackie Stewart believes Hamilton’s mistakes show he is starting to crack psychologically.

“He is a hugely-talented driver, his natural talent is very high, but his head certainly seems to have gone a bit,” said Stewart.

“The single most important thing, after God has given you the talent of being a racing driver, is mind management.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are in the car, how much natural talent you have, it’s has to be managed.”

Dutch scrape into WC semis after shoot-out

Super-sub goalkeeper Tim Krul was the hero as the Netherlands ended their penalty shoot-out jinx to beat Costa Rica and set up a World Cup semi-final showdown with Argentina.


Dutch coach Louis van Gaal stunned onlookers at Salvador’s Fonte Nova Arena by bringing on Krul to replace Jasper Cillessen in the final seconds of extra-time after 120 minutes had finished deadlocked at 0-0.

But van Gaal’s audacious move to introduce Krul paid dividends as the Newcastle keeper saved Costa Rican penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send the Dutch through into a last four meeting with Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).

Holland had won only one penalty shoot-out in five previous attempts at major championships.

But penalty takers Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all made no mistake from the spot to beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Van Gaal later said the move to switch keepers was pre-planned, saying he believed Krul would have a better chance of success in a shoot-out.

“Every keeper has specific qualities and we felt that he had a better reach, and a better track record to stop penalties,” he said.

“We’d discussed it with Tim, how Costa Rica would shoot their penalties, their sequence. So he was prepared.

“Fortunately it worked out because if it hadn’t worked out I would have taken the wrong decision.

“That’s usually how it works out in football.”

Saturday’s (Sunday AEST) shoot-out drama came after a gritty duel which saw the Netherlands dominate for long periods without being able to score.

Sneijder came closest, twice hitting the woodwork in normal and extra-time.

The win means the Netherlands are set for another chapter of their World Cup rivalry with Argentina, which includes the 1978 final won by the South Americans.

Argentina advanced to the semi-final for the first time in 24 years after a Gonzalo Higuain strike secured a 1-0 win over Belgium.

Napoli striker Higuain lashed in an instinctive first time shot after eight minutes as Belgium’s hopes of qualifying for the last four wilted in Brasilia.

Argentina’s win snapped a run of two successive World Cup quarter-final exits following failures against Germany in 2006 and 2010.

It is the first time the South Americans have qualified for the last four since the 1990 finals in Italy.

“We produced a very complete match. We weren’t able to create that many chances, but they didn’t make that many clear chances either,” Argentina captain Lionel Messi said.

Argentina have now won all five of their matches at the tournament, but they laboured in the group phase and were criticised for a lacklustre display in their 1-0 victory over Switzerland in the last 16.

Beaten coach Marc Wilmots dismissively branded Argentina “an ordinary team with one extraordinary player” after the game, but Messi appeared similarly unimpressed with Belgium.

“All they had were long-range shots,” he said.

“They have a lot of tall players, but couldn’t do anything with them. We didn’t give them space. The most important thing here is that we won and we got through.”

A hard-fought contest at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium was settled in the opening skirmishes.

A ball from Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria deflected off Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen and fell invitingly into the path of Higuain, who rifled a shot past Thibaut Courtois.

The win keeps Argentina on course for a possible dream final against hosts Brazil at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13 (July 14 AEST).

Kittel wins Tour opening stage again

Mark Cavendish crashed badly in the sprint finish as Marcel Kittel won the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday to take the race leader’s yellow jersey.


Cavendish appeared to be in pole position for a chaotic final sprint until he made contact with Australian champion Simon Gerrans and both came crashing down.

The 29-year-old Briton, who was hoping to win the 190.5km first stage from Leeds to Harrogate, where his mother was born, came down hard on his shoulder.

He was taken to hospital where scans and x-rays confirmed a dislocation of the collarbone.

His OPQS team manager Patrick Lefevere had earlier said he would carry on racing as long as there was no break.

“Mark had lived this sprint in his mind at least 100 times before. He was so focused, he wanted to win so badly,” said Lefevere.

Kittel, who also won last year’s opening stage, said: “I feel sorry for Mark Cavendish and I wish him all the best.

“It was so hard. The hill in the last kilometre made it very difficult to win. There were so many people that we rode the finale like in a tunnel with a terrible noise. It’s unbelievable that I win stage one again.”

Slovak three-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan finished second with Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania third.

Such was the hectic nature of the sprint that Tour favourite and reigning champion Chris Froome, not known for his acceleration on the flat, came in sixth, expertly avoiding the trouble.

His main rival, Spaniard two-time previous winner Alberto Contador said it was a relief to get through.

“It was a very nervous day, I’m happy not to have suffered any accidents and to have overcome the stage,” said the 31-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider.

German Kittel confirmed his status as top sprinter following four sprint stage victories last year at the Grand Boucle.

Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, presided over an official opening ceremony to the greatest bike race in the world at Harewood House just outside Leeds.

Prince Harry was also there as the Red Arrows flew overhead and a band played the French and British national anthems before the Duchess cut the official ribbon to give the ceremonial start.

Once the actual stage started 3km further down the road, three riders attacked and formed the breakaway of the day.

The oldest man in the peloton, 42-year-old German Jens Voigt was among them but, after being easily outsprinted by French escape companions Benoit Jarrier and Nicolas Edet on the first categorised climb, the Trek rider decided to go it alone.

He broke away just before the single intermediate sprint of the day with still 113km to ride.

At one point with, around 100km left, he had a lead of over five minutes on the peloton.

Voigt, who was equalling the all-time record of 17 Tour appearances, had no delusions about winning the stage but wanted merely to crest the next two categorised climbs ahead of the rest to ensure he would wear this Tour’s first polkadot jersey for the king of the mountains.

Sunday’s hilly 201km second stage is from York to Sheffield.