F1 accused of ‘turning blind eye’ over activist’s jailing in Bahrain

• F1 says imprisonment ‘had nothing to do with peaceful protest’
• Najah Yousif jailed after criticising Bahrain GP in 2017

Formula One has been accused of “looking the other way” by human rights groups in the case of an activist who was beaten, sexually abused and jailed for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Najah Yusuf, who was imprisoned after a series of Facebook posts in April 2017 that were critical of the race and the regime, has not been allowed to see her family for six months. Initially, as the Guardian revealed in November, Formula One admitted to having “concerns” about Yusuf’s case. However, in a letter to Human Rights Watch and the Bahraini Institute of Rights and Democracy (Bird) on Monday, it said it had been assured Ms Yusuf’s conviction “had nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahrain grand prix”.

Related: F1 finally admits concern over woman jailed for Bahrain Grand Prix protests

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Source: Formula 1

Only one conclusion to draw from F1 2019 testing: advantage Ferrari | Giles Richards

Ferrari lead the field, Red Bull-Honda are showing promise and the midfield scrap looks set to be even more hotly contested

That Ferrari have a good, potentially great, car this year was clear by the end of the first day of testing when Sebastian Vettel was positively purring at how the SF90 had performed. By the end of day eight, his optimism had been entirely justified and they must be considered favourites going into the first race in Melbourne on 17 March. Definitive judgments from testing are dangerous but the Scuderia’s form is impossible to ignore. Vettel set the fastest lap, with a time of 1min 16.221sec. They completed 997 laps in total, second only to Mercedes, while their engines look rock solid, with 2,790 laps (8,069 miles) from across the grid – the highest of any power unit. The car looks supremely well balanced, has great grip, is planted out of the corners and handles with ease. Crucially, where it really counts in comparable race simulations – where Mercedes had the edge this time last year – Ferrari were quicker. They are playing it down of course, but the spring in Vettel’s step is justified.

Related: McLaren have set the stage for Fernando Alonso’s F1 encore | Giles Richards

Related: Mercedes enjoy constructive winter but Williams sleep through alarm | Richard Williams

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Source: Formula 1

McLaren have set the stage for Fernando Alonso’s F1 encore | Giles Richards

Spaniard returns to his old team, initially with only mentoring duties, as he continues his pursuit of the triple crown

The irrepressible Fernando Alonso’s farewell to Formula One at the end of last season may not have been the final curtain.

McLaren are testing in Barcelona and they revealed on Wednesday that the 37-year-old will now be an ambassador for the team and test their F1 cars over the next two years. Having the two-times world champion in their set-up is a boon while they rebuild with two far less experienced drivers but crucially it also ensures the Spaniard remains at the heart of McLaren and keeps his hand in should he make a return to F1 in 2021.

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Source: Formula 1

Hakeem al-Araibi: thank you Australia for bringing me home – but my fight is not over

Bahrain will do anything to hunt down dissident athletes and their families. International sporting bodies must step up to protect the helpless

I can never truly express my gratitude to you all, the Australian people, for bringing me home. There were countless dark moments over the 76 days of my detention, when my future looked nothing but bleak. The prospect of never seeing my wife, family or friends again became too close to reality.

The moment I was reunited with my loved ones, hundreds of supporters made it to the airport to give me a warm welcome that went far beyond my imagination. It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Related: ‘Big surprise’: Hakeem al-Araibi feels the love as he returns to football club

Related: Privileged sport officials willing to sacrifice Hakeem al-Araibi’s life should be expunged | Craig Foster

Related: Hakeem al-Araibi case: Bahrain is emboldened to take human rights abuse beyond its borders | Aya Majzoub

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Source: Formula 1

Charles Leclerc sets out stall to challenge Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari’s No 1

• Monaco-born driver hopes to change order in second season
• ‘I am already quite at ease. The feeling is very good’

Charles Leclerc, who is making his debut for Ferrari this year, has said he would like to present the team with the “problem” of challenging his teammate Sebastian Vettel from the off.

The Monaco-born driver, 21, is in his second season in F1 and has still yet to win a race but is optimistic he can take the fight to the four-time champion.

Related: Claire Williams denies team in crisis but admits to testing embarrassment

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Source: Formula 1

Claire Williams denies team in crisis but admits to testing embarrassment

• Williams finally get car on to track, two days late
• Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari look very strong

The Williams deputy principal, Claire Williams, has said her team’s failure to run a car in Formula One testing for the opening two and half days was an embarrassment unparalleled in their 40-year history. Williams finally put their car on track here on Wednesday afternoon with the British rookie George Russell at the wheel but he completed only 23 laps. Claire Williams denied the team were in crisis, despite increased speculation that the fault lay with the technical director, Paddy Lowe.

Related: Toto Wolff says no-deal Brexit would be ‘mother of all messes’ for F1 teams in UK

Related: British driver Lando Norris makes a fast start on F1 track bow for McLaren

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Source: Formula 1

British driver Lando Norris makes a fast start on F1 track bow for McLaren

• 19-year-old’s time in testing is second only to Charles Leclerc
• Lewis Hamilton completes 74 laps and is 10th-fastest

Lando Norris, who took to the track for the first time as a Formula One driver in testing on Tuesday, capped a strong performance by setting the second-fastest time. The 19-year-old McLaren driver will be the youngest British driver to take part in F1 when he makes his debut at the Australian Grand Prix in March and has made a controlled and confident start to his new career.

Norris has already shown promise and he was able to exploit McLaren making a far stronger start in testing than they have in the previous four years. His time, set in the last hour of a day during which he completed an impressive 104 laps, was just over three-tenths down on Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, who led the timesheets throughout.

Related: Mercedes enjoy constructive winter but Williams sleep through alarm | Richard Williams

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Source: Formula 1

Mercedes enjoy constructive winter but Williams sleep through alarm | Richard Williams

Formula One has come out of hibernation with some teams looking in better shape than others and questions over marketing activities

A few days ago a man called James Allison made Formula One feel like something other than a lost cause. In a short promotional film the technical director of the Mercedes team – the winner of the last five world championships – explained what it takes to create and build a new grand prix car. His enthusiasm dispelled a lot of the scepticism surrounding the sport’s future.

Allison made a compelling argument that F1’s core activity has not really changed over the decades. What his colleagues were doing over the winter as they assembled the new W10, which made its debut in the first day of testing in Barcelona this week in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, was essentially the same as their earliest predecessors were doing more than 100 years ago.

Related: Toto Wolff says no-deal Brexit would be ‘mother of all messes’ for F1 teams in UK

Related: F1 2019: A look at the cars for the new season

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Source: Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel backs Ferrari’s ‘extreme’ design in bid for F1 title

• Four-times F1 champion ‘really excited’ by Ferrari’s new car
• Mattia Binotto says team ‘tried to be as extreme as we could’

Sebastian Vettel is confident Ferrari have the car to mount a strong fight for the Formula One title . The team unveiled the SF90 at Marenello on Friday as they attempt to end more than a decade without winning F1, with the team principal, Mattia Binotto, describing the design as an “evolution” pushed to be “extreme”.

The car is named to recognise the 90 years since Enzo Ferrari established the Scuderia at Modena in 1929. Since then they have competed in every F1 championship and are the most successful team in the sport. However they have not won the drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen’s victory in 2007 and the constructors’ since 2008. Last season their challenge fell away as Vettel made mistakes and the team failed to match the development of Mercedes.

Related: Will Mattia Binotto reinvigorate unruly Ferrari’s F1 fortunes? | Giles Richards

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Source: Formula 1

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