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Exclusive: F1 pitches up in Azerbaijan with Sergio Perez out to promote title credentials

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Sergio Perez F1 Monaco Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Red Bull Racing’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez celebrates with champagne after winning the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Monaco street circuit in Monaco, on May 29, 2022. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Sergio Perez has fond memories of last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and this weekend the Mexican finds himself returning to the fast and furious streets of Baku as a viable contender for the world championship.

‘Checo’ arrives on the Caspian Sea coastline fresh from his Monaco triumph and with the ink barely dry on a two-year extension to his Red Bull contract.

Monaco, following three second-place finishes, lifted Mexico’s most successful F1 driver to within 15 points of his world champion teammate Max Verstappen.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is only six points in front of Perez heading into this eighth round of the 22-race season which welcomes back fans for the first time since the COVID pandemic.

“He’s in this championship just as much as Max is,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner stated in the aftermath of Perez’s third career win after Azerbaijan in 2021 and in Bahrain the season before.

Perez was helped in Monaco by his team’s pit stop prowess with Ferrari bungling theirs but Horner warned the Italian constructor’s faster car will be hard to stop “over the coming races”.

Baku has a reputation for serving up the unexpected, with cars hurtling down the Neftchilar Avenue, the longest straight on the calendar, at 350kmh, before snaking through the sinuous old town framed by Baku’s medieval city walls.

Its unpredictable nature is borne out by the results, with a different driver winning each edition since Nico Rosberg won the first Grand Prix held there, the European, in 2016.

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Verstappen readily concedes it’s not one of his favorite weekend destinations after last year’s dramatic tire blow out with the chequered flag his for the taking continuing his sorry sequence of never making the podium.

The Dutchman had to settle for third in Monaco but still came away satisfied at extending his title lead over Leclerc, who judged his home race as “a freaking disaster” after starting from pole to finish fourth.

The man from Monaco has seen the title momentum he established with wins in Bahrain and Australia disappear with Red Bull on a five-timer after annexing the last four races.

 Dominating

Charles Leclerc F1 Spanish Grand Prix

FILE– Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. REUTERS/Albert Gea

“Everything went against us…we’ll come back stronger,” said Leclerc, that sentiment echoed by his team boss.

“We are pretty aware: being competitive is a fact; winning is another task and it’s another level of difficulty. And I think as a team we are still progressing, learning, and maybe it will take some more time,” said Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto.

While Red Bull and Ferrari are dominating the early season limelight Mercedes has struggled to unleash the full potential of their car.

Upgrades in Barcelona last month looked encouraging as Toto Wolff’s under pressure team sought to iron out the ‘bouncing’ that has bedeviled their performance.

The Silver Arrows’ undoubted speed should make deposed seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his astute new teammate George Russell a force to be reckoned with in qualifying.

But it is perhaps wishful thinking to suggest they are in a position to add to their three wins from the five races held here on Sunday just yet.

Aside from Perez last year the other that escaped the mighty German manufacturer was in 2017, when Daniel Ricciardo won for Red Bull from 10th on the grid.

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The Australian’s trademark smile has been tested this term as he struggles to make a mark in his McLaren, collecting only 11 points to 48 for his teammate Lando Norris.

At Monaco he more or less agreed with team boss Zak Brown that so far his move to the team had failed to meet expectations.

“No one’s going to be harder on me than myself,” he said.

“I know that I don’t want to be racing around in 10th, 12th places.

“I still believe I can be at the front and belong at the front, so it’s been a little bit more, certainly, testing at times, in terms of us trying to get up there and maximise myself in this car.

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Exclusive: QLD champion's ominous call as decider looms – TalkOfNews.com

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As New South Wales prepares to cop the full force of a chaotic and parochial Suncorp Stadium crowd, Darren Lockyer has declared the home fans give Queensland “a 12-point advantage”.

It’s an ominous statement for the Blues to mull over as they plot to become just the third NSW team in history to win a State of Origin decider at the Brisbane venue.

The Blues will be out to replicate the feats of the 1994 team, coached by Phil Gould, and the 2005 side mentored by Ricky Stuart, when they do battle with the Maroons next Wednesday night.

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“They definitely give you energy, but you’ve got to get them excited, and that means you’ve got to play well and you’ve got to come out there with intensity, be physical and get the crowd into it,” Lockyer said on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.

“I’ve seen over the years where if you can get one try and the crowd gets really pumped you might get a couple straight after.

“While it has that really good effect on the Queenslanders, it can become intimidating for the Blues, too.

“It’s the best experience we’ve got in this country, I reckon, to have a decider at Suncorp.

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QLD greats describe the Suncorp Stadium effect: QLDER – Round 16

“I always remembered pre-game the thing about my job in my five minutes, but then I couldn’t wait to get that roar when you run out. It just puts goosebumps on the back of your neck. Then singing the national anthem with them. It’s a good five minutes of your career when you run out and then sing the anthem.”

Watch State of Origin exclusive, live and free on Channel 9 and 9Now.

Wally Lewis said charging up the race to the cheers of a Lang Park crowd made him feel “10 feet tall and bullet-proof”.

Felise Kaufusi won’t be wearing a Queensland jumper as the Maroons aim to steal back the Origin shield, after the Melbourne back-rower made a dash to the US to be with his ill father.

Queensland selector Lockyer said Kaufusi’s omission was “huge” but the Maroons had faith in his replacement — boom Cowboys youngster Jeremiah Nanai.

The 19-year-old, who’s stamped himself as a try-scoring freak with North Queensland this season, was catapulted off the bench in games one and two.

Slater highlights Nanai’s injection of ‘difference’

“I think the four-men (players who defend four players wide of the ruck), which is where Kaufusi plays, are probably the most important players in the defensive line, because they communicate to the middle guys who have got a big job to do and they have to work under a lot of fatigue at times,” Lockyer said.

“Then they have to work with their edges and talk to their halves and their centres a lot. So, it’s a big loss.

“But we’ve got to have some belief in Nanai because I think he’s a talent. The positive thing is he’s coming out of a club where the Cowboys have a really good defensive system, they have really good habits. It’s now to step it up to another level for Jeremiah. I’m confident he can do the job.”

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Exclusive: Racing Tips: Andrew Mount’s Wednesday Picks – July 6th – TalkOfNews.com

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Leading horse racing advisor Andrew Mount’s is a contributor to the Racing Post, Racing Post Weekender, Racing & Football Outlook, the GG.co.uk website and a regular pundit on William Hill radio. Andrew uses stats and systems to find value bets and shares his latest thoughts below…

Andrew found Brighton winner IDEAL GUEST on Tuesday and has four selections at Lingfield, Catterick and Kempton on Wednesday, July 6th. Follow his tips this week and all year round on horse racing betting sites with the lowdown on his latest picks below:

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LINGFIELD 2.30

ROYAL MARINER (system – James Tate, nurseries, recent run)

James Tate has a 31 from 118 record (26.3% strike-rate) with his nursery runners who had the benefit of a recent outing (1-28 days ago) and backing them all would have returned a profit of £28.79 to a £1 level stake at SP. ROYAL MARINER looks a likely improver now fitted with a first-time visor for his all-weather/handicap debut.

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CATTERICK 3.50

MOONLIT WARRIOR (system – Michael Bell, Catterick)

Newmarket-based Michael Bell has a solid record with his runners at Catterick, scoring with 18 of the 55 qualifiers since 2013 (32.7% strike-rate) for a profit of £26.68. MOONLIT WARRIOR, well drawn in stall 3, has form figures in handicaps of 1122 (2-4) and looks set to encounter the required strong pace. The step up to 2m for the first time will also suit.

 

KEMPTON 5.45

DEBATER (system – No Nay Never, Kempton)

Progeny of the sire No Nay Never have a good record at Kempton, landing 15 of their 97 starts for a profit of £17.75 to the usual £1 stake. The juveniles and three-year-olds have a combined record of 13 from 75 (+£29.75), with those drawn in stall 6 or lower winning 11 from 47 for a profit of £46.25. Hugo Palmer’s two-year-old DEBATER, handily drawn in stall 4, was sent off as the 5-2 favourite when only fourth at Nottingham on last month’s debut but could benefit from the switch to Polytrack. WINNARETTA also qualifies on the young progeny of No Nay Never/draw angle in this race, as does LADY VALENTINE in the 7.20.

 

KEMPTON 7.50

FLINTSTONE (system – Richard Hannon, second run since gelded)

FLINTSTONE could only finish a modest third at Leicester on his reappearance last month but that was also his first start since gelded and the run was probably needed. Since the beginning of 2018, Richard Hannon has a 22 from 87 record with horses having their second run after gelding for a profit of £62.20. Only two of those wore first-time blinkers, as Flintstone does today, with one winning at 16-1 and the other finishing fourth at 9-1.

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Other Horse Racing Tips
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Frankie Dettori To Ride Emily Upjohn In 2022 Irish Oaks

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Exclusive: Wallaby learns fate for headbutt brain explosion – TalkOfNews.com

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Wallabies lock Darcy Swain has copped a two game ban for his headbutt of England rival Jonny Hill in the opening Test in Perth on Saturday.

Swain, who was sent off in Australia’s 30-28 win, will therefore miss the rest of the three Test series as the Wallabies look to claim the inaugural Ella-Mobbs Trophy.

Swain admitted that he committed an act of foul play but did not accept that it warranted a red card.

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Wallabies lock sent off for headbutt

World Rugby disagreed but acknowledged a range of mitigating factors, including provocation from Hill, who had pulled Swain’s hair and pushed him forcefully in the face.

That meant a starting point of a six week suspension was significantly reduced and Swain will be available for the entire Rugby Championship.

Matt Philip is Swain’s likely replacement for the second Test in Brisbane on Saturday.

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Sean Maloney and Andrew Mehrtens are back for a special episode from The Steyne in Manly. The duo review all the northern versus southern hemisphere clashes in the July series, as well as keeping an eye on the exciting Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji

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