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Exclusive: Leclerc continues incredible streak in Azerbaijan

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Charles Leclerc is back on pole. Now comes the tricky task of converting it into a win.

Leclerc won the pole for the fourth consecutive race with a blistering lap around the Baku street circuit in Azerbaijan on Saturday, but the Ferrari driver failed to convert any of his last three pole positions into victories.

Leclerc ran a lap at 1 minute, 41.36 seconds with his last run of the session to beat Sergio Pérez of Red Bull by 0.282 seconds. Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen qualified third in the other Red Bull, 0.347 off Leclerc’s pace.

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Leclerc has been first or second in every qualifying session this year, but has not won a race since the Australian Grand Prix in April. Verstappen won three consecutive races and Pérez won in Monaco two weeks ago.

“All pole positions feel good but this one, I probably did not expect it,” Leclerc said. He said Red Bull’s cars seem faster “but then in the last lap everything came together.”

Leclerc started from pole the last three races but was passed by Verstappen in Miami, retired with car problems in Spain — where reigning champion Verstappen won to pass Leclerc for the standings lead — and dropped to fourth at his home race in Monaco after a botched strategy call by Ferrari. He was also on pole in Azerbaijan last year, when he finished fourth.

Pérez was the winner in Azerbaijan last year and is coming off his victory in the Monaco Grand Prix. He was upbeat about his chances in Sunday’s race, but admitted he was lucky in qualifying after tapping the wall.

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“I hit it quite hard a few times but it seems to be very strong, the car, this year,” he said. “I was lucky not to crash because I was over the limit a bit too much and just trying too much.”

Pérez argued he could have been faster if not for a problem getting his car started in the pits for the final qualifying run which left him on his own on the track, without a car to slipstream behind on the straight.

Verstappen, who leads Leclerc by nine points in the standings, felt his car was “consistently a bit off” in terms of setup balance.

“We seem to lack maybe a tiny bit over one lap, but I think over the long run our car should be quite good,” he said. Like Leclerc, Verstappen has never been on the podium in Baku, and crashed from the lead last year when a tire blew.

Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz qualified fourth, while George Russell of Mercedes was fifth and teammate Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time champion, seventh. Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri was sixth.

The stewards summoned Hamilton and Lando Norris of McLaren for “driving unnecessarily slowly” during the second of the three qualifying sessions. Footage from Norris’ onboard camera showed Hamilton driving slowly through the narrow Old City section of the track and Norris then slowing down to match him.

Hamilton said he’d acted within the rules and was trying to let other cars past to get a slipstream and make up for Mercedes’ lack of pace on the straights. The stewards took no action, ruling Hamilton’s actions weren’t dangerous and his overall lap time was fast enough.

Norris narrowly missed the cut in the second session and qualified 11th, one spot ahead of embattled McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Lance Stroll was 19th after crashing twice in the first session. The Canadian was able to get going again after running into a barrier when braking late, but hit the wall again on his very next lap, breaking the front wing and leaving one wheel dangling.

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Exclusive: NBA: Steve Clifford to be coach of Hornets for second time—report – TalkOfNews.com

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Oct 9, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford reacts during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Clifford agreed to a multi-year deal on Friday for a second tour of duty as coach of the Charlotte Hornets, according to multiple reports.

The 60-year-old Clifford went 196-214 with two playoff appearances in five seasons with the club from 2013-18. He was fired after going 36-46 in the 2017-18 campaign.

The move comes after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson agreed to become coach of the Hornets and later reneged on the deal.

After being dismissed by Charlotte, Clifford spent three seasons with the Orlando Magic and went 96-131. He has an overall mark of 292-345 in eight NBA seasons.

Clifford’s first two Orlando squads made the postseason but his final team went 21-51, the third-worst record in the league. Clifford and the Magic elected to part ways following the campaign.

Clifford spent last season in a consulting role for the Brooklyn Nets.

Clifford is just 11 wins shy of matching the Charlotte record for coaching victories held by Allan Bristow (207 from 1991-96).

Charlotte also considered veteran coach Mike D’Antoni for the job.

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The Hornets fired James Borrego after going 43-39 last season. Charlotte lost to the Atlanta Hawks in a play-in game to miss the postseason for the sixth straight season.

Borrego went 138-163 in his four seasons with the Hornets. Last season was his only winning campaign.

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Exclusive: Dalot's ready to roll – TalkOfNews.com

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United Daily | Diogo Dalot on pre-season, David May’s favourite goal, and a classic tour clip that ends up in the bin…

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Exclusive: The 30-year Origin hoodoo haunting New South Wales – TalkOfNews.com

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It’s almost 30 years since a Blues team came back to win a State of Origin series after losing the opener in Sydney, but two stars of that memorable NSW team of 1994 have laid down a blueprint for Brad Fittler’s men to follow.

Brilliant fullback Tim Brasher and giant back-rower Paul Sironen admitted things looked bleak for the Blues when Mark Coyne scored the famous last-minute try to win the Queenslanders an epic Game One that series.

“I know how this team feels – because it’s the same way we felt back in ’94,” Sironen, now a member of the Blues’ management team, told Wide World of Sports from Perth.

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“When you have game one at home you just have to win it – and we blew it.

“We didn’t play as well as we could have and we didn’t execute the way we trained and we knew we were really going to be up against it for the rest of the series.

“But what we did was turn that to our advantage by using that frustration, disappointment and anger at ourselves to spur us on.

“We levelled the series in Melbourne and it then all came down to the decider in Brisbane.”

Brasher has vivid memories of the lead-up to the all-important third match at Lang Park.

“Everyone was telling us about Lang Park being the cauldron and how we would cop it up there and I must admit I wasn’t all that confident in the week leading up to the game,” Brasher said.

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“But then on game night, as our team bus went down Caxton Street and they came out of the pub and shook the bus and threw bottles at us, I think that actually did us a favour.

“It galvanised us, gave us a siege mentality and we were determined to go all the way.”

The Blues won the decider 27-12, with a young Brad Fittler playing in the centres.

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