Jenson Button says his ‘expectations are high’ but called his team as ‘underdog that is hungry to succeed’ as the former Formula One champion embarks on a new chapter with a full-time Porsche Hypercar ride in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Team JOTA.The Brit will team up with Phil Hanson and Oliver Rasmussen at this weekend’s season opener, the Qatar 1812km at the Lusail International Circuit.A bumper crop of 26 WEC rookies are on the grid at the Qatar 1812km, of which eight are entered in Hypercar and 18 in the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class. And Button is ready to lead JOTA’s charge in their debut season with two Hypercars, setting their sights on more than just the FIA World Cup for Hypercar Teams title.Button’s return to the forefront of endurance racing marks his first full-time race programme since 2019, following a podium finish at the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with WTR Andretti. And Button is going full tilt to make it a memorable season.“Expectations are always high,” said Button on Wednesday. “You don’t go into a season hoping to finish second or third in the championship. But you have to be realistic because we are racing against mighty manufacturers. We are, I would say, an underdog. But an underdog hungry to succeed and that’s what is exciting about it. It reminds me of my 2019 F1 season, when I raced for Brawn and won the World Championship. So hopefully history will repeat itself,” the 44-year-old said.Button’s experience in diverse racing categories should help him and his team transition to prototype racing. Button said he enjoyed his first experience of driving at Lusail in the Prologue test on Monday and Tuesday.“There’s something about the asphalt that’s very tricky,” said the British driver. “It’s very edgy, and it’s easy to lose the car on corner entry. It makes it difficult to push aggressively, but it also makes it fun, because you can drive the car in a manner that you can’t at most circuits. It kind of feels like driving a go-kart, when you see the steering inputs. It’s a challenging but fun circuit to drive.”Button, who won 15 races and finished on the podium 50 times in 300 races in his 17-year long F1 career, was excited with the challenge of endurance racing.“It’s good. Unlike F1, we get to test all week, so we’ve been doing a prologue. It’s basically our test before the season. So we’ve been driving on track and it’s been really good. The championship is in a really good place. There’s 19 cars in hypercars, and then you’ve also got the GT3 cars racing. So, endurance racing is in a really good place right now and it’s such an exciting championship with many different manufacturers involved as well as privateer teams like Team Jota,” he said.Unlike the cutthroat competition within F1 teams where teammates are often viewed as adversaries, endurance racing demands a unified effort. And Button relished the prospect of teamwork with his teammates Rasmussen and Hanson“In terms of teamwork, it’s very similar to Formula 1 in terms of you need to work closely with your engineers and strategists and what have you. And it’s obviously on a slightly smaller scale, but still very, very professional,” Button observed.“The difference here is that you actually work with your teammates to succeed rather than fighting your teammate. You know, in F1 the most important person for you to beat is your teammate, whereas here you’re working with your teammates because you’re all driving the same car. So it’s almost a 10-hour race, I think we’ll have it under the lights here in Doha. So, yeah, it’s a busy week, but a fun week and really good gelling with my teammates, Oliver Rasmussen and Phil Hanson,” he added.After the stint in Qatar, Button will have a chance to tackle some of the most famous endurance races in motorsport, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while also visiting some of the venues that he raced at during his F1 career such as Imola, Spa, Interlagos, Austin, Fuji and Sakhir.Button said he feels energised ahead of the season and is ready for more. “From 2019 to now I’ve had two kids, but they’re a little older now. It makes it easier now when I’m travelling,” he explains. “During Covid we all felt like we lost years, and I would have been racing in something full time, I think, but it didn’t work out.“So I did NASCAR, Le Mans, Petit Le Mans. I enjoyed it, but jumping in and out, you don’t get the best out of yourself. I want to dig deep into the details and technology. I’m excited about competing in a full season. I don’t see this as a one-year deal. I don’t want to be jumping around now. I am 44, I won’t be racing for many more years. I’m fully on it in wanting to achieve over the next couple of years. I don’t want to be switching championships. I think I’ll be doing WEC for the next couple of years.”
Hamas urged Palestinians Wednesday to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of Ramadan next month, raising the stakes in negotiations for a truce in Gaza, which US President Joe Biden hopes will be in place by then.The call by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh followed comments by Biden, broadcast on Tuesday, that there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas during Ramadan, while hostages held by the militants are released.Both Israel and Hamas have played down the prospects for a truce and mediators have said the most contentious issues are still unresolved.Israel said on Monday it would allow Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque but set limits according to security needs, setting the stage for possible clashes if crowds of Palestinians turn up and Gaza violence is still raging.Fighting raged in the Gaza Strip, where the reported death toll in the almost five-month Israel-Hamas war neared 30,000 as mediators insisted a truce could be just days away.The Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry reported another 91 deaths in overnight Israeli bombardment, while UN agencies sounded the alarm on dire humanitarian conditions and looming famine in Gaza's north.Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been seeking a six-week pause in the war.In a televised speech, Haniyeh said Hamas was showing flexibility in negotiations with Israel but at the same time was ready to continue fighting.Haniyeh also called on the self-styled Axis of Resistance - allies of Iran consisting of Lebanon's Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis, and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq - as well as Arab states, to step up their support for the Palestinians in Gaza.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attended Tuesday the official dinner banquet hosted by President of the friendly French Republic Emmanuel Macron, in honour of the Amir and the accompanying delegation at the Elysee Palace.At the beginning of the banquet, the French president delivered a speech in which he welcomed His Highness the Amir and the accompanying delegation, expressing the French Republic's welcome and honour for this visit, and his great personal happiness with it.Macron also praised bilateral relations' achievements over the past years, reiterating his thanks and appreciation to His Highness the Amir for the diplomatic efforts of Qatar, regionally and internationally.In a speech to mark the occasion, His Highness the Amir expressed his deep appreciation to the French president for the warm reception, stressing his keenness to continue joint work to consolidate bilateral relations at all levels, for the good and interest of the two friendly peoples.His Highness the Amir also stressed what was agreed upon during the official discussions to increase Qatar's investments in France to 10bn Euros in the coming years, which will be directed to strengthening strategic economic partnerships between the two countries. During the speech, His Highness the Amir praised the city of Paris's preparations to host the 2024 Paris Olympics next summer. He expressed Qatar's aspiration to co-operate in the success of organising this global sporting event.During the official dinner banquet, His Highness the Amir was awarded the Legion of Honor with the rank of "Chevalier" by the French president in appreciation of the efforts of the Amir in strengthening friendly relations between the two countries.For his part, His Highness the Amir granted President Macron the Sword of the Founder Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani, as an embodiment of his role in supporting and developing relations between the two countries.The official dinner banquet was attended by HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, and a number of members of the official delegation accompanying the Amir, businessmen and senior officials.On the French side, it was attended by a number of ministers, members of the Senate and the National Assembly, businessmen and senior officials.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani held an official talks session with President of the friendly French Republic Emmanuel Macron, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday.At the beginning of the session, the French president welcomed His Highness the Amir, praising the close relations between the two countries, and looking forward to the visit contributing to strengthening co-operation relations and expanding its horizons to include various fields.His Highness the Amir expressed his deep thanks and appreciation to President Macron for the warm reception, noting the growth witnessed by the strategic relations between the two countries, and expressing his hope for more partnership and co-operation in various fields to achieve the common interests of the two friendly countries.During the session, the existing friendship and co-operation relations between the two countries were discussed, as well as ways to strengthen and develop them at all levels, especially in the fields of politics, security, economy, investment, technology, health and education.The session also dealt with developments in issues on the regional and international arenas, most notably developments in the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.His Highness the Amir and the French presidentwitnessed the signing ceremony of a declaration of intent for co-operation in the fields of humanitarian assistance and emergency intervention.The session and signing ceremony were attended by HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, HE Minister of Interior and Commander of the Internal Security Force (Lekhwiya) Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, HE Chief of the Amiri Diwan Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, HE Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Bin Sherida al-Kaabi, HE Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani, HE Minister of Culture Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Hamad al-Thani, HE Minister of Sports and Youth Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani, and HE Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohamed bin Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi, and a number of members of the official delegation accompanying the Amir.It was attended from the French side by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Stephane Sejourne, Minister of Economy, Finance, Industrial and Digital Sovereignty Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories Gerald Darmanin, Minister of Defence Sebastien Lecornu, and Minister of Culture Rachida Dati, Minister of Sports and Olympic Games Amelie Oudea-Castera, and a number of senior officials.His Highness the Amir and the French president held a bilateral meeting in which they discussed co-operation relations between the two friendly countries, in addition to discussing a number of issues of mutual interest.An official reception ceremony was held for His Highness the Amir upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace.
"Where is the resistance in this house? There were only women and children" says a Palestinian man standing in the rubble after an Israeli strike on the al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, as the conflict sparked by the October 7 Hamas attacks rages on. Israel warned the Gaza war will continue throughout 2024 as unrelenting strikes killed dozens in the Palestinian territory. AFP
Daniil Medvedev recovered from a slow start on Wednesday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he overcame Lorenzo Sonego 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP 500 for the second time.The top seed struggled on serve in the first set, winning just 53 per cent (10/19) of points behind his first delivery, according to Infosys ATP stats.However, he hit with much more aggression in the second and third sets, firing off both wings to back up pinpoint first serves.“I went on court and was not feeling right. I was too nervous and too tight, which does not happen often to me,” Medvedev said after the match.“I was making a lot of mistakes and had nerves.“Sometimes it takes a set to calm down and if I continue to do what I did in the first set, that is not going to work.“I just had to change, to be more calm, and if that doesn’t work it is his day, but it worked,” Medvedev said in his interview.Medvedev gained the decisive break of the second set in the eighth game before he broke twice in the decider to advance after two hours and one minute.Medvedev has now won his past seven matches in Dubai, having lifted the title in 2023. The 28-year-old will next play Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after the Spaniard advanced after #NextGenATP Czech Jakub Mensik was forced to retire at 6-7(7), 0-1.The No. 4 player in the PIF ATP Rankings is competing for the first time since the Australian Open final in January, when he squandered a two-sets-to-love lead in the title match against Italian Jannik Sinner.