Marcelo Gallardo overjoyed after guiding River past Boca in Copa Libertadores

River Plate have again ended Boca Juniors’ dreams of Copa Libertadores success, much to the delight of Marcelo Gallardo.

Marcelo Gallardo was overwhelmed with pride after River Plate eliminated Boca Juniors to reach the Copa Libertadores final for the second straight season.

River prevailed 2-1 on aggregate in the Superclasico semi-final despite slipping to a narrow second-leg defeat at La Bombonera following Jan Hurtado’s 80th-minute goal.

The holders will now face either Flamengo or Gremio in their bid to win South America’s top continental competition for the fifth time.

River defeated their bitter rivals in last season’s final, the second leg of which was moved to Madrid following an attack on the Boca bus.

“It is hard to analyse this match because I cannot deal with all this happiness,” Gallardo said.

“It is hard for me to analyse the game and its development. I feel hugely happy for my players. I am so full of joy and happiness for our fans, who must feel really happy because we are going to play another Libertadores final, eliminating Boca once more.

“I cannot deal with all this happiness I feel right now, so I will give my insights about this game later, when I get able to do it more calmly.”

Kick-off in Buenos Aires was delayed by 15 minutes due to excess confetti on the pitch but there was otherwise none of the fan trouble that marred last November’s matches.

Gallardo saluted both sets of supporters for keeping the occasion free of trouble.

“I think we should appreciate it,” he said. “This should be something natural to happen. As far as I know, there were no incidents to regret, either on the pitch or inside the stadium.

“This coming after the last time and all the damage it caused on us as a society, we must appreciate it.

“It should be normal, it should be natural. Achieving this game without any incidents is something we welcome. It means we learnt from it.”

Rumour Has It: Madrid identify Thibaut Courtois replacement as Dortmund fear Jadon Sancho exit

Unai Simon, 22, is reportedly attracting interest from Real Madrid amid criticism of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Thibaut Courtois made the move to Real Madrid in 2018, but he is already seemingly under pressure in Spain.

Life at the Santiago Bernabeu has not gone according to plan for the former Chelsea goalkeeper.

And Madrid already have their eyes on a potential replacement…


Real Madrid have identified Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, according to El Desmarque.

Courtois swapped Chelsea for Madrid in 2018, yet the Belgium international has not convinced amid growing criticism in the Spanish capital.

Simon has reportedly attracted interest from Madrid, who would need to pay the 22-year-old’s €50million release clause.


– Borussia Dortmund fear losing Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to Sport1. Sancho was suspended for last week’s Bundesliga win over Borussia Monchengladbach after returning late from international duty.

– Sport claims Barcelona are ready to offload midfielders Ivan RakiticCarles Alena and Riqui Puig in January. Rakitic has been heavily linked to Serie A side Inter, while Tottenham are rumoured to be interested in Alena.

– Manchester United have been given a boost in their pursuit of Mario Mandzukic after the Juventus striker slashed his wage demands, according to The Sun. Mandzukic is out of favour in Turin and set to leave in the January transfer window.

– Sport Bild says Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel has turned down offers from Manchester UnitedParis Saint-GermainAtletico MadridRB Leipzig and Roma. The 23-year-old only wants to join Bayern Munich should he leave Schalke when his contract expires at the end of the season.

– The German publication also claims Ralf Rangnick is a candidate to replace Niko Kovac if Bayern Munich decide to part with their current head coach. Bild, however, also says Rangnick is a candidate at Manchester United.

– Calciomercato says AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund are interested in Bayern Munich centre-back Lars Lukas Mai. Dortmund is believed to be the teenager’s favoured destination.

– Real Madrid have informed Brahim Diaz he can leave the LaLiga club, reports AS. It comes less than a year after his arrival from Manchester City.

Three takeaways from NBA opening night

Pascal Siakam

A lot more teams still have to make their debuts, but let’s access opening night first.

The 2019-20 NBA season is officially underway, and we got two great matchups to kick off the year.

New Orleans put up a fight against the defending champion Raptors but were topped in overtime 130-122.

In the late game, the Lakers and Clippers battled for control of Los Angeles, and the Clippers prevailed, 112-102.

A lot more teams still have to make their debuts, but let’s access opening night first.

Here are three takeaways from NBA opening night:

Toronto is no slouch

The departure of Kawhi Leonard will be a popular topic of discussion surrounding the Raptors this year, but they showed Tuesday that they can still play at a high level. Although Toronto’s leader, Kyle Lowry, struggled from the field against the Pelicans and made just four of his 15 shot attempts, his teammates showed they made some improvements over the summer.

Pascal Siakam let the game come to him, even fresh off his $130 million extension. Last year’s Most Improved Player tallied 34 points, 18 rebounds and five rebounds in an astounding performance that showed he can be all Toronto wants him to be. He fouled out of the game before overtime but showed an all-around game few others can match.

Even more surprising was Fred VanVleet, who notched a career-high 34 points and seven assists on five made 3-pointers. Needless to say, the Raptors are so much more than Leonard and can be even better when Lowry is firing on all cylinders as well. Toronto might not win the Eastern Conference, but it will definitely be a competitive team and playoff contender.

The Pelicans are more loaded than we thought

New Orleans came at the Raptors hard and fast in this year’s season opener and showed flashes of what they can be given time. The Pelicans acquired a plethora of young pieces over the summer via trades, free agency, and the draft. Those assets came together nicely even though they haven’t been together long.

Brandon Ingram paced New Orleans with a team-high 22 points while Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Niccolo Melli, and Josh Hart all scored in double figures as well. The Pelicans’ second unit featured some unexpected lineups and struggled at various points, though, so the rotations could need some tweaking. However, competing with the team the won the NBA Finals last year on the road is no small feat, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The Pelicans’ promising game comes on the heels of news that superstar rookie Zion Williamson will be sidelined to start the year as he recovers from a torn meniscus he underwent a procedure for. The Western Conference is a different beast, but there’s no telling what the ceiling could for New Orleans.

The battle for Los Angeles will be really fun to watch

Neither the Lakers or Clippers were at full strength on opening night, but the energy at the Staples Center was something else. Even though the Clippers served as the home team, the stands were filled with Lakers fans who showered boos on Kawhi Leonard. But the reigning NBA Finals MVP wasn’t unfazed as he led his team to victory.

The fun guy himself torched the Lakers with 30 points, six rebounds, and five assists and had no Paul George with him.

The Lakers were missing Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo but did have their superstar duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who combined for 43 points, 19 rebounds, and 13 assists. Danny Green unexpectedly exploded for a team-high 28 points but the Clippers’ 60 bench points were a difference-maker.

Knowing that this was such a good game with key pieces missing for both sides should only make basketball fans more excited for later meetings.

Pelicans GM: Speculation Zion Williamson’s injury resulted from bad conditioning is ‘just asinine’

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson

Williamson is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

Pelicans general manager David Griffin aggressively addressed the speculation about Zion Williamson’s knee injury Tuesday.

Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the most heralded rookie since LeBron James, will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing meniscus surgery on his right knee.

It’s bad enough the Pelicans will be without their star rookie for almost a quarter of the season, but Griffin is not about to listen to the speculation that Williamson’s injury is the result of poor conditioning or the size he carries on his hefty 6-7, 285-pound body.

“The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is just asinine,” Griffin told reporters Tuesday. “He wasn’t in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah. That’s not what it is. He’s just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective.”

Yes, Williamson is big, but Griffin called him a “freak of nature” in terms of his size, athletic ability and conditioning.

“I’ve seen the narrative out there about him (that) this happened because he’s not in shape and he’s too big,” Griffin said. “That dude is a freak of nature. When he went through his physical, he ran on the treadmill longer than the cardio-stress test people have ever needed to put anybody through a test to get his heart rate up. That happened because he’s touched by the hand of God to do this. He’s in elite condition. He stays in elite condition.”

The Pelicans lost their season opener Tuesday, 130-122, in overtime to the Raptors.

Boca Juniors 1-0 River Plate (1-2 agg): Libertadores holders reach final despite Superclasico loss

Boca Juniors and River Plate in action in the Copa Libertadores semi-final

Boca Juniors edged Tuesday’s second leg 1-0 but it was not enough as defending champions River Plate prevailed 2-1 on aggregate.

River Plate are on track for back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles after reaching the final at the expense of bitter rivals Boca Juniors.

Boca edged Tuesday’s second leg 1-0 but it was not enough as defending champions River prevailed 2-1 on aggregate in the Superclasico.

Jan Hurtado gave Boca hope with his 80th-minute goal, but the hosts were unable to find a second goal to force penalties at La Bombonera.

River carried a 2-0 lead into the return leg of a rematch of the 2018 all-Argentinian Libertadores final, which had to be rearranged and moved to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu in December after the match was twice suspended in November due to an attack on Boca’s team bus by supporters.

Kick-off in Buenos Aires was delayed by 15 minutes due to excess confetti on the pitch as leaf blowers were brought out to clear the field.

When play finally got underway, Carlos Tevez’s Boca found the back of the net in the 22nd minute but it was ruled out for handball.

A stunning goal-line block to deny River approaching half-time threatened Boca, though another offside call eased the pressure on the home side.

Enzo Perez almost turned the ball into his own net moments later, however, River goalkeeper Franco Armani produced a fine reflex save to prevent embarrassment.

With time running out, Boca refused to surrender and gave themselves hope when Hurtado found the back of the net following a set-piece 10 minutes from the end.

Another free-kick almost saw Boca level with two minutes remaining, however, River were not to be denied bragging rights as Flamengo or Gremio await in the final.

Thiago Silva hails ‘magnificent’ Mbappe after PSG star breaks Lionel Messi record

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe after scoring a hat-trick

Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score 15 Champions League goals, surpassing Lionel Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva heaped praise on hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe after his record-breaking Champions League display.

Mbappe came off the bench and scored three goals in a devastating performance as PSG routed Club Brugge 5-0 on Tuesday.

The PSG sensation became the youngest player to score 15 Champions League goals aged 20 years, 306 days, eclipsing Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi – who was 21 years, 288 days.

Silva hailed Mbappe, telling reporters: “He is well present, he is ready, he has gifts, I can’t tell you more because he is an incredible player.

“I’m very happy for him, for the team, for the way we played today. In the first half it was very difficult, we knew it, but in the second half we were much more effective.

“We had chances, we scored. Especially Kylian this player is magnificent.”

PSG were ruthless in Brugge, where the Ligue 1 holders made it three wins from three games in Group A as they closed in on the knockout round.

Mauro Icardi opened the scoring in the seventh minute, before Mbappe doubled the lead within nine minutes of his second-half introduction.

Mbappe supplied the assists for Icardi’s second of the match in the 63rd minute, while the former took centre stage with another two goals to take home the match ball.

“We won a very tough game,” PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel said. “Very complicated. The result is exceptional.

“It’s never easy to win against Brugges in Brugges. In the Champions League outside it’s never easy. We scored five goals, it’s really exceptional. It’s a big step forward for the qualification [for the last 16].”


Diego Simeone pleased after Atletico Madrid end home drought

Diego Simeone celebrates with goalscorer Alvaro Morata

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone reflected on Tuesday’s 1-0 win at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

Diego Simeone said he was pleased after Atletico Madrid ended their winless run at home by defeating Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

Atletico had gone four home matches in all competitions without a win prior to Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over German visitors Leverkusen in Madrid.

Simeone’s side had also only scored once in their previous three fixtures at Wanda Metropolitano, where Alvaro Morata’s 78th-minute header settled the Group D contest.

“I feel good when I see passion and the team had it,” head coach Simeone told reporters when asked about his mood after Atletico joined Juventus on seven points atop the group.

“The team knew what they were playing at. We could play badly or well, but they knew what to play at. There was a way and when we’re on it, we’re closer to things coming out.”

“We try to face each game as if it were the last, either Copa del Rey, LaLiga or Champions League,” Simeone, whose Atletico are fifth and three points adrift of LaLiga leaders Barcelona, said. “We don’t stop to think about what might happen four games ahead.

“We focus game by game, that’s the way we look into this matter. We knew today [Tuesday] was an important game, against a rival, that plays very well. Certainly, you had to make a very high concentration effort.”

Atletico star Koke – who emerged from the club’s youth system in 2009 – was the target of boos in the Spanish capital and Simeone added: “I think people always do what they feel and what they see at that moment. Because this is football.

“I remember the time of Luis Aragones, Caminero, Kiko … They have booed us all. So in football, when there is moment you’re not so good, people want you to play well today, but I am sure every Atletico de Madrid fan will express gratitude for Koke and thank him for what he has done and will do for the club.

“At the moment, like the manager, when we make a mistake. People are spontaneous, and in this moment they react to what they believe. We are the ones who have to look for those boos to become applauses.”

Mauricio Pochettino will give Tottenham ‘a day off’ as Spurs boss jokes about unrest rumours

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino discussed Tottenham’s Champions League demolition of Red Star Belgrade.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino joked that he will give his players a day off to stop all the rumours about unrest at Spurs following their Champions League victory.

Last season’s runners-up Tottenham claimed a confidence-boosting 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in London on Tuesday.

Spurs have been unable to reach the lofty heights of last term after a difficult start to 2019-20 – highlighted by a 7-2 humbling against Bayern Munich – amid doubts over Pochettino’s future.

There has been speculation that Tottenham players are unhappy with Pochettino’s methods following just three wins from nine Premier League matches to start the season but the Argentine boss joked about the rumours post-game.

“I think it’s about now staying calm,” Pochettino said in his post-game news conference. “It’s a good result but only three points. Now we have ahead a lot of tough games that are coming. We need to be solid. I want them to all be fresh that is why tomorrow they are going to have a day off, you know to stop all the rumours [laughs].

“Of course Thursday we are going to start to train and prepare for the game on Sunday. It’s going to be a fantastic game. A few months ago we were playing the final against Liverpool and now in Anfield, a great atmosphere, with all the confidence to go there and try to have a very good performance again.”


Asked if he is happy with the dynamic, Pochettino – who has been linked to Real Madrid and Manchester United – told reporters: “I am not happy and not not happy. I am facing the situation how the situation is, the situation we are living now.

“Of course, I am very realistic but in the same way it’s a massive experience for us, a group that has never before lived this situation. It’s all new.

“We have more experience because we’re older men, Jesus is more than me, more experienced than me, but I think it’s a great moment to grow, be more mature and of course it should help us to be stronger in the future.”

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min led the way with braces, while Erik Lamela was also on target against Red Star and Pochettino added: “It was so important, an important result for our confidence and to add three points in the table for us was very, very important tonight. Of course very pleased.

“After the second half against Watford I was happy, not great as I told you, now the same, not great but good. I feel good. We start to see that it’s only time that we need to recover our best feelings.

“We need to build that confidence of course. We need to go step by step, being solid again and that is only the first step, like the second half at Watford, to build again our confidence and try to perform in the way that we and everyone expect.”

Kyrie Irving on Nets’ leadership: ‘We all share a certain responsibility’

Kyrie Irving

“This is just one accord, one team, one common voice,” Irving said.

Kyrie Irving is expected to be Brooklyn’s alpha dog this year while Kevin Durant recovers from an Achilles injury, but wants to make it clear that a group effort will determine the direction of the team.

Irving told reporters Tuesday that his teammates will have some say as well.

“I think that we all share a certain responsibility in the leadership here,” Irving said. “I think that some of my past experiences, there could be a sense of alienation when you think about someone naming you as just the leader of the team and falling all in your court.

“I want to share those responsibilities with those guys — obviously we have different roles, that every single night there’s a consistency that you have to live up to, and your game. But overall, there shouldn’t be a different communication that I have with (Dzanan) Musa or Caris (LeVert) just because I am a nine-year vet, or anything like that.”

Irving’s leadership style was questioned when he clashed with some of his teammates on the Celtics last year and Boston failed to live up to lofty championship expectations.

But now the star point guard is in a completely different situation as he attempts to put a Brooklyn team that has never won an NBA title on the map.

“This is just one accord, one team, one common voice,” Irving said. “We all share our own experiences and we want to use that to become better as a team. So yeah, individually we have our own leadership, but as a group, we all share that responsibility.”

Irving, a six-time All-Star, is entering his ninth NBA season and averaged 23.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game last year.

He’ll make his Nets debut Oct. 23 as Brooklyn hosts the Timberwolves at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Hasan Salihamidzic says Lucas Hernandez ‘out for a long time’ as Bayern’s defensive crises deepens

Bayern Munich Lucas Hernandez receives treatment against Olympiacos

Hasan Salihamidzic and Niko Kovac addressed Lucas Hernandez’s injury sustained in a 3-2 win at Olympiacos.

Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said Lucas Hernandez will be sidelined for “several weeks” after suffering an ankle injury in Tuesday’s Champions League victory.

Hernandez was forced from the field before the hour mark in Bayern’s hard-fought 3-2 win away to Olympiacos as the team’s defensive crises worsened.

Having already lost centre-back Niklas Sule to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Bayern suffered a huge blow when record signing Hernandez hobbled off in Greece.

“He will be out for a long time. Several weeks,” Salihamidzic told Sport1 following the match against Olympiacos.

On Hernandez, who was seen leaving the stadium on crutches, Bayern head coach Niko Kovac added: “Hernandez has problems with his ankle. We have to see whether the ligament was also affected.

“He has severe pain on the inside of his ankle; that’s why we had to take him out. It’s very frustrating.”

Javi Martinez – who has been ravaged by injuries – was also substituted at half-time due to a muscle complaint.

“Martinez had a muscular problem in the first half, we didn’t want to take any risks, so we reacted,” Kovac said.

Robert Lewandowski was the hero as his two goals ensured Bayern stayed perfect with three wins from three games in Group B.

Bayern had fallen behind following Youssef El-Arabi’s 27th-minute opener, but the Bundesliga champions rallied via Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso before Guilherme’s late strike set up a nervy finish.

“Our opponents did a really good job today. They put up a fight over 90 minutes in a great atmosphere here at the stadium. At the end of the day it was a hard-earned victory,” said Kovac.

“We’re still satisfied because we now have nine points, we have one foot in the last sixteen. That’s our goal.”

Shaquille O’Neal on China-NBA dispute: ‘One of our best values here in America is free speech’

Shaquille O’Neal

“We as American people, we do a lot of business in China,” O’Neal said via TNT’s broadcast. “They know and understand our values.”

The NBA and China are still at odds as the 2019-20 season kicked off Tuesday, and legendary big man Shaquille O’Neal addressed the issue ahead of the Raptors’ opening-night matchup against the Pelicans on TNT.

O’Neal said “Daryl Morey was right,” referencing the Rockets general manager’s tweet earlier this month supporting Hong Kong anti-government protestors that led to a backlash in China against the NBA.

“We as American people, we do a lot of business in China,” O’Neal said via TNT’s broadcast. “They know and understand our values, and we understand their values.

“One of our best values here in America is free speech we’re allowed to say what we want to say and we are allowed to speak out on injustices and that’s just how it goes. and if people don’t understand that that’s something they have to deal with.”

O’Neal said he supports the right Americans have to voice their opinions, despite how they might be received internationally.

China reportedly pressured the NBA to fire Morey for the since-deleted tweet, a report China has denied.

The season is just getting started and the tension between the NBA and China will continue to be talked about for the foreseeable future.

Raheem Sterling gets all the credit – Pep Guardiola lauds Manchester City star after three-goal display

Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling is a “perfect” player, according to Pep Guardiola after the Manchester City forward scored a hat-trick against Atalanta.

Pep Guardiola has no doubt hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling can continue to improve but lauded the Manchester City star as “perfect” after his side’s 5-1 Champions League demolition of Atalanta.

City fell behind to Ruslan Malinovskiy’s penalty at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, but Sterling teed up Sergio Aguero to restore parity six minutes later in Manchester.

Sterling then won a penalty for Aguero to nose City ahead before half-time in the Group C clash, with the former running riot in the space of 11 second-half minutes.

England international Sterling should have added to his tally, but failed to finish when one-on-one with Pierluigi Gollini, though manager Guardiola hailed a faultless display from the winger – who has scored 12 goals in all competitions so far this season.

“We were together for four years and I answered many times this question,” Guardiola told a news conference when asked to comment on Sterling’s development into a world class player.

“The credit is just for him. All of the credit. He can be better but he is perfect.

“His physicality, he is strong, he could play a game the day after a game, his regeneration is so strong. He is an extraordinary player.

“He can play both sides, defensively he helps us a lot. He is an incredible player. It depends on him but he has the desire to do better.”

Having slammed home from Phil Foden’s tee-up just before the hour, Sterling raced onto Ilkay Gundogan’s throughball to lash in his second before completing his hat-trick with a tap in from Riyad Mahrez’s cross.

Sterling, however, conceded he should have helped himself to a fourth as he aims to become more clinical with his chances.

“It was difficult, especially them going man-to-man all over the pitch, so we had to stay patient,” he told BT Sport.

“I should have had four. Riyad set me up for the last one and I wanted to see if he was anywhere close to lay one on a plate for him. But yes, I’ve got to finish them off.

There’s no point scoring goals if you let in easy ones, so the penalty was a bit frustrating, but in this competition the good teams will punish you.”

Genoa turn to Thiago Motta after sacking Aurelio Andreazzoli

New Genoa head coach Thiago Motta

Former Genoa midfielder Thiago Motta has returned to the club as head coach.

Genoa appointed former midfielder Thiago Motta as head coach in his first senior role, it was announced on Tuesday.

Last week’s 5-1 Serie A thrashing at the hands of Parma prompted 19th-placed Genoa to sack Aurelio Andreazzoli and turn to Motta.

Motta returns to Genoa, where the former Italy international spent the 2008-09 season as the club qualified for the Europa League.

The 37-year-old had been coaching the Paris Saint-Germain Under-19s side since ending his playing career with the Ligue 1 champions in 2018.

Motta won league titles and the Champions League with Barcelona and Inter before heading to PSG in 2012, where he won 18 trophies in six years.

He will lead Genoa for the first time when the Italian struggles host Brescia on Saturday.

Genoa have lost five of their last six Serie A matches to be a point adrift of safety after eight rounds.

F1 Raceweek: Lewis Hamilton expecting tricky race as Briton eyes sixth title

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the F1 title in Mexico in 2018

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won two of his five titles in Mexico but is not hopeful of making it a hat-trick.

Lewis Hamilton believes it will be “tricky” for Mercedes to have success at the Mexican Grand Prix as he looks to clinch a sixth drivers’ championship.

Hamilton can move one title behind Michael Schumacher’s record if he increases his advantage at the top of the standings by another 14 points.

He has clinched his last two titles in Mexico, though it is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who has triumphed in each of the past two races at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Hamilton is not expecting the track to suit the Silver Arrows this time around.

“I think Mexico is generally our worst race of the year because of the way our car is set up and it’s going to be a tough one for us,” said Hamilton.

“The last few have been pretty shocking, even though we’ve won the title there. I’m hoping for a better weekend but I think it’s going to be very hard to beat the Ferraris with those long straights.

“We have no hope of getting by on those straights, that’s for sure but even if you look at the others, the McLarens are picking up some serious speeds on the straights, so are the Red Bulls so I think it will be a tricky one.

“I don’t anticipate it will be Mexico. I think we will be battling for a good few races.”


Carlos Sainz finished seventh for McLaren at the Japanese Grand Prix, behind both Ferraris, Mercedes and Red Bulls.

He is sixth in the drivers’ championship as McLaren return to competitiveness after a series of struggles, with the eight-time constructors champions able to enjoy mixing it at the front of races again.

Sainz rejected suggestions McLaren are simply “best of the rest”, saying: “We are not only best of the rest but we are managing to profit if something happens to the guys in front.”

“Yeah, that’s why when on Sundays people ask me ‘another best of the rest?,” Sainz said when asked if he felt his achievements were akin to victories.

“It sounds a bit disappointing to me because it’s really tough to keep doing it every weekend. But we’ve been very strong and I’m very proud of it.”

Meanwhile, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl rejected talk of a concept change for 2020 will put the progress they have made in jeopardy.

“I would say where we are right now – it is not a risk, it is an opportunity,” explained Seidl.

“Our target is clear: we want to make the next step. So hopefully we can jump somewhere in between where we are right now and the top teams, which would be the next great achievement as a team.”

RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)

FP1 (10:00-11:30)
FP2 (14:00-15:30)

FP3 (10:00-11:00)
Qualifying (13:00-14:00)

Race (13:10-15:10)



2018: Max Verstappen
2017: Max Verstappen
2016: Lewis Hamilton


1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 338
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 274 (-59)
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 221 (-117)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 212 (-126)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 212 (-126)


1. Mercedes 612
2. Ferrari 433 (-179)
3. Red Bull 323 (-289)
4. McLaren 111 (-501)
5. Renault 77 (-535)