Waitrose and Partners Weekend Issue 579

6 0 25 NOVEMB ER 2021 SPORT Weekend is printed on certiäed, 100% recycled äbres, produced from sustainable sources in the UK Photography: Mark Thompson/Getty Images, Lars Baron/Getty Images Clare Balding SPORT PICKS OF THE WEEK TENNIS 25-28 November Champions Tennis, Royal Albert Hall, London Goran Ivanisevic and Greg Rusedski are among the legends in action and there is the bonus of Emma Raducanu who ends her year with an exhibition match. RUGBY UNION 27 November Killik Cup, Autumn Internationals, Twickenham The Barbarians will host a men’s and women’s match on the same day for the ärst time. The men face Samoa before the women take on the Springboks. SNOOKER 27 November-5 December UK Championship, York Barbican Crowds are back to see a host of big names in action, including Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and John Higgins. Well, well – Lewis Hamilton has made things interesting hasn’t he? That man is a born racer and followed up a brilliant drive in Brazil with pole-to-post victory in Qatar to cut the gap at the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship to just eight points with two races to go. For most of this season, he has played second fiddle to the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, but in Brazil two weeks ago, something very special happened as he battled to an unlikely andmuch-admired success. A few years back, I interviewed Bernie Ecclestone when he was running the F1 show and suggested to him there should be points available for qualifying, but that the fastest cars should start in reverse order because that would show the skill of the drivers. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to suggest it, but the Brazilian Grand Prix showed how exciting things could be if the reverse order was employed. Hamilton lit the fireworks, storming from 20th (having been disqualified fromqualifying) to finish fifth in the sprint race. A grid penalty for an engine changemeant he started back in 10th for the full Grand Prix, but Mercedes boss TotoWol said the whole experience ‘woke up the lion’ and that Hamilton was in the zone. Sometimes even an undisputed champion needs a little adversity to produce the best they have and as Hamilton aims for a record eighth Formula One title, he is having to fight as never before. The Qatar race was more straightforward, but with points at a premium, Hamilton knows he has to be at his very best. “I’m loving it. I love the close battle, the pressure, the demands it puts on you and the whole team,” event is held in a country that does not score highly on the global ratings for modern living. There is always the fear the countrymight be trying to ‘sportswash’ their reputation, so it is beholden on all of us to use the sporting event to shine a light on the problems and to ask questions rather than to ignore the issues. It’s not easy to do when you’re the star performer, so full credit toHamilton for continuing to challenge those in authority. I hope some of the big name footballers in next year’sWorld Cup in Qatar might follow his example. Similar issues will face those reporting on or competing in theWinter Olympics in Beijing next year, especially as – at the time of writing this column – the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai remain unclear. Peng is a former world number one in doubles. At the beginning of November, she used the social media site Weibo tomake allegations of sexual assault against a former senior figure in the Communist Party. Since then, she has not been heard fromdirectly and a global appeal for proof of her safety has been shared as far as the United Nations and theWhite House, with high profile players including SerenaWilliams, Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai. All too often in the past, the governing body of the sport in question has been scared to jeopardise the investment of the country but this time, the chair of the Womens’ Tennis Association Steve Simon threatened to boycott the Chinese leg of theWTA Tour unless proof of Peng’s wellbeing is shown. He did not believe the video issued by Chinese statemedia that seemed to show her in a restaurant with her team. Conversations are ongoing around the world about what action should be taken tomake the point to China that theWinter Olympics and Paralympics cannot be used as a way of avoiding interrogation or scrutiny. @clarebalding he said. “But these next two races need even better performance, so we’ll be bringing our triple A game.” Sir Lewis Hamilton understands his global profile means everything he does has an impact and he wants to bemore than the world’s best driver. He is developing into a hugely e ective spokesman for equal rights and has highlighted the lack of diversity inmotor racing, committing to helpingmore people of colour come into the sport. His stance brings with it a fair amount of controversy and conflict, especially when the final three races are staged in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, countries roundly condemned for their human rights record and particularly their attitude to homosexuality. Hamilton did not shy away from the issue, and wore a Progress Pride rainbow helmet with the words ‘we stand together’ and ‘love is love’ on it. During a press conference last week he said: “I do think as these sports go to these places, they are duty bound to raise awareness for these issues. These places need scrutiny, and it needs themedia to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.” It’s always problematic for competitors, journalists and fans when your Hamilton still making his mark both on and o track FLYING THE FLAG Lewis Hamilton wore a Progress Pride rainbow helmet in Qatar on his way to winning the Grand Prix