More to come, promises record-breaker Zlatan

In the arena that he has made his own since scoring four goals against England on its opening night in 2012, the powerful striker took off his shirt to reveal another underneath with a message to his fans – “You Made It Possible”.

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Ibrahimovic’s double in a 2-0 friendly win over Estonia on Thursday surpassed the mark of Sven Rydell, who scored his last international goals in 1932.

“That I scored with a back heel was probably a little lucky, but it was the only way I could score there,” Ibrahimovic said of his record-setting goal.

With the milestone reached, the 32-year-old seems determined to continue adding to his tally.

“I want so much, I want even more,” he told a media conference in Stockholm on Friday.

“Even if I’ve said there’s a couple of years left, I’m going to do the maximum in those years. Now I’ve gone past the goal record, we’ll keep going. It’s not over yet.”

Having scored his first goal for Sweden in a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in 2001, he might have broken the record even sooner, but the various coaches of the national team used him sparingly at times.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a Sweden team without their tall, talismanic striker is now unthinkable and fans dread to imagine a future without their captain, who has said he will most likely retire after the 2016 European Championships in France.

Until then he intends to continue adding to the enviable haul of silverware he has amassed from some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Ajax, Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Barcelona.

“That’s what you look back at when you’ve finished,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have 23 collective titles and some individual titles, so the more I can gather, the bigger my list of merits will be.

“That’s what you play for. You play to win, and no-one can complain that one hasn’t won anything. It’s the other way around,” he said with a smile.

“It’s my will, my desire to be better. I train hard to be better, I want to be better than last season, I want to go forward all the time.

“I broke the record yesterday, but now I’m going to continue scoring goals to make it even harder for the next one who wants to break it.”

Sweden open their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Austria on Monday when Ibrahimovic is due to win his 100th cap.

(Reporting By Philip O’Connor; editing by Martyn Herman)

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Lion King scores twice as South Korea maul Venezuela

The 35-year-old marksman’s brace in his first match for the national team in over a year could not have come at a better time with South Korea appointing former German international Uli Stielike as their new boss hours earlier.

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Former Korean international Shin Tae-yong was one of three coaches who took charge for the game against the Venezuelans and gave the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker, who is top scorer in the K League classic this term, another opportunity.

Lee showed his gratitude by almost opening the scoring in the eight minute with a clever backheel that edged just wide as the hosts, spurred by a livewire display from forward Son Heung-min, took control of proceedings.

But they fell behind against the run of play after a horrible error by understudy goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon in the 21st minute.

Kim’s attempted kick from his hands lacked height and direction and was easily controlled by Mario Rondon who lobbed the ball back over the shamed stopper’s head.

The Koreans, who had a disappointing group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil in June, were quickly back on level terms though when midfielder Lee Myung-joo curled home.

Son had fed midfielder Lee Chung-yong whose attempted cross from the left rebounded back to Lee Myung-joo who curled a right foot effort into the corner of the net in the 33rd minute.

Lee Chung-yong should have put the hosts ahead right before halftime but his header from Son’s cross went high over the crossbar as the Koreans grew in confidence.

Six minutes after the break Lee Dong-gook showed him how it’s done as the striker’s near post powerful header from Kim Min-woo’s 51st minute corner sailed past the visitors goalkeeper.

The Venezuelans then gifted Lee an opportunity to bag a second when two defenders failed to deal with a cross from the right and the ball fell to the striker, known at home as the ‘Lion King’, who swept home off the post.

It was his 30th goal for South Korea and there was enough in his display to give him hope of making the squad for the Asian Cup in January.

Lee last played for the national team when he skippered the side in their 1-0 home loss to Iran in their final World Cup qualifier. He didn’t make the squad for the tournament in Brazil but was recalled after Hong Myung-bo stepped down as head coach following the early exit.

Stielike is expected to be in the stands when the Koreans host Uruguay in another friendly on Tuesday with Shin and his two fellow coaches continuing in temporary charge.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing bt)

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Sprint king Adrian unafraid of Phelps

Two years ago, at the London Olympics, the American was chasing Australia’s world champion James Magnussen for the gold medal in swimming’s blue-riband event.

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Adrian got his fingernail on the wall first, winning by one one-hundredth of a second, the smallest possible margin in swimming.

As the gold medal was draped around his neck, it was almost as though a giant target was painted on his back, the price every swimmer pays when they go from predator to prey.

Adrian has been unable to scale those dizzy heights since London, finishing third to Magnussen at last year’s world championships in Barcelona and second to Cameron McEvoy at last month’s Pan Pacific Championships on Australia’s Gold Coast.

With three Olympic gold medals – he also won a relay in 2008 and 2012 – the 25-year-old has nothing to prove but remains committed to a sport that involves gruelling training and requires total discipline.

“My drive is just to improve, it’s not necessarily about increasing my medal count or beating this person or that person,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“I get the greatest amount of happiness from just seeing that I worked hard for something and it paid off.”

The pay off for swimmers is dubious. Standing 6ft 6in (1.98m) and weighing 227 lbs (103kg), Adrian might well have made a fortune as a basketballer or American footballer but chose a sport where there are few multi-million dollar contracts on offer and most competitors are happy just to have their university fees paid.

A few months before the London Olympics, Adrian graduated from Berkeley with an honours degree in public health.

DISCO LIGHTS

On Friday, he was in south-east Asia, competing at the inaugural Singapore Swim Stars, an innovative meet where competitors race for cash prizes, under disco lights with pop songs blazing away in the background.

It was all in good fun and Adrian was the big winner, taking out the men’s freestyle sprint double and pocketing $20,000, a pittance perhaps for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, but a good night’s work for most swimmers.

Adrian was a clear winner of the 100m, which was held as a one-off final, but had to dig deep to win the 50m dash, which was held over a three round shootout, with the slower swimmers dropping out until only the last two were left.

“I think there is a lot more strategy that goes into this meet… it’s about energy management,” Adrian said.

“It was tough. All the guys that swam in the 100m first were struggling to touch the wall.

“But that was a blast. That had to be some of the most fun I’ve had at a swim meet since I was a little kid.”

The exception in swimming, of course, is Michael Phelps, who has always been a team mate of Adrian on the American relays but may become one of his rivals in the future.

Since making his comeback earlier this year, Phelps has been competing in 100m freestyle and qualified, along with Adrian, for the event at next year’s world championships in Russia.

Phelps has not outlined which events he plans to swim at the 2016 Rio Olympics but if his past is any guide, he will keep his programme a closely guarded secret until he steps onto the starting blocks in Brazil.

For Adrian, the prospect of racing against Phelps holds no real fears, although he doubts it will happen, suspecting Phelps will probably choose 100m butterfly and 200m medley as his individual events – races which he won at each of the past three Olympics.

“I wouldn’t bet against him, anybody who has in the last 12 years has lost a lot of money,” Adrian told Reuters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see him perform at a high level but I wouldn’t say he’s performing at his peak or close to it quite yet, and I think he’d be the first time to tell you that.

“If he’d had a little bit more time to train I think he’d be right on his fastest times ever, so that’s exciting to see.

“I think the 100 free is probably his auxiliary event where he will train for the 100 butterfly but the training he does for the 100 fly will translate well to the 100 free and he’ll certainly be capable of doing a good 100m free.”

Like every swimmer, Adrian has been in awe of what Phelps has done in the pool but he said he has found a new inspiration, his 17-year-old team mate Katie Ledecky, who has been ripping up the record books in women’s middle and long distance freestyle events.

“She’s incredible, just look at the way she swims,” Adrian said.

“She absolutely attacks the water and is not timid in any sense of the word.

“When she swims, she’s such a little animal and I want to be like that too.”

(Additional reporting by Yaocheng Lee; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Boycotting Russian World Cup would be an empty gesture – former UK minister

Russia, who won the right to stage the soccer tournament in a 2010 vote by football’s world governing body FIFA, is allegedly backing pro-Russian rebels against Ukrainian forces in a war in eastern Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula five months ago.

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“You’ll end up having the world split down the middle, and that is the worst of all worlds,” Caborn was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.

“No one condones what is going on in Ukraine but it would be merely empty-gesture politics from those that did boycott the World Cup,” he said.

A large number of countries led by the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow over the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year but others including Britain took part.

Russia followed suit by boycotting the next Games in Los Angeles in a move followed by most of the other Eastern Bloc nations.

Caborn, who held office from 2001-2007, differentiated such a move from the sports boycott of South Africa during apartheid. South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988.

“The sporting boycott of South Africa worked because there was a total consensus between sports and politicians, but there is not over Russia,” Caborn said.

Several western European countries boycotted the Melbourne Games in 1956 over Russia’s invasion of Hungary and Middle Eastern nations did the same over Britain and France’s invasion of Suez.

There was also an African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games in protest at New Zealand’s presence despite their All Blacks rugby team’s tour of South Africa that year.

FIFA does not intend to change the venue for the 2018 finals with FIFA president Sepp Blatter saying in March the tournament would go ahead in Russia regardless of the country’s annexation of Crimea.

A boycott by black players might occur, however, if racism in Russian football is not stamped out.

Manchester City’s Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure said as much last year after complaining he had been racially abused during a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.

“If we aren’t confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we won’t come,” Toure said. CSKA were punished with a partial closure of their stadium at their next home match in the competition.

(Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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FIFA completes probe into 2018, 2022 World Cup hosting

The report, which has not been made public, will be submitted to the ethics committee’s adjudicatory chamber, headed by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, to decide on whether any wrongdoing was committed, football’s governing body said on Friday.

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FIFA said they could not comment on when Eckert might reach his decision.

During the course of the year-long investigation, Garcia and his deputy Cornel Borbely interviewed “more than 75 witnesses and compiled a record that, in addition to audio recordings from interviews, includes more than 200,000 pages of relevant material,” FIFA said.

“The report sets forth detailed factual findings; reaches conclusions concerning further action with respect to certain individuals; identifies issues to be referred to other FIFA committees; and makes recommendations for future bidding processes.”

The hosting rights for the two tournaments were awarded simultaneously by FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich in 2010 after a turbulent campaign.

Spain/Portugal, Belgium/Netherlands and England had also been bidding for 2018 while United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan had bid for 2022.

The executive committee which took the decision was reduced to 22 members instead of the usual 24 after two of them were suspended by the ethics committee one month before the vote.

Nigerian Amos Adamu was banned for breaches of five articles of FIFA’s ethics code including one on bribery and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti for breaching articles on general conduct and loyalty.

The case followed allegations by The Sunday Times that the pair offered to sell their votes to undercover reporters posing as lobbyists for an American consortium.

FIFA said that all bidding nations were interviewed during the investigation. Borbely took responsibility obtaining information from the U.S and Russia as Garcia is a national of the former and was barred from visiting the latter.

Shortly before this year’s World Cup in Brazil, the Sunday Times reported that some of the “millions of documents” it had seen linked payments by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam to officials to win backing for Qatar’s World Cup bid.

Bin Hammam has not commented on his involvement since he was banned for life from football in 2012 and Qatar has denied all allegations of corruption.

Qatar has also been criticised for its alleged treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Justin Palmer)

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Perez plays down Ronaldo spat amid revenue surge

Perez, who has splashed hundreds of millions of euros of the European champions’ cash on top players in recent years, said the loyalty of Ronaldo, the current World Player of the Year, had been “unquestionable”.

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The Portugal captain made headlines on Monday when he said the club’s transfer dealings in the latest window would probably have been different if he had been in charge.

After winning a record-extending 10th European crown last season, when dressing-room heavyweight Ronaldo was the team’s top scorer, Real sold midfielders Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria and brought in Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.

The departure of Alonso to Bayern Munich, in particular, has prompted suggestions the Madrid club will not have enough quality and experience in midfield without him, while Argentine Di Maria is seen as close to Ronaldo.

“I have no doubt that he (Ronaldo) did not want to question the club’s policies,” Perez told a news conference announcing 2013-14 income of a record 603.9 million euros, a 10.9 percent jump compared with the previous season.

“He has just presented me with a replica of his ‘Ballon d’Or’ award, an exemplary player,” the construction magnate added. “There are no disagreements, zero.”

Real stuttered in their second La Liga outing at the weekend when they let slip a 2-0 lead and crashed to a 4-2 reverse at Real Sociedad.

Ronaldo, 29, missed the game through injury and he followed up his comments on Monday by giving an interview to a British newspaper in which he appeared to suggest he wanted to return to former club Manchester United at some point in his career.

Perez, who pushed through a lucrative contract extension for Ronaldo in September last year that ties him to the club until 2018, defended Real’s decision to sell Alonso and Di Maria.

DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS

“His (Di Maria’s) reason … was that he had financial demands that we could not meet,” Perez told reporters.

“Real Madrid made him the best possible offer … but he had different expectations.

“No player in the team has that kind of salary, only Ronaldo, who is the best player in the world.

“If we had accepted … it would have put the club’s financial stability in danger.”

Perez said he had a “very good relationship” with Alonso, who will turn 33 in November, and the player had asked to leave.

“He believes the best way to organise his remaining years of professional life is what he has chosen, both for him and for the club.”

Alonso’s position controlling play in midfield was well covered by Kroos and Asier Illarramendi, he added.

Real’s latest financial figures also showed a post-tax profit of 38.5 million euros, up 4.4 percent on a year earlier, and a drop in net debt of 21 percent to 71.5 million.

The performance suggests they will top Deloitte’s ranking of the world’s richest club’s by income for a 10th consecutive year when the business services firm publishes its updated list early next year.

(1 US dollar = 0.7715 euro)

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

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Mercedes play down suggestion of line-up change

The Austrian was clarifying comments made in a BBC radio interview when asked what might happen if the pairing of championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton proved too hot to handle.

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The two team mates and Mercedes are the talk of Formula One after Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 29 points with seven races remaining, hit Hamilton’s car at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Speaking at the Italian Grand Prix, Wolff said the context was “what would happen if we could not get on top of the situation.

“We are very happy with the line-up of the two drivers and we’ve always said that. We trust them and we had a very good discussion with the two of them, a very clear discussion,” he added.

“My statements were about what would happen if we couldn’t get on top of it and this is something obviously which is a very, very worst case vision and I don’t think that we were ever going to get there.”

Speaking to the BBC earlier in the week, Wolff had said that “We would have to take decisions and take the consequences of having a different line-up” if the pair continued to clash.

A study by London City University’s Cass Business School revealed this week that having “two top drivers competing in the same team had a detrimental effect on their individual performance”.

After looking at all races between 1981 and 2010, the authors declared that “putting two roosters in the same henhouse” only eroded the individual performance of team members.

In 2007, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen won the title after McLaren refused to favour Fernando Alonso over Hamilton and ended up with both drivers level on points and the Finn one ahead.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo has won the last two races for Red Bull, his triumph at Spa coming against the odds after Mercedes had started with both their drivers on the front row and expected to finish one-two.

Ricciardo is now 35 points adrift of Hamilton and third overall, with an outside possibility of snatching the title from under the noses of the Mercedes drivers.

“It’s obviously going to take probably more than just winning the next seven races. It’s going to have to take a bit of luck as well,” Ricciardo told reporters at Monza.

“I’m more than two wins behind Nico so if I come out and win two and he DNFs (does not finish), he’s still leading. So we’ll see. Obviously there’s more talk about it now but to be honest I’m not really thinking about it.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

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Hamilton suffers electrical gremlins at Monza

The Briton, who retired from the race in Belgium 12 days ago after team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg hit the back of his car, missed an hour of the afternoon running as mechanics replaced sensors on his car.

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Hamilton was still fastest overall on the day, with a best time of one minute, 26.187 seconds set before lunch. Rosberg was top of the afternoon timesheets with a best of 1:26.225, just ahead of his team mate.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to have the full session tomorrow and get some good running,” said Hamilton, who has had more than his share of mechanical problems this season while Rosberg has motored on.

“Monza is quite an important circuit to put the car at the front as it’s very difficult to overtake here. It would be great to have a trouble-free qualifying tomorrow.”

Jenson Button, Hamilton’s former team mate at McLaren, was second fastest in the morning in 1:26.810 with Rosberg – who has never been on the Monza podium – pushed back to third in 1:26.995.

Hamilton is 29 points behind Rosberg in the championship with seven races remaining and is determined to claw his way back against his German rival, who was punished by the team for the Spa collision.

“I didn’t feel 100 percent confident in the car, so I can’t be happy with today and I have a lot of work to do tonight with the boys,” said Rosberg.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in both sessions at the fastest circuit on the calendar, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen third in the afternoon.

“That was a very busy day, but a positive one. We made the most of every minute available to us in both sessions,” said Raikkonen, who has never won Ferrari’s home race.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the second practice after a quiet morning and Button was sixth for McLaren, who last won a race in 2012.

Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, last year’s winner at the ‘cathedral’ of Italian motorsport, was sixth and seventh while Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 16th and 10th.

Ricciardo, as good as Italian to many of the home fans and chasing his third win in a row, was sidelined for some of the first session with a power unit problem.

“Obviously we want to be a bit further up, but I think we can chip away at it tomorrow, the Mercedes will be quick, but if we can sneak into the top five in qualifying then we’ll have a good crack at the race,” said Ricciardo.

“Getting temperature into the tyres is tricky, especially for the first timed lap.”

At the slow end of the field, Spanish driver Roberto Merhi made his debut appearance at a Formula One weekend and lapped faster than regular race driver Marcus Ericsson in the other Caterham.

Merhi handed the car back to Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, returning after being dropped by the team for Spa, for the afternoon and rest of the weekend.

Spanish reserve driver Daniel Juncadella also had a stint with Force India while Frenchman Charles Pic was handed compatriot Romain Grosjean’s Lotus for the session.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford, Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)

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Root spares England’s blushes in consolation victory

Root’s well-judged 113 from 108 balls on his home ground, his highest ODI score, lifted England to 294 for seven off their 50 overs.

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Captain Alastair Cook chipped in with 46 and Jos Buttler fell for a breezy 49 after being run out by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ravindra Jadeja played well to score a valiant 87 as India stuttered and stumbled during their run chase and were eventually all out for 253 with eight balls remaining.

“Joe Root played fantastically well. He went on and a couple of other guys supported him. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. We’ve got a lot of 20s and 30s in this series and when one of our guys went on and scored a century, we showed we’ve got a bowling attack to defend it,” Cook said at the presentation ceremony.

Man-of-the-match Root, who smashed 10 fours and three sixes, put on 108 runs with Buttler before Dhoni knocked off the bails to break the fifth-wicket partnership after Buttler set off for a non-existent run.

Mohammed Shami ended Root’s entertaining innings in the 46th over when the right-hander flicked the ball straight to Ravichandran Ashwin.

India’s hopes of completing a 4-0 rout got off to a rocky start when they lost Edgbaston centurion Ajinkya Rahane for a duck after he nonchalantly sliced a James Anderson delivery into the hands of Eoin Morgan in the first over.

SOFT DISMISSALS

From then on the visitors struggled to build momentum and they lost wickets at regular intervals, leaving all-rounder Jadeja frustrated as his swashbuckling knock of 87 off 68 balls turned out to be in vain.

The left-hander was last man out, clean bowled by Steven Finn in the penultimate over as he tried to score runs quickly in a bid to reach three figures in an international for the first time.

“We gave away too many wickets. There were quite a few soft dismissals and we were not able to score the number of runs we were supposed to. We are capable of getting 90-100 in the last 10 overs, but soft dismissals let us down,” Dhoni said.

Despite the defeat, India will be buoyed by their 50-overs performances in England as they look to fine-tune their game before beginning the defence of their World Cup title in February.

England, however, face an uphill task if they are to get their hands on the 50-overs World Cup, a trophy they have never won.

They have won only one series against another test-playing nation since 2012 and have lost their last four at home.

Their consolation victory has done little to paper over the cracks that run deep in England’s approach to the limited-overs format which some former players have labelled as old-fashioned and out of date.

“We know what we can do and it’s been really frustrating for the last few games that we’ve not been able to do it. One good game in four isn’t good enough,” Cook, who many pundits believe should step down as ODI captain because he is ill-equipped to prosper as a batsman in the limited-overs game, told the BBC.

“We now have a massive chunk of one-day cricket where we can concentrate on improving as players. The last time we had a focus like this we got to the Champions Trophy final (in 2013). The World Cup preparation will be perfect and hopefully we can all improve.”

(Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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F1 is dead? Protest banner provides a talking point

“Ugly new circuits, ugly cars, no engine sound.

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F1 is dead,” it declared.

The protest, handwritten in blue and red ink on a white sheet, was still there long after practice for the Italian Grand Prix had finished and the fans gone home.

The irony of someone buying an expensive ticket, at one of Formula One’s oldest and most atmospheric racetracks, in order to declare a lack of interest was not lost on those in the garages opposite.

“I don’t think that one banner sums up the overall opinion about Formula One,” said Ferrari principal Marco Mattiacci, while others made light of it.

“Whose garage was it opposite? McLaren?,” joked Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

“I think I recognise people from Formula E (the new electric series starting next week) putting that banner there,” laughed Lotus deputy principal Federico Gastaldi. “This is a fantastic race, it’s history. Come on.”

“It seems a very strange place to talk about ugly circuits,” agreed Marussia’s John Booth. “One of the most iconic circuits we go to.”

If there is one place on the Formula One calendar where the true, original spirit of the sport lives on, then Monza would be high on most people’s lists along with Spa, Silverstone and Monaco.

The old banking, disused since the 1960s when the track featured in the climax of the 1966 John Frankenheimer directed movie ‘Grand Prix’ with the late James Garner and a cast of drivers of that era, remains a place of pilgrimage for many.

The Ferrari ‘tifosi’ still swarm through the turnstiles, trudging through the wooded park outside Milan and flooding the finish straight after the race in a red tidal wave of national passion.

And the racing this season has, by general consent, been thrilling with Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in a duel for the title.

Yet the banner reflected the feelings of those followers who feel the sport, with its new and quieter V6 turbo hybrid engines and energy recovery systems and races in ever more exotic locations, no longer excites.

Ferrari are not winning as before either, with the glory days of Michael Schumacher a distant memory, and the sport struggles to make the front pages of even Italy’s soccer-obsessed Gazzetta dello Sport daily.

Former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore articulated some sympathy with unhappy fans when he visited the circuit as a guest of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, himself a vocal critic of the new engines.

“It is a new F1. Maybe it is better, but a lot of people don’t understand. It is as simple as that,” he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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