Lewis Hamilton believes Max Verstappen represents stiff competition, both in the opening two Formula One races in Austria and in the 2020 season as a whole.

Ferrari have embarked upon a major redesign of their car after struggles in pre-season testing, with Charles Leclerc saying he is "99 per cent certain" they will struggle more than they did last year.

The Italian team's upgrades will not be available until Hungary, but Red Bull are an immediate threat after impressing Mercedes in the pre-season period before the coronavirus lockdown.

Verstappen has won in Austria for each of the last two seasons, and will be optimistic of a fast start when the Red Bull Ring hosts the first two races of a revised 2020 calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I mean, they looked quite strong through testing," Mercedes driver Hamilton said when asked if Red Bull represented the biggest threat for the new Formula One campaign.

"It was quite close between the top three teams in testing - I think Red Bull particularly being the closest to us from our understanding.

"And Max is progressing year on year, so I anticipate they are going to be strong competitors.

"They are always very strong here at this track, so definitely going to be a challenge these two weekends. But I'm excited to see how that goes."

Hamilton has not won in Austria since 2016 and only has a longer streak without victory in Australia of the circuits that were on last year's calendar.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas triumphed in 2017, before Verstappen's double wins came amid Mercedes woe over the last two years, including major cooling issues in the 2019 race.

"We've not been terrible [since 2017], but it is a challenging circuit with the height of the circuit, the temperatures that we see," added Hamilton.

"We've arrived here [in previous years] and it's usually kind of not in the perfect window of operating temperatures for our car.

"But I'd like to think we're in a better position this year with improvements that we've made for this season's car. So, time will tell."

Bottas was also in an optimistic mood as he looks to push six-time world champion Hamilton closer this year.

"I was pretty happy when I heard there was going to be two races here, I like this track," he said.

"Historically, if you look in the past, I've also had tracks that have not been very successful but I've still been able to be good there.

"It's tricky to say anything from the past - it's a new season after a long break. But I feel I've had good preparations within myself and with the team - so that's why I do feel confident.

"Very soon we'll see where we are as a team and also me personally pace-wise."

Esteban Ocon would be "very happy" if Fernando Alonso makes a Formula One return with a move to Renault.

Two-time F1 world champion Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have been linked with a Renault seat for 2021 after Daniel Ricciardo agreed a deal with McLaren.

Alonso quit F1 at the end of the 2018 season, but Ocon hopes he will make a comeback to join him at the French team.

Asked who he would like to be his team-mate in 2021, Ocon said: "I got asked that question many times of course during this lockdown period but I always respond honestly, and my personal choice has no relation to what the team is going to do, but I have a great relationship with Fernando.

"The helmet I have, and the only swap I did in between the drivers was with him.

"He was the one with Michael [Schumacher], you know, his fights back in the days, and that gave me the love for the sport.

"I don't know if he's going to join or not with us but definitely, if he could come back, I would be very happy."

Ricciardo was Vettel's team-mate at Red Bull and although he would not be against a reunion with the German, who will leave Ferrari at the end of this season, he would also relish being a colleague of Alonso's if he had to make the choice.

The Australian said ahead of the first race of the season in Austria this weekend: "I would only say Alonso just because it's something I've yet to experience, and I think team-mates are great benchmarks and also great additions to your skillset,

"You can always learn something. I don't believe there's any driver in this sport that's been perfect yet so there's always an improvement to make.

"For that, I'd say Fernando, but... I only had 12 months with Seb, that went pretty quickly, so I wouldn't be opposed to that again."

Lewis Hamilton says he was not specifically targeting other drivers with his callout of the motorsport industry for not doing enough to tackle racial injustice and inequality.

The Formula One world champion has been vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement and has been a strong voice in the fight for equality since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneanapolis in May.

Hamilton wrote on Instagram "I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice" but the Briton, speaking on a video released by Mercedes' parent company Daimler, said it was not aimed at other drivers and was intended as a call for more to be done in the fight against injustice.

"People perceived it as [if] I was targeting drivers," he said.

"I really wasn't. It was targeted at the whole industry. And it's been something I've been aware of for a long, long time, and not really seen anyone doing anything about it.

"That was really a calling to people within the industry for accountability, for all the brands. They need to do more. The sport needs to do more. The FIA need to do more. We all need to do more. So that was really what the message was about."

Hamilton further elaborated when speaking to reporters in Austria ahead of F1's delayed start to the season this weekend, and promised not to stop in his fight for change.

"The callout [on Instagram] was really for everyone in this industry," said Hamilton. 

"There are so many great jobs [in Formula 1], there are so many opportunities, but none so far, or very, very few opportunities, have been [given] to minorities, so I think we do really have to push, and more needs to be done for sure.

"I won't stop pushing till we really see change. Seeing one person of colour added to the paddock is not diversity, and so we've really got to dig deep, and really try to pull together and do what we can to shift this, and I think it starts with education."

This week it was announced Mercedes will use all-black livery in support of the BLM movement, while Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas will race in all black overalls.

Hamilton also addressed whether he will take a knee on Sunday, an action first used by NFL star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and adopted as a symbol of solidarity.

"We [the drivers] haven't all spoken – I'm sure during this weekend we will," Hamilton added.

"It's not something that's been on the top of my mind. I've been asked the question multiple times, and it's not really been a priority for me, whether I plan to kneel at the start line.

"We'll see on Sunday. I think whatever we do, we'll try to do it united. I think it's really important that we remain united, or we become united, I would say, in this sport. We really do have to fight the injustices and the inequality."

Sebastian Vettel expects his on-track battles with Charles Leclerc to continue in the 2020 season even though he is leaving Ferrari.

Formula One returns with the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend and the performance of Vettel will be in the spotlight.

The four-time world champion is leaving the Scuderia at the end of the campaign, with Leclerc – who was handed a long-term contract – to be joined by McLaren's Carlos Sainz from 2021.

Leclerc and Vettel often clashed during a frantic 2019 campaign for Ferrari, as the Monegasque star impressed with seven pole positions, ultimately finishing ahead of his more experienced team-mate in the drivers' championship.

And Vettel, who said the team had never offered him a new contract, insists his status in the team will not change his competitiveness.

"Surely should the situation arise and make sense I think you expect both drivers to help each other out," said Vettel, who is yet to decide on his future in the sport.

"I don't think that has anything to do with the fact that my contract expires and I'm going to be leaving the team.

"But at the same time you are racing for yourself – you know, not trying to make Charles' life easier on track in terms of waving him by. 

"We have been fighting each other in the past and we will continue to do so."

Leclerc, meanwhile, reiterated his respect for Vettel, and insisted there would be times when working as a team was right and others when fighting for position would be more appropriate.

"Obviously I've learned a massive amount with Seb as a team-mate and I will continue to at the end of the season," Leclerc said.

"We had our on track battles and sometimes it didn't end the way we wanted but with respect off track, which was good to see.

"I don't think that [not having favours from Vettel] will change compared to the other season. 

"Last year we were fighting each other and of course sometimes we need to also play as a team, or drive as a team and work as a team, which is always very important.

"It's also beneficial for us to in some ways to work as a team. Again there will be situations where it's good that we have to work as a team."

Nine additional NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus, the league announced in a statement on Monday.

The NBA has not released the names of the most recent cases.  

Since the NBA began its round of testing on June 23, a total of 25 players have been found to have COVID-19 out of the 344 that were tested. The league also said that 10 of a possible 884 team staff members have been found to have the virus.  

The league statement said that anyone associated with the NBA who has tested positive for coronavirus will be quarantined "until they satisfy public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and have been cleared by a physician."

The announcement of the additional cases comes four weeks before the NBA is scheduled to resume its season with 22 teams in Orlando, Florida.

Most of the teams' 35-person travelling parties are scheduled to arrive in Orlando within the next week for training camp.  

Several marquee players have been among those in the league who have had COVID-19 or are currently dealing with the illness.  

Some of the most notable names previously to have tested positive are Nikola Jokic and coach Mike Malone of the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers' Malcolm Brogdon, the Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie, Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker of the Sacramento Kings, and Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. 

Gobert, whose positive test was the first in the NBA and halted the season on March 11, said last week he still has not fully recovered from the illness and continues to suffer from a diminished sense of smell.

Sebastian Vettel has spoken of his surprise that he was deemed surplus to requirements by Ferrari and revealed there were no discussions over a new deal.

The Scuderia announced in May that four-time Formula One world champion Vettel would move on at the end of this season, which starts in Austria this week following a long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was reported that the two parties could not agree terms, but Vettel says Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto made it clear this was his final year with the Italian team.

"There was no sticking point," Vettel said.

"It was obviously a surprise to me when I got the call from Mattia, when he told me that there was no further intention from the team to continue.

"We never got into any discussions, there was never an offer on the table and therefore, there was no sticking point."

Vettel, who will be replaced by Carlos Sainz, vowed to only remain in F1 if the right opportunity arises.

"At the moment I'm not really having any [talks about his next move]," the German said.

"Looking forward obviously I want to make sure I make the right decision for myself and my future.

"I think I have a very competitive nature. I've achieved a lot in the sport and I'm motivated and willing to achieve more.

"To do so, I think, I need the right package, and the right people around me. So that's what I'm looking out for at the moment. If the right opportunity should arise, then I think it is quite clear. If that's not the case, then I probably have to look out for something else."

Matthijs de Ligt says he is "feeling much better physically and mentally" after recovering from a slow start to his Juventus career.

The Netherlands international rejected interest from elsewhere to join Juventus in a €75million transfer from Ajax last July and has made 32 appearances for the Serie A giants.

He has come in for heavy criticism at times in his debut campaign in Turin but has started all five of Juve's matches since last month's restart, helping to keep four clean sheets.

"I feel much better physically now and mentally I am in a much, much better place," he told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Saturday's Derby della Mole with Torino.

"In Serie A there are many different strikers. There's [Romelu] Lukaku, for example, who's very strong and quick but also [Ciro] Immobile, who's very good with his back to goal.

"Every team have great forwards, different from one another, and every match is very difficult. The bar is very high.

"I try to study them thoroughly before each game in order to be prepared for any outcome."

De Ligt scored the only goal of the game when Juve last met rivals Torino eight months ago and believes that match-winning strike was a turning point in his Bianconeri career.

"It's a special game - both teams want to win for the city and their fans," he said. "We must do our best, above all in defence, and not give away any chances.

"Obviously the first derby is a beautiful memory for me because I scored my first goal for the Bianconeri. It also gave us a very important victory.

"It wasn't an easy time for me, I received a lot of criticism and I was under pressure. That goal raised my spirits and made me and my team-mates happy.

"Thanks to that goal, I became the footballer I am today."

Juve hold a four-point lead over Lazio with nine games of the resumed campaign to play, while Inter are a further four points behind.

However, De Ligt is refusing to take anything for granted and insists his side cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in pursuit of a ninth successive Scudetto.

"Lazio and Inter are both still in the running," he said. "Inter are a great team and are not far behind.

"We have to be very careful with these teams, there are still nine games to play and each one will be a final from here until week 38. We must not slow down now."

French Open organisers are planning for this year's event to go ahead with spectators present at a level between 50 and 60 per cent of full capacity.

The grand slam event in Paris is scheduled to take place between September 27 and October 11.

It was recently pushed back by one week as the ATP Tour and WTA Tour announced their schedules to return, the tournament having initially been postponed from its May start date due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When confirming the new date in June, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) had expressed their determination to admit fans, with the number depending on the outcome of talks with public authorities.

Having held those discussions, the tournament set a target of 50 to 60 per cent of capacity on Thursday, as they confirmed ticket sales will open to the general public on July 16, with priority purchasers having the chance to buy from July 9.

"The Roland Garros tournament announces the opening of the ticket and specifies its conditions for welcoming visitors," read a statement.

"The French Tennis Federation – which is acting responsibly and in close collaboration with the French government authorities, while benefiting from the advice of a committee of multi-disciplinary experts – is adapting and will continue to adapt to the situation caused by the Covid-19 crisis." 

Explaining the measures, the statement continued: "On the three show courts, the tiered seating will follow a precise protocol: on every row, one seat will be left empty between every group of purchasers (a maximum of 4 people who wish to sit in adjacent seats). 

"On the outside courts, every other seat will be out of bounds, and spectators may sit in any of the available seats. This way, the number of spectators allowed inside the stadium will be 50% to 60% of its usual capacity, allowing us to ensure the barrier measures are respected.

"The FFT will adapt the way spectators move around inside the stadium in order to ensure that the barrier measures and social distancing are respected." 

Also confirmed were rules around cleaning standards, a commitment to ensure social distancing in areas around the grounds and instructing fans to wear marks while moving around the stadiums, with coverings recommended at other times too.

Strict protocols surrounding players and their entourage are due to follow, while the number of fans in attendance could end up being higher or lower than the current target range.

"If the situation continues to improve, more tickets may be put on sale at the beginning of September," added the statement. 

"However, if the situation requires more stringent hygiene standards that force us to reduce the number of spectators on site, the tournament organisers will refund any supplementary tickets sold."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ability only has a positive impact on team-mates, according to former Paris Saint-Germain attacker Jeremy Menez.

Ex-France international Menez spent three years at the Parc des Princes, two of those alongside Ibrahimovic, before joining Milan in 2014.

The 33-year-old built up a good connection with Ibrahimovic on the field in his early days at PSG but a change in system saw him lose his place in the side.

And Menez, now plying his trade in Serie B after joining Reggina last week, is grateful for the advice given to him by the striker during their time in the French capital

"I always got along well with him and his words motivate you to give your all, train at your best," he told Stats Perform News 

"I never had any problem with him. Such a player pushes you to improve all the time. He always wants to win. He goes out every day to train well and win it all. 

"I thank him because playing with players like him makes you grow as a professional and as a man."

Ibrahimovic scored 156 goals in 180 appearances for PSG and referred to himself as "God" in the dressing room.

Menez says the Milan striker has more than justified the hype on the field by scoring goals wherever he has played.

"It is a joke because he is like that. I smile at that because this is Ibra. It represents his career," Menez said. 

"He is like that. Despite all the words he can say, he then proves it on the pitch. What can you say against him? He always made his clubs win, wherever he went. 

"What can you say against him? I leave him be and say all he wants."

Menez has spent time in France, Turkey and Mexico since leaving Milan, but insists he is fully motivated after joining Reggina.

"I am the same Jeremy as six years ago, though this Jeremy has slept for two or three years and felt a bit out of phase. But now I am super motivated and the quality is still here," Menez said. 

"But I know I am not an easy guy to deal with myself, it's not easy to be with me every day, but we grow up, mature and get better day by day."

Christophe Dugarry has apologised for calling Lionel Messi a "half autistic kid" while laying into Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann has failed to live up to expectations since joining Barcelona in a big-money move from Atletico Madrid last July.

The France forward this week came in for stinging criticism from his compatriot Dugarry, who suggested his fellow World Cup winner is scared of playing alongside Messi.

Dugarry has come under fire for his comments about the six-time Ballon d'Or winner on RMC Sport following Barca's 2-2 LaLiga draw with Atleti on Tuesday.

The former France striker said: "What is [Griezmann] afraid of? A kid who is 1.5 metres tall and half autistic?

"All he has to do is show some balls at some point. I've been saying for a year that he has a problem with Messi. He has to hit him in the face.

"It's true that Messi could give him more passes, but honestly I am not surprised. Griezmann loses balls, doesn't play with confidence. Griezmann should go and talk to Messi to solve the problem.

"People have been saying for a year that he has a problem with Messi. He has to give himself a slap in the face. Yes, maybe Messi could give him more passes, but it really doesn't surprise me.

"Griezmann loses possession. He plays scared. Griezmann should go and talk to Messi to resolve the problem."

Dugarry apologised for his comments on Twitter, although he later removed the post.

"I am sincerely sorry for the extent and the response to my comments on Lionel Messi," he wrote.

"I did not want to stigmatise people with autism disorders, it was not my intention. I apologise to the people I offended and will [apologise] again at 6 p.m. on Team Duga [Dugarry's radio show] this evening."

Valencia have confirmed striker Rodrigo Moreno suffered a knee ligament injury during Wednesday's LaLiga defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Voro's first game in charge of the club – in his sixth spell as coach in total – ended in a 2-0 loss at Mestalla, with Raul Garcia's double handing Athletic all three points.

Another blow for 10th-placed Valencia came in the form of an injury to Rodrigo, with the 29-year-old now confirmed to have suffered a partial tear in the lateral collateral ligament of his right knee.

Rodrigo has struggled to find his best form this season, scoring just seven times in all competitions.

Melbourne Storm produced an incredible comeback to beat reigning NRL champions Sydney Roosters 27-25 in a golden-point classic at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday.

The Storm trailed by 10 points with 11 minutes remaining but took the lead thanks to quickfire tries from Jahrome Hughes and Paul Momirovski – both of which were converted by Cameron Smith

Kyle Flanagan's successful penalty was followed by a drop goal from Luke Keary in the final minute to send the Roosters back in front, but Ryan Papenhuyzen landed a one-pointer of his own before the buzzer.

Smith then kicked a successful penalty in the fifth minute of additional time to earn Melbourne back-to-back wins in a thrilling encounter.

The Roosters were out to make it six straight victories since the league resumed and led 12-6 at half-time – Flanagan and Josh Morris crossing either side of Josh Addo-Carr's try.

Hughes gave Melbourne a foothold in the match two minutes into the second period when racing away and touching down under the posts.

But the Roosters pulled away through Brett Morris and a second try for his twin brother Josh, with Keary unable to convert the latter in the 70th minute in what proved to be a costly miss.

Hughes danced through the opposition defence to give the Storm hope, however, and Momirovski helped complete the comeback two minutes later.

Then came another late twist as Flanagan nailed a penalty given away by Suliasi Vunivalu, before Keary split the posts from 30 metres out.

But Papenhuyzen levelled up right from the restart to take the game all the way and Smith kicked the golden points following a lapse in judgement from Jake Friend.

The unique competition between the Champions League last eight in August is likely to produce a surprise winner, according to Abel Xavier.

Former Portugal international Xavier is thrilled the country's capital city of Lisbon will host one-off matches from the quarter-final stage onwards as the competition ends with a mini-tournament.

Atalanta and RB Leipzig are among the teams already to have secured their place in the last eight, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Lyon and Napoli are hoping to upset Juventus and Barcelona respectively when the last-16 stage is concluded, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City – who lead their own ties – are rated as favourites to win the competition.

But Xavier feels the unique format and environment could benefit the sides who are not used to playing in the final stages.

"Yes, I think from my analysis of what I've seen with surprising results that have been happening in the [domestic] leagues, there is an extra buzz with the top teams because of the fans," Xavier said to Stats Perform News.

"There is a moment where fans give a buzz to the top teams. I think there is going to be a surprise in this last stage. 

"There are teams who are in the group and they can surprise because the teams are more exposed. 

"The teams who aren't used to being in this stage, they are more strong mentally because they play more freely, they play more open and the gap [in quality] will reduce, making games more competitive.

"For that reason, I honestly believe that it is going to be difficult and there will be a surprise in the end."

Xavier hopes the Champions League conclusion will be a fitting reward for those who have worked hardest during the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Liverpool defender added: "It's a completely different environment because of the pandemic situation and everybody readjusts. There is sporting reasons and also economic reasons.

"When you're looking at the leagues and what options they have to play and finish the leagues, there are a few countries that have decided to not continue playing, repeating the health issues.

"They for me are the priority - before football comes health. Of course, everyone must be protected and safe. 

"Portugal is one of the countries that has managed the [COVID-19] crisis very well. I think when you look at the impact, now things are becoming better, I think it's a safe place [to play football]. 

"For that reason, I believe that the opportunity to receive the eight best teams and play this kind of format in Lisbon is also a way to appreciate and say thanks for all those who made these events possible. 

"We are talking about people who work in health, hospitals because we are talking about health matters. If you are not safe you cannot have football either. 

"For that reason, I think Portugal, if things keep going the same way [with COVID-19], the teams will come here and it's going to be a great competition in a positive way.

"It's also going to attract a very positive image in Portugal because when you look back, Portugal was able to organise the big events in the best way possible. 

"For that reason, I think the final stages will be possible and I hope we can have a percentage of the public in the stadium, that would also be an upgrade if things [with COVID-19] stay like this with safety."

Diego Simeone reiterated his surprise after Antoine Griezmann was used sparingly by Barcelona against Atletico Madrid, but suggested the forward still had time to make an impact.

Griezmann was introduced in the 90th minute of Tuesday's 2-2 draw against his former club at Camp Nou and registered just six touches of the ball.

The France international has been a sub in three of Barca's last four games and has been linked with a move away at the end of the season, just a year after arriving from Atleti in a €120m transfer.

Simeone said after the game he was lost for words at Griezmann's struggles at Camp Nou but, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, he refused to criticise the 29-year-old for swapping clubs.

"I don't want to be disrespectful," he said. "At the moment we are playing a lot in this season finale and that point is not important for us today."

Asked for his opinion on the substitution, Simeone said: "I am without words. Speechless.

"I don't drive a truck, I drive a team of footballers who work for a major club like Atleti. 

"In our team, three minutes can be decisive. We lost a Champions League final in the space of three minutes and for me they are very important."

Atletico's away draw with reigning champions Barca made it 13 games without defeat in all competitions, including a 4-2 aggregate win over Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Simeone credits the victory at Anfield prior to the suspension of football due to coronavirus as the key to his side's recent resurgence in LaLiga, with four wins and two draws since the restart lifting Atleti into third place ahead of Friday's clash with Real Mallorca.

"We played a great match against Liverpool with a result that we knew was going to give us a major boost in LaLiga," he said.

"In LaLiga you are awarded for consistency. It is not over yet, but we know the Liverpool result was important for us before the break. 

"The players trained well at home and we returned as we wanted. The group is good, with good relationships between the players.

"We have to continue improving and achieve our objective against Mallorca. Hopefully we can finish as high as possible in the league."

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