Three weeks after he had hoped to be starring in Formula One's Australian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc saw the chequered flag confirm a virtual victory in Melbourne.

In the second event of F1's Virtual Grand Prix Series - an Esports tournament filling the gap while the real thing is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic - FDA Hublot Esports driver Leclerc delivered a dominant performance.

Leclerc, who won back-to-back races in Belgium and Italy during his debut season with Ferrari in 2019, was on pole and never looked troubled around Albert Park, winning after 29 laps.

Renault's Christian Lundgaard was second, with Williams' George Russell finishing third, denying Arthur Leclerc a place on the podium alongside his brother.

"It was unbelievably hard," Charles Leclerc said.

"We are sitting on a chair so there's not even the g-force we have in a real car.

"But I'm sweating like crazy. The muscles are not hurting but [with] the concentration and everything I've been sweating a lot."

Having seen singer Liam Payne, once of One Direction, struggle during the first race of the series, an early crash left England all-rounder Ben Stokes playing catch-up.

Stokes would finish 18th out of 18 drivers, one spot behind three-time F1 race winner Johnny Herbert.

"It's the taking part that counts...it's what I always tell my kids," Stokes wrote on Twitter.

Former F1 world champion Jenson Button finished 12th and had a better time of it than Lando Norris, who was unable to take his place on the grid due to technical difficulties.

"I pressed to join the race and it just said, 'Sorry, you're not allowed to join the race'," Norris revealed on Twitch in a chat with Max Verstappen.

Upon learning of Norris' struggles, Red Bull's Verstappen replied: "Yeah, I will never join that."

United States president Donald Trump is unsure when sport can resume in the country, but hopes it is "sooner rather than later".

With the coronavirus pandemic having brought sport to a standstill around the world, Trump spoke with leaders of the USA's leagues and organisations via a call on Saturday.

The NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour and NASCAR seasons were among those suspended, while the start of the MLB campaign was pushed back and there are concerns over the NFL.

Trump hopes to see sport resume shortly, telling a media conference: "I want fans back in the arenas.

"Whenever we're ready, as soon as we can obviously and the fans want to be back too, they want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey, they want to see their sports.

"They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air."

Asked about a possible resumption, Trump said: "I can't tell you a date.

"But I think it's going to be sooner rather than later. We're not going to have to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet.

"We need it for this period of time, but eventually people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other, like we have for all of my life and all of your life."

More than 64,000 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll in the USA exceeding 8,400.

Bernie Ecclestone believes the 2020 Formula One season should be abandoned.

The former head of the motor racing series says the coronavirus pandemic is likely to make it too complicated to allow a world championship to go ahead.

Races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands, Spain and Azerbaijan have already been postponed, while the flagship Monaco race has been cancelled, with no prospect of that race being run this year.

The Australian Grand Prix was due to be the opening race but was cancelled hours before first practice, and there has been no action since.

Long-standing former F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who passed control to the Liberty Media group in 2017, fears the sport's current bosses may struggle to piece together a credible championship.

Asked what the sport could do, Ecclestone said: "There's a million different things. I said we should stop the championship this year and start again next year hopefully.

"It's impossible to get the right amount of races in that would count for a championship. It needs to be eight races from memory and I can't see them getting that in.

"Even... let's assume that you could do a deal with the promoters and they'd say, 'Okay, we'll run basically behind closed doors', and come to some sort of financial arrangement with them to do that, you've then got to worry about will all the teams be able to participate.

"They might say, 'Let's see'. So, it's no good somebody putting on a race and spending all the money to put that on and then the teams say, 'Well, we did tell you we couldn't confirm, and we'd have to tell you later'. It's too late then, so it's a difficult situation."

The year began with all the talk centring on whether Lewis Hamilton could win his seventh title, which would move him level with Michael Schumacher's record haul.

Ecclestone says Hamilton would not mind how he wins that seventh title, even if it comes in a severely truncated year of racing.

"I don't think it'd make a lot of difference to Lewis," Ecclestone told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He would win whatever it takes to win that championship, whether it's eight races, 16 or 20. If it's a world championship and he wins it, it goes on the record as he's won a world championship.

"The terrible thing is, he'd win all eight races so it wouldn't be a super championship."

Ecclestone, 89, stressed he does not see himself having another spell in charge of Formula One, because he cannot see Liberty Media's Chase Carey wanting to offload the asset.

"No, I don't think so. I don't think Liberty want to sell so it's no good - a lot of people have said they'd like to buy, or could they buy or should they buy, or whatever.

"I think in the end you'd have to get Liberty to agree. They've never come forward and said to anybody, 'We want to sell', so I'm assuming they don't want to."

It was a night to forget for Manchester City at Anfield, where Liverpool ran riot in the Champions League.

The Orlando Magic also came crashing back to earth after their home winning streak was ended by the Boston Celtics.

Sebastian Vettel topped the podium in Malaysia, and he had a team-mate alongside him back in 2010.

We take a look back at April 4 in sporting history.

 

2018 - Liverpool paint Merseyside red

City were greeted to a hostile reception on Merseyside and it was a sign of things to come in the opening leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Liverpool fans attacked and damaged the City team coach on its way into the stadium, prompting an "unreserved" apology from manager Jurgen Klopp.

On the field, Liverpool blitzed Pep Guardiola's City 3-0 – scoring three goals in the first 31 minutes to take control of the blockbuster tie.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane heaped misery on City, who were brushed aside 5-1 on aggregate as the Reds went on to reach the final.

 

1996 - Celtics burst Magic's bubble

Up until this day, the Magic had gone 51 consecutive games without defeat at home to Eastern Conference opponents.

It was an NBA-record run dating back to April 1994.

However, Orlando's streak was halted by Boston following a 100-98 defeat.

 

 

2010 - Vettel leads Red Bull in Malaysia

It was the Red Bull show as Vettel crossed the finish line ahead of team-mate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Reliability issues had cost German star Vettel potential Formula One victories in Bahrain and Australia.

But Vettel overtook pole-setter Webber at the start and held on to secure a one-two for Red Bull, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg third.

The start of the MotoGP season has been pushed back even further with the French Grand Prix the latest race to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scheduled to be held at Le Mans on May 17, the French Grand Prix was postponed on Thursday amid uncertainty over when the season can start.

The 2020 campaign was due to begin in Qatar on March 8, but that race was cancelled.

"As the situation remains in a state of constant evolution, new dates for the French GP and the recently-postponed Gran Premio Red Bull de Espana cannot be confirmed until it becomes clearer when exactly it will be possible to hold the events," a MotoGP statement read.

"A revised calendar will be published as soon as available."

The Italian Grand Prix is next on the calendar on May 31, but could also be postponed or cancelled.

More than 52,800 people have died worldwide after testing positive for coronavirus, with Italy's death toll exceeding 13,900.

McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris have both taken voluntary pay cuts after their team became the first in Formula One to put some staff on furlough.

The 2020 F1 season is yet to begin and all grands prix have either been cancelled or postponed up until mid-June due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial impact on such a suspension has led to British-based team McLaren furloughing some employees for the next three months under a scheme offered by the government in the United Kingdom.

A statement from McLaren, published on F1's website, read: "The McLaren Group is temporarily furloughing a number of employees as part of wider cost-cutting measures due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business.

"These measures are focused on protecting jobs in the short term to ensure our employees return to full-time work as the economy recovers."

It was also confirmed that Sainz and Norris had volunteered to have their salaries reduced.

Sainz wrote on Twitter: "Due to the impact of COVID19, the McLaren Group has adopted difficult temporary measures regarding its staff to hopefully protect jobs in the long term.

"I fully understand these tough decisions and I have obviously decided to take a pay cut. We are all in this together."

It was a McLaren crew member who tested positive for coronavirus on the eve of last month's Australian Grand Prix, the season-opening race.

The team pulled out as a result, with the grand prix called off altogether shortly after.

England cricketer Ben Stokes is in for a test of an altogether different kind after he was confirmed as one of the celebrity racers in the second virtual Formula One grand prix.

Stokes is one of cricket's biggest names but will now be pushing his boundaries against F1 pros Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon, George Russell, Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi.

The inaugural race in Formula One's Virtual Grand Prix Series, an Esports tournament filling the void in the absence of the usual race calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic, took place on March 22, with cyclist Chris Hoy, golfer Ian Poulter and ex-One Direction star Liam Payne taking part – the latter showing no control as he finished 17th.

Former driver Johnny Herbert – who finished in 13th – returns for a second shot.

Sunday's race, which will be broadcast live at 19:00 UTC on F1's official YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, is scheduled to last 90 minutes and will be held at the virtual Albert Park track, the venue often used for the Australian Grand Prix.

A qualifying period will determine grid positions, followed by a 28-lap race.

Aprilia rider Andrea Iannone has been banned for 18 months after testing positive for a banned substance last year.

Iannone was provisionally suspended in December after returning an adverse finding of a non-specified substance, later confirmed to be an illegal anabolic agent, in a urine sample taken at last year's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Italian requested analysis of his B sample, which confirmed the initial result.

The FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI) confirmed on Wednesday that the 30-year-old has been given a ban backdated to December 17, meaning it will run until June 16, 2021.

Iannone will miss the 2020 season, which is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the early rounds of next year.

MotoGP added in a statement that Iannone was also officially disqualified from last year's races in Malaysia and Spain, although he did not finish either.

Iannone has 21 days to file an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The next scheduled MotoGP race is at Le Mans on May 17, with the first five rounds having been called off amid the spread of COVID-19.

A decision over whether the British Grand Prix can go ahead this year will be made by the end of April.

Formula One, like the rest of the global sporting calendar, has been severely impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The first eight scheduled races in 2020 have either been cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

F1 still hopes to stage at least a revised season of between 15 and 18 races, which could finish as late as January 2021.

The British Grand Prix, slated to take place at Silverstone on July 19, had been earmarked as a potential opener for a shortened campaign and race organisers have set out their timeline for making a call.

"Silverstone and Formula 1 remain in close dialogue regarding the ongoing situation and are assessing the feasibility of holding the British Grand Prix on 17th-19th July," a widely reported statement read.

"We fully appreciate that other UK sporting events in July have taken decisions regarding their events, but it is important to highlight that their logistics and sporting arrangements differ from Silverstone's and, therefore, our timeline gives us until the end of April to make a final decision.

"The safety of our fans, colleagues and the F1 community will be our priority and we will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities."

 

 

The longest strike in baseball history came to an end on this day in 1995.

A walkout that lasted for 232 days concluded on March 31, 25 years ago.

That is not the only significant sporting moment to unfold on this date.

Let's take a look back on this day in history...

 

1995 – MLB strike ends

The strike started in August of the previous year following wrangling over pay, with the rest of the season cancelled as a result.

That meant, for the first time since 1904, the World Series was not played.

It was on this day in 1995 that MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced an agreement had been reached to end the dispute.

1997 – Captain Lara leads Windies to victory

The legendary Brian Lara fist captained West Indies in a 1997 Test match against India.

It was a thriller, with the hosts securing victory in Bridgetown after India failed to chase down 120.

Lara top-scored for his team in the second innings, contributing 45 runs, while he also claimed a catch off the dangerous Sachin Tendulkar as the tourists were skittled for 81.

2001 – Schumacher brothers' Canadian GP one-two

The 2001 Canadian Grand Prix proved to be a special occasion in the Schumacher household.

Brothers Ralf and Michael enjoyed a respective one-two finish, sharing the podium with Mika Hakkinen.

Ferrari star Michael went on to win the title with 123 points, 58 clear of nearest rival David Coulthard.

Daniel Ricciardo admits there is still huge uncertainty over the 2020 Formula One season but hopes to be racing again by July.

The first eight scheduled grands prix of the year were either cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

F1 organisers hope to stage at least a revised season of 15 to 18 races, which could finish as late as January 2021, as Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto suggested at the weekend.

However, it appears unlikely that the sport will return for several weeks and Ricciardo, whose Renault team officially entered a three-week shutdown on Monday, told talkSPORT: "I've kept in contact with the team and we're just trying to figure out what is going on.

"I'm also aware that no one really has a hold of this virus yet. We are predicting maybe July we will get going, but, really, who knows?"

Ricciardo would relish the chance to start the season with the Canadian Grand Prix, which on June 14 is the next race on the initial calendar that has not yet been rearranged.

"I'd love for it to get started at home [in Melbourne] but knowing what I know for now, I don't think Montreal has been cancelled yet and that is the next one on the list," he said.

"I love Montreal as a city and a circuit; it's one of my favourite grands prix. So, if we could start there, that would make my day."

There was huge confusion around the planned curtain-raiser in Melbourne this month, with the race only called off when McLaren withdrew three days before after a crew member tested positive for coronavirus.

"It was weird being there, and even on Thursday I was preparing myself to compete that weekend," Ricciardo remembers.

"But I was never certain it was going to happen; I knew there was a slight risk it could all get pulled last minute.

"The bombshell for me was really when I went to bed on Thursday night, and just before I went to sleep I saw McLaren had pulled out of the race, because of the case within their team.

"I then stayed up for probably another three hours trying to fish out a bit more information, but I knew then we weren’t going to race without a full grid.

"To be honest, I was no longer comfortable with it either; I was like, 'Look, this is the first race of the season, either we are all in it or we're not, that's just how it is'."

Red Bull's drivers would have been intentionally exposed to coronavirus under a bizarre plan hatched by team advisor Helmut Marko. 

With the Formula One season on hold amid the spread of COVID-19, Marko was keen to create a kind of 'corona camp', suggesting it would be "the ideal time for the infection to come".

The 76-year-old outlined his controversial proposal, which was rejected by team management, in an interview with Austrian television station ORF.

"We have four Formula 1 drivers [Max Verstappen, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat] and eight or 10 juniors," he said.

"The idea was to organise a camp where we could bridge this - mentally and physically - somewhat dead time.

"And that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.

"These are all strong young men in really good health.

"That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts, and you can be ready for what will probably be a very tough championship once it starts."

The opening eight races of the 2020 campaign have already been called off, with F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey suggesting a revised schedule involving between 15 and 18 races could be included.

Mercedes F1 engineers have helped to create a breathing aid to keep patients suffering from COVID-19 out of intensive care that has received approval for use by the NHS.

Working with University College London engineers and clinicians at UCLH, the device – which delivers oxygen to the brain without the need for a ventilator – was created in less than a week.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has given its approval for its use.

A Mercedes statement explained: "The breathing aid, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to help Covid-19 patients with serious lung infections to breathe more easily, when oxygen alone is insufficient.

"This breathing aid was produced within a rapid timeframe - it took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device. 

"One hundred devices are to be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials, with rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country ahead of the predicted surge in COVID-19 hospital admissions."

The statement added approximately 50 per cent of patients who use CPAP in Italy "avoided the need for invasive mechanical ventilation".

"The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the 'Project Pitlane' collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects," said Mercedes HPP chief Andy Cowell.

"We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe."

There have been 19,522 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, with 1,228 having died.

Former MotoGP star Jorge Lorenzo believes he would have plenty of offers if he decided to come out of retirement.

The Spaniard, 32, retired last year after winning three MotoGP championships, the last of which came in 2015.

MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro recently criticised Lorenzo, saying he had retired so he could leave Honda before returning to Yamaha.

Lorenzo, who is set to race for Yamaha as a wildcard at the Catalan Grand Prix, accepted the Spaniard's opinion and said he was sure there would be several offers if he decided to make a return.

"There are many opinions and you have to respect what they think. If in this case Pol thinks that and says it with respect, well, it is respected," he told Catalunya Radio on Sunday.

"In the event that I wanted to compete again, I don't think I'd be short of offers, but at the moment that is not the case."

Lorenzo struggled late in his MotoGP career, failing to register wins in 2017 and 2019.

He has no plans to make a comeback, saying he had achieved all he could in MotoGP.

"I have always said that the decision was final," Lorenzo said.

"You can never say, 'I will not drink from this water', but I retired with the idea of leaving forever. I was 32 years old, I had been a professional for 15 years.

"And luckily I have been very successful and I have won many things. Other riders have not been so lucky.

"To continue would be to repeat because I cannot achieve something more important than being the MotoGP world champion, and I did it three times."

The start of the MotoGP season has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alex Marquez got one over on his MotoGP champion brother Marc Marquez with a resounding victory in Sunday's Virtual Race.

This year will be Alex Marquez's first in the MotoGP ranks, after winning last season's Moto2 championship, but racing on the track is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet star riders scratched a competitive itch while hunkering down at home by taking part in the console simulation of a six-lap grand prix at Mugello.

The Italian circuit is one where both Marquez brothers have tasted success, with Alex winning in Moto2 last year and Marc landing a MotoGP triumph in 2014 - as well as previous Moto2 and 125cc victories.

The Marquez siblings are teaming up this year with Repsol Honda, after Jorge Lorenzo's retirement, and will hope to soon be engaging in wheel-to-wheel action rather than such pseudo-racing.

Sunday's race was every rider for himself nevertheless, and 23-year-old Alex Marquez left his 27-year-old brother standing.

Pramac Ducati rider Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia was second, Maverick Vinales took third, and Fabio Quartararo finished fourth, with Marc Marquez down in fifth position.

Dubbed the #StayAtHomeGP by MotoGP organisers, the virtual race began dramatically with Quartararo taking out Vinales at the first corner.

Quartararo had started from pole position and he also produced the fastest lap of the race - one minute and 44.454 seconds.

However, at one stage he sat last of all 10 riders and had to settle for a finish just short of the podium places after a surge through the field.

Marquez's margin of victory was an imposing 7.093 seconds.

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