Monday 31 October 2011

De Souza Makes Melbourne Dash

Champion jockey contender Silvestre de Sousa will make a dash to Australia to compete in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

The Brazilian, who is suspended on Monday, is four winners behind Paul Hanagan in the Flat jockeys' standings but will fly to Australia to ride Fox Hunt for trainer Mark Johnston.

De Sousa then intends to return overnight in order to ride at both Nottingham and Kempton on Wednesday.

Reigning champion Hanagan could extend his lead in De Sousa's absence.

But Johnston believes the potential financial rewards of the Melbourne Cup are big enough to make it worth De Sousa missing one day of action in his title quest.

"He didn't really want to come and ride the horse as he's only four winners behind now, but I pointed out to him that all his winners in Europe would not even add up to the value of this one race," said Johnston.

"I wanted him to ride the horse, as he's perfect for him."

Hanagan won twice on Saturday to De Sousa's once and the Englishman now has 159 victories this season to the Brazilian's 155.

Both jockeys have five-day bans to serve under the new whip rules, but the dates of the suspensions fall after the Flat season concludes at Doncaster next weekend.

Whatever happens in the battle with Hanagan, De Sousa has made a big impression on Johnston.

"Silvestre was champion apprentice in Brazil and is a relatively new kid on the block," he said.

"I noticed him last season when he rode 100 winners for mainly small trainers, often on horses at long odds.

"Joe Fanning was injured, and he started riding a few more for me. He's a very, very confident jockey and you wouldn't be afraid to take him anywhere."

McNamara Preparing for Aussies

Coach Steve McNamara says England must approach their Four Nations clash with Australia at Wembley on 5 November differently to the 42-4 win over Wales.

Australia, defeated in the 2010 final, beat defending champions New Zealand 26-12 in their own tournament opener.

"We will need a different mindset," McNamara said.

"We can't wait and our preparation is already under way. The boys are recovering and those who are not playing are training hard."

Australia coach Tim Sheens criticised the performance of English referee Phil Bentham in the wake of his team's win over New Zealand, describing the match as "probably the slowest game I have seen for a long time".

But McNamara had little truck with the comments of his Kangaroos counterpart.

The former Bradford boss insisted his team would attempt to dictate the pace of play against Australia.

"We'll focus on what we're doing and the speed we're trying to play at," added McNamara.

"We've had this numerous times. Every time we go in to a tournament we get called 'whinging Poms', but it's us that seem to sit and listen to other people whinging about everything that goes on."

Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins, who scored three tries on his international debut against Wales in 2009, went one better as England ran out easy winners against the Dragons at Leigh.

"He's been in that form for Wigan and he brought those boots with him," said McNamara.

"He's a very potent player and he looked very sharp.

"I know Sam scored four tries and will grab the headlines, but Kevin Sinfield controlled the game. You could probably hear his talk and the influence he has on the rest of the team is enormous.

Solskjaer Wins Managerial Maiden

Former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has led Norwegian side Molde to their first league title in his first season as a manager.

The 38-year-old took over at his former club in November after a spell as reserve team coach at Old Trafford.

Molde finished 11th in their domestic top flight last season but they are eight points clear with two matches remaining this term.

Molde secured the title with a 2-2 draw against Stromsgodset on Sunday.

Rivals Rosenborg, the only side who could have closed the gap, lost 6-3 to Brann Bergen.

"The club has waited 100 years for this," Solskjaer told Norwegian newspaper VG.

"We have been close several times so this was well deserved.

"When Brann went 4-1 I realised we had done it.

"It was a good atmosphere in the dressing room and we will enjoy ourselves tonight."

Molde's first title was secured with help from two other former United coaches, Mark Dempsey and Richard Hartis, who Solskjaer brought into his backroom staff upon being appointed.

Current United defender Rio Ferdinand paid tribute to Solskjaer's managerial success on Twitter,describing him as "a true gent in the game".

Solskjaer left Molde as a player in 1996 in a £1.5m deal.

He scored 126 goals in 366 games for the Red Devils, including a dramatic winner in their 1999 Champions League final win over Bayern Munich.

In addition to that European Cup triumph, the forward lifted six league titles and two FA Cups during his time in England.

Cardiff Blues Rule Out Graham Henry

Chairman Peter Thomas insists Cardiff Blues will not approach New Zealand's World Cup winning coach Graham Henry to become the new Blues supremo.

Former Wales coach Henry has been linked with the vacant Blues position following Dai Young's departure to take over at London Wasps in June.

Wales assistants Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley have also been been mentioned as possible full-time successors to Young.

But asked if Thomas would approach Henry, he replied: "No, not at all."

Thomas met with "good friend" Henry, who inspired the All Blacks to World Cup final triumph over France, during a recent trip to New Zealand.

But the Blues benefactor told BBC Wales' Scrum V television show: "There has been no discussion whatsoever for Graham Henry to come and coach the Cardiff Blues.

"I know he is coming to the UK in the near future and I'm sure he'll spend some time in Wales and if the opportunity arises I would be delighted for him to visit and have a look at the Cardiff Blues set-up.

"But there is no thought whatsoever on Graham Henry coming to coach the Cardiff Blues."

Asked, however, if Henry wanted to become the new coach at the Pro 12 club, Thomas replied: "Well, that is a different matter.

"But Graham is 65 years of age, he has just won the World Cup and is contracted to New Zealand until March.

"And we couldn't afford him, that's the bottom line.

"Apart from that, he needs a break now."

Henry, who coached Wales between 1998 and 2002 and managed the 2001 British and Irish Lions on their tour to Australia, is a man in demand after leading New Zealand to their first world crown in 24 years.

The 65-year-old has admitted he would be interested in working with the Rugby Football Union after agreeing to coach the Barbarians in their 26 November match against Australia at Twickenham.

"He is the Sir Alex Ferguson of rugby, there is no question about it," said Thomas.

"He has an 83% record in Test rugby, there's nobody to touch him. He is head and shoulders above everyone. I'm delighted to call him a friend."

Henry is among the favourites to replace Young at the Cardiff City Stadium while Wales coach Warren Gatland's assistants Edwards and Howley had their reputations enhanced as the Welsh finished fourth at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Young's former assistants Gareth Baber and Justin Burnell are in joint temporary charge of the Welsh club and Thomas revealed their positions will be reviewed at the Blues' November board meeting.

"We'll take stock of where we are...a third of the way through the season," said Thomas.

"We'll get our Rugby World Cup players back and the board will decide which way that we'll be going for the rest of the season."

Sunday 30 October 2011

AVB Plans to Keep Attacking Style

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas insists he will not change his attacking style despite losing 5-3 to Arsenal on Saturday.

The Blues conceded five goals at home for the first time since 1989 in an enthralling London derby as Robin van Persie netted a stunning hat-trick.

Despite the heavy defeat, Villas-Boas is adamant he will not change his philosophy to the game and will work to eradicate the defensive problems on show against Arsenal.

"The philosophy is a personal value and a club value," explained Villas-Boas. "You should never sell it cheaply.

"It is something that makes us all proud and we will stick to this philosophy throughout this league. It is our way of playing, we are proud of the way we play and we just have to correct things to get a positive result."

Villas-Boas also backed his defenders insisting two freak goals cost them after they battled back to 3-3 before John Terry's slip allowed Van Persie to restore the lead and then complete his hat-trick in stoppage time as Chelsea pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

"We fought hard to get to 3-3, the emotions were behind us and it could have gone either way," added Villas-Boas. "If we can recall, there was a 3-1 result at Old Trafford, Man United thought they could swing it and they lost 6-1. We were punished in that sense.

"You have to take the last two goals out of the situation, because one is a slip from a player [John Terry] to leave the other player [Robin van Persie] one against one so is nothing to do with defensive organisation and the other is when you are trying to do something with three minutes on the clock.

"Before this we were one of the three best defences in the Premier League. We committed mistakes that we will try to evolve and maybe we can improve them for the game against Blackburn."
No distraction

Villas-Boas also denied that captain Terry had been distracted by the FA investigation into claims that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand.

"No, it was not distracting," continued Villas-Boas. "I don't think so. For me there is an investigation. It is a misunderstanding, let them investigate."

Williams Confirms Retirement Plan

Shane Williams has confirmed he wants to end his international career in Wales' match against Australia in Cardiff on 3 December.

Wales' record try-scorer had announced he would give up international rugby at the end of the World Cup.

But the 34-year-old, who has won 86 caps, hopes to be given an opportunity to say farewell on home soil.

"I am going to make myself available for this game. If selected, I want to play," he told the Wales on Sunday.

"If I am picked I will treat it in the same way I have always treated Wales games, but it will be a sad day for me. In fact, I'll be devastated.

"But to bow out in front of Welsh fans and my family and friends would be like a dream."

Williams helped Wales to a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with his three tries in the competition extending his record tally to 57 scores.

Before facing Australia in the bronze medal match, Williams had said he was being persuaded to delay his retirement until the Wallabies visited the Millennium Stadium in December.

And after a tournament that promised so much in New Zealand ended in disappointing fashion as Wales lost 21-18 to Australia, Williams hopes victory in Cardiff would be a more fitting farewell.

The wing intends to continue his club career with Ospreys, where he is under contract until the end of the 2012-13 season, but insisted he will not be tempted to extended his international career for this season's Six Nations Championship.

"I always said I would know in myself when the time came to stop playing for Wales and that time is very nearly upon me," said the 2009 International Rugby Board Player of the Year.

"After this last game in December, that's definitely it for me, there'll be no changing my mind."

Vettel Adds Inaugural India Grand Prix

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Formula 1 Airtel Grand Prix of India, but it might as well have been a replay of his victory in Korea a fortnight ago as he simply ran away and hid and left McLaren’s Jenson Button to chase him from a distance. 

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Mark Webber were even further behind while yet another clash with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa left a bitterly disappointed Lewis Hamilton to a seventh-place finish in the McLaren behind the Mercedes duo of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

All three top finishers paid their respects to IndyCar’s Dan Wheldon and MotoGP’s Marco Simoncelli, for whom there had been a minute’s silence on the grid, and said they had been racing for them on a day of mixed emotions.

Vettel sprinted into the lead at the start and worked very hard to build a cushion, which he then controlled as he led every lap. At times Button got the gap down to less than three seconds, but Vettel was always in command and the result was never in doubt.

Alonso jumped Webber after his second pit stop on Lap 39, and withstood the Australian’s counter-attack in the closing laps to complete the podium finishers.

Hamilton seemed to lack pace from the start, running in sixth behind Vettel, Button, Webber, Alonso and Massa, but had all but completed a move on the Brazilian in Turn Five on the 24th lap when Massa turned in and they collided. 

The Ferrari driver continued as the Englishman pitted for a new front wing, but Massa was later given a drive-through penalty and his next tyre stop finally dropped him behind the McLaren. To complete a bad day for him, he then broke his Ferrari’s left front suspension after clobbering a kerb in Turn 12 on the 33rd lap.

Mercedes benefitted from Hamilton’s misfortunes and a long run by Schumacher left him clear of team mate Rosberg as Hamilton struggled with his car’s handling for the rest of the race and posed no threat.

Jaime Alguersuari drove another excellent race for Toro Rosso to take eighth and the team should have had ninth too, but Sebastien Buemi’s STR06 dropped out with mechanical problems after they had caught and passed Adrian Sutil’s Force India. The German thus took ninth after a race-long fight with Sergio Perez’s Sauber and Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, while Bruno Senna was 12th after a late tyre stop ahead of Force India’s Paul di Resta, who was delayed after being in the fight with Perez and Petrov. 

Heikki Kovalainen ran as high as 10th during all the pit stops but had to be content with 14th for Lotus, well ahead of Rubens Barrichello who had to fight back from a start-line collision with Williams team mate Pastor Maldonado, then first-corner clashes with Virgin’s Timo Glock and Sauber’s Kamui Koboyashi. The latter was out there and then, Glock made it back to the pits before retiring and Maldonado later stopped with mechanical woes.

Jerome D’Ambrosio was 16th for Virgin ahead of HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan, who had a race-long duel with team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was closing fast at the end before having to make a late tyre stop. They were 17th and 18th ahead of Lotus’s Jarno Trulli, who was spun by one of them on the opening lap and was never able to make up lost ground after a long pit stop.

Vettel’s dominant win brings the world champion’s points tally to 374 from Button on 240, Alonso on 227, Webber on 221 and Hamilton on 202. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 595 points to McLaren’s 442 and Ferrari’s 325, which means the British team have secured second place in the standings ahead of the Italians. Further back, Force India hang on to sixth place with 51 points, but Sauber and Toro Rosso are now equal on 41.

Vettel also set the fastest lap of the race - on the very last lap - for the third time this season. It means he could catch team mate Webber, who is still the clear leader in the 2011 DHL Fastest Lap Award standings on five, followed by Hamilton and Button on three apiece.

Garcia into Top 20 After Valderrama

Sergio Garcia claimed his second title in two weeks with a one-shot victory in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.

Last week the Spaniard won for the first time in almost three years at the Castello Masters on his home course by 11 shots.

This win was a lot closer, as he had to get up and down for a par at the last from thick greenside rough to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez by the narrowest of margins.

The victory will take Garcia back into the world's top 20 and earn him a place in next week's World Golf Championship event in Shanghai.

"I'm out of words," said Garcia, who was ranked 49th in the world a fortnight ago. "It's been two amazing weeks."

His latest success was followed by an admission that he feared he would never come back from a slump that saw him crash from world number two to outside the leading 75 - and quit the game for a while last season.

"Ask Luke Donald," Garcia told Sky Sports. "We had a very tough conversation in Madrid."

Now, with Donald top of the rankings, they are on course to resume their unbeaten Ryder Cup partnership in Chicago next September.

"Ryder Cup years are always special," Garcia added, "so hopefully we can make that team."

Garcia, three times a runner-up on a course where no Spaniard had triumphed, was three ahead with three to play.

But Jimenez birdied the 16th and a marvellous five-wood over the lake gave the 47-year-old a 12-foot eagle chance on the next.

He had to settle for birdie, though, and when he left a 15-foot putt short of the final hole it meant three closing pars were good enough for Garcia.

Not that he found them easy. He was in trees and sand at the 16th, but holed from six feet, then was fortunate on the next when his second shot skipped out of a bunker.

"Don't plug," he shouted with the ball in the air, but after finding himself in the rough instead he made his five.

He took a three wood off the tee on the 18th and left himself 197 yards to the green, then came up short with his approach.

That left him a tricky chip but he flopped out to three feet and holed the putt, punching the air in celebration and relief.

Lennon Voices Celtic Frustration

Celtic manager Neil Lennon threatened to single out some of his players after a 0-0 draw with Hibernian left them 12 points behind leaders Rangers.

"A few have been consistent like Ki [Sung-Yueng] and Joe Ledley. But there are others who are happy to go along, riding on their backs," Lennon said.

"I have to speak to them and out them, basically.

"I am really angry. They let the game drift away from them and that is not acceptable."

The performance came just three days after Celtic hammered Hibs 4-1 in the Scottish Communities League Cup at Easter Road.

The draw compounded a poor day for the Hoops after Glasgow rivals Rangers stretched their lead at the top of the league with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen.

Lennon added: "I am not happy with some of them at the minute. I don't think they are giving enough in terms of the quality of their play or effort and I will speak to them individually and tell them what I think and I am looking for a response from them.

"But you ask them questions at times and you don't get answers."

Defender Mark Wilson defended his manager. "It is harsh words but that's what he thinks," he said.

"I don't like slagging my team-mates off but we have to do better.

"Football is a result-driven game but we don't want that [Lennon sacked]. We are firmly behind the manager and we love working with him and the coaching staff."

Despite Celtic's struggles, the Northern Irishman has refused to contemplate walking away from his position - even with rumours linking him to the vacant Leicester City manager's post.

"The only way I would leave the job this season is if I decide I am not taking the club forward or I am not getting the performances that the fans merit.

"Today, I am not hugely concerned about my position, it's more of a question of why I can't get these players to be as consistent as last season."

Lennon admitted that the form of Gary Hooper was a concern, the striker having failed to match last season's level following a spell out through injury.

"I don't know if it is a fitness thing," he said. "He keeps telling us he is all right, but at the minute he is not as bright or sharp as he should be.

"I don't know if it is an after-the-fact from the injury, but he looks short of what he should be.

"We were poor going forward. The ironic thing is we keep a clean sheet and we can't win the game.

"Our play in the final third was nowhere near good enough."

Saturday 29 October 2011

Sergio Seeks Second Win after 67

Sergio Garcia's golfing revival continued as he surged into a two-shot lead after the third round of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.

Six days after his first victory for almost three years with an amazing 11-stroke margin on his home course in Castellon, the 31-year-old Spanish star moved from three behind to two ahead with a four-under-par 67.

Needing to win again to qualify for the upcoming HSBC world championship in China, Garcia is on the six-under-par mark of 207 with a round to go.

Compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Swede Christian Nilsson, who had a joint best-of-the-week 65 on Saturday, are tied for second at four-under.

Overnight leader Richie Ramsay is three back after closing with two bogeys for a 73 - and nobody else is below par following a day that saw defending champion Graeme McDowell card 81.

Garcia's round was not without its drama on a course where he has been a runner-up, but never won.

At the long 17th his second shot from a fairway bunker ran on to rocks just by the lake and he decided to play it.

Taking off his shoes and socks and rolling up his trouser legs, Garcia stepped into the water and went for the shot.

It finished in the rough right of the green and led to a bogey six - his second of the week there - but his approach to the 454-yard last finished less than two feet from the flag and set up his sixth birdie.

"It obviously was risky," he said of his third to the 17th, "but I liked my chances of getting up and down better from there than the drop zone.

"After I three-putted the fifth I came straight back with a birdie, so to have that bouncebackability is always nice.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself, Hopefully I can come out and have the same feelings and mentality and my best will be good enough."

Vettel Adds Pole Number 13 in India

Red Bull made Formula One history on Saturday as Sebastian Vettel chalked up his 13th pole of the year ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

It means the Milton Keynes-based outfit have become the first team to achieve 16 pole positions in a single season.

Vettel's latest pole leaves him just one shy of Nigel Mansell's 1992 record with two rounds left after India, while his team have now beaten the mark they equalled last year, set at 15 alongside McLaren and Williams.

Vettel, who earlier set the pace in Saturday's final free practice session, posted the quickest lap of the weekend with a time of one minute 24.178secs, beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton into second place by almost three tenths of a second.

Hamilton, though, will start from fifth on the grid after incurring a three-place grid penalty during Friday's first free practice session, when he ignored double waved yellow flags following a spin by Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.

As a result it will be an all-Red Bull front row at the Buddh International Circuit, with Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber lining up second.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button in his McLaren occupy the second row, with Hamilton heading the third from Felipe Massa in his Ferrari.

The Brazilian, though, caused drama at the end of the top-10 shoot-out when the front-right suspension of his car broke running over a high kerb at turn nine, sending him into the gravel and a tyre wall.

Nico Rosberg starts seventh for Mercedes, followed by Adrian Sutil for Force India, and Toro Rosso pair Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari - the Italian team with both cars in the top 10 for only the second time this season.

Vitaly Petrov managed to set the same time as Alguersuari in Q2, but missed out on competing in the final 10-minute session as he set his lap later.

Although qualifying 11th, the Renault driver drops five places given his penalty handed out in the last race in Korea when he collided with Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes.
Disappointing for Schumacher

It means Schumacher now starts 11th, with Paul di Resta 12th for Force India, disappointingly finishing 0.363secs behind team-mate Sutil.

Williams' duo Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello start 13th and 15th, sandwiching Renault's Bruno Senna.

Like Hamilton, Sergio Perez incurs a three-place drop for ignoring the yellow flags in Friday practice, and although qualifying 17th, the Mexican in his Sauber starts 20th.

For only the second time this year, team-mate Kamui Kobayashi failed to make it out of Q1.

On the other occasion in Turkey an engine failure left him without a time, but in this instance there was no excuse for the Sauber driver, who only three weeks ago qualified seventh in Japan, and he will start 17th, moving up a place thanks to Perez.

Behind him will be Lotus pair Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, in 18th and 19th, then Perez, with Narain Karthikeyan in 21st for Hispania, the Indian in for Vitantonio Liuzzi at his home race.

The Virgin pair of Jerome D'Ambrosio and Timo Glock line up 22nd and 23rd, the latter suffering a gearbox issue that left him with a time outside of the 107% ruling, but it is certain he will be allowed to compete.

Lining up at the back will be Hispania's Daniel Ricciardo, who despite initially qualifying 21st, incurs a five-place penalty due to a gearbox change following final practice.

Vettel now has 28 career poles to his name and stands joint sixth in the all-time standings alongside five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

"It was tricky with the dust on the track, ending up with one racing line clear of dirt, and going slightly off means you lose a small amount of time," said Vettel, who retained his title two races ago in Japan.

"But it's good to be here, a very interesting race, a challenging circuit, so I'm excited to race tomorrow."

Hamilton, smiling on this occasion unlike in Korea a fortnight ago when he qualified on pole, said: "It's been a good day for me, and we're surprised at splitting the Red Bulls.

"But I've got the penalty, a silly mistake from myself and we paid the price, but I'm still optimistic regardless of where I start."

Webber, still chasing his first win of the season, said: "It's a challenge for us all, a new venue.

"But overall a good job from the team, with a good foundation for the race."

1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1mins 24.178secs, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:24.474, 3 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:24.508, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:24.519, 5 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:24.950, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:25.122, 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:25.451, 8 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India No Time, 9 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time, 10 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time, 11 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:26.319, 12 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:26.337, 13 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:26.503, 14 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:26.537, 15 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 1:26.651, 16 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 1:27.247, 17 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.562, 18 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.876, 19 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 1:28.565, 20 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 1:28.752, 21 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 1:30.216, 22 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) HRT-F1 1:30.238, 23 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 1:31.878, 24 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 1:34.046

Note: Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez both receive three-place grid penalties due to ignoring a yellow flag in Friday's practice, so will start the race in 5th and 20th places respectively. Additionally Vitaly Petrov receives a five-place grid penalty for causing a accident with Michael Schumacher in the Korean Grand Prix and Daniel Ricciardo receives a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, they will start 16th and 24th respectively.

Grosjean to Get Renault F1 Chance

Swiss Romain Grosjean will drive for Renault in the first practice sessions at the final two races of the season in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

The move comes as Renault weigh up their options for 2012, with at least four drivers under consideration.

Grosjean, 25, raced seven times for Renault in 2009 but failed to impress alongside team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Team boss Eric Boullier said it was an "appropriate time" for the GP2 champion to "put his skills to the test".

Grosjean will drive Bruno Senna's car in first practice in Abu Dhabi in two weeks' time and Vitaly Petrov's in the same session at the final race in Brazil a fortnight later.

He is a protege of Boullier's Gravity driver management company and is one of the drivers in the frame to race for Renault in 2012.

There are at least three other drivers in the frame - Petrov, Senna and Robert Kubica, who was the team's number one driver before suffering serious injuries in a rally accident in February.

Kubica has spent the year recovering from a partially severed hand and arm and leg fractures.

His doctor has said that he will be ready to race in 2012, but the team have said they cannot wait forever to establish whether he will be fit enough to race next year.

Boullier has said that he believes Grosjean has improved as a driver since 2009 and is more ready for F1.

"I'm sure that his feedback will be useful for the team, especially as he raced in F1 only two years ago," Boullier said.

"Since then, he has improved in every area and I'm sure he will do a good job for us."

Grosjean, who was born in Geneva but has dual French and Swiss nationality, said he was "delighted and very excited".

"I don't feel too much pressure," he added. "Getting an opportunity like this is always a massive boost and I'll make sure I make the most of the chance I've been given."

St Louis Cardinals Win World Series

The Cardinals won a remarkable World Series they weren't even supposed to reach, beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night with another key hit by hometown star David Freeseand six gutty innings from Chris Carpenter.

Pushed to the brink, the Cardinals kept saving themselves. A frantic rush to reach the postseason on the final day. A nifty pair of comebacks in the playoffs. Two desperate rallies in Game 6.

"This whole ride, this team deserves this," said Freese, who added the Series MVP award to his trophy as the NL championship MVP.

A day after an epic game that saw them twice within one strike of elimination before winning 10-9 in 11 innings, the Cardinals captured their 11th World Series crown.

"It's hard to explain how this happened," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Following a whole fall on the edge, including a surge from 10½ games down in the wild-card race, La Russa's team didn't dare mess with Texas, or any more drama in baseball's first World Series Game 7 since the Angels beat Giants in 2002.

Freese's two-run double tied it in the first, with Pujols celebrating as he scored. Good-luck charm Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third.

Given a chance to pitch by a Game 6 rainout and picked by La Russa earlier in the day to start on three days' rest, Carpenter and the tireless St. Louis bullpen closed it out.

No Rally Squirrel needed on this night, either. Fireworks and confetti rang out at Busch Stadium when Jason Motte retired David Murphy on a fly ball to end it.

"We just kept playing," Cardinals star Lance Berkman said.

Said La Russa: "If you watch the history of baseball, teams come back."

The Rangers, meanwhile, will spend the whole winter wondering how it all got away. Texas might dwell on it forever, in fact, or at least until Nolan Ryan & Co. can reverse a World Series slide that started with last year's five-game wipeout against San Francisco.

"We were close. Two times. Game 6. That's it," Texas pitcher Colby Lewis said.

Ryan left tightlipped. When a reporter tried to ask the Rangers president and part-owner a question, someone in his entourage said: "He's not talking."

Texas had not lost consecutive games since August. These two defeats at Busch Stadium cost manager Ron Washington and the Rangers a chance to win their first title in the franchise's 51-year history.

Instead, Texas became the first team to lose the Series two straight years since Atlanta in 1991-92.

"Sometimes when opportunity is in your presence, you certainly can't let it get away because sometimes it takes a while before it comes back," Washington said. "If there's one thing that happened in this World Series that I'll look back on is being so close, just having one pitch to be made and one out to be gotten, and it could have been a different story."

Added Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre: "We tried to come back today, but the momentum just took them.

"It's not a nice feeling, you know, being one strike away twice. I guess it's probably easier to lose four games in a row in a World Series, but being a strike away it's something that will be hard to forget."

This marked the ninth straight time the home team had won Game 7 in the World Series. The wild-card Cardinals held that advantage over the AL West champions because the NL won the All-Star Game -- Texas could blame that on their own pitcher, C.J. Wilson, who took the loss in July.

A year full of inspiring rallies and epic collapses was encapsulated in Game 6. Freese was the star, with a tying triple in the ninth and a winning home run in the 11th. His two RBIs in the clincher gave him a postseason record 21.

The Cardinals won their first championship since 2006, and gave La Russa his third World Series title. They got there by beating Philadelphia in the first round of the NL playoffs, capped by Carpenter outdueling Roy Halladay 1-0 in the deciding Game 5, and then topping Milwaukee in the NL championship series.

"I think the last month of the season, that's where it started," Pujols said. "Different guys were coming huge, getting big hits, and we carried that into the postseason and here we are, world champions."

By the time Yadier Molina drew a bases-loaded walk from starter Matt Harrison and Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch from Wilson in relief, the crowd began to sense a championship was near.

The Cardinals improved to 8-3 in Game 7s of the Series, more wins than any other club. Yet fans here know their history well, and were aware this game could go either way -- Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang won 11-0 in 1934, but Whitey Herzog and his Cardinals lost 11-0 in 1985.

On this evening, all the stars aligned for St. Louis.

Starting in place of injured Matt Holliday, Craig hit his third homer of the Series and made a leaping catch at the top of the left field wall. Molina made another strong throw to nail a stray runner. And Carpenter steeled himself to pitch into the seventh, every bit an ace.

"It was in our grasp and we didn't get it," Washington said, referring to Game 6. "Tonight we fought hard for it and the Cardinals got it."

Pujols went 0 for 2, walked and was hit by a pitch in what could have been his last game with the Cardinals. Many think the soon-to-be free agent will remain in St. Louis.

"You know what? I'm not even thinking about that. I'm thinking about, you know, we're the world champions and I'm going to celebrate and whenever that time comes, you know, then we'll deal with it," he said.

Pujols did plenty of damage. His three-homer job in Game 3 was the signature performance of his career and perhaps the greatest hitting show in postseason history.

Dismissed by some as a dull Series even before it began because it lacked the big-market glamour teams, it got better inning by inning. Plus, a postseason first: A bullpen telephone mixup played a prominent role.

"I told you it was going to be a great series, and it was," Texas slugger Josh Hamilton said.

"I don't care what other people remember. We fell a little bit short. Hats off to the Cards, they did a great job, especially last night. It was actually fun to watch and fun to see. You hate it but it happened."

Craig hit a solo home run in the third, an opposite field fly to right that carried into the Cardinals bullpen and got their relievers dancing. The super-sub put St. Louis ahead 3-2 with his third homer of the Series. He was in the lineup only because Holliday sprained his right wrist on a pickoff play a night earlier and was replaced on the roster.

By then, the largest crowd at 6-year-old Busch Stadium was buzzing. The fans seemed a bit drained much earlier, maybe worn out from the previous night.

They grew hush in the first when Hamilton and Michael Young hit consecutive RBI doubles. Texas might have gotten more, but Ian Kinsler strayed too far off first base and was trapped by Molina's rocket throw.

Freese changed the mood in a hurry as St. Louis tied it in the bottom half. Pujols and Lance Berkman drew two-out walks and pitching coach Mike Maddux trotted to the mound while Freese stepped in to a standing ovation.

Freese rewarded his family and a ballpark full of new friends by lining a full-count floater to the wall in left center for a two-run double. Harrison was in trouble, and Wilson began warming up after only 23 pitches.

Carpenter wasn't sharp at the outset, either. All over the strike zone, he started seven of the first 10 batters with balls. Pitching coach Dave Duncan made a visit in the second to check on the tall righty, lingering for a few extra words.

"I was hoping to have an opportunity to go ahead and pitch in that game and fortunately it worked out," Carpenter said. "It started off a little rough in the first. But I was able to collect myself, make some pitches and our guys did an awesome job to battle back. And I mean, it's just amazing."