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LONDON (Reuters) – All members of Yorkshire’s coaching team have left, including director of cricket Martyn Moxon and coach Andrew Gale, the club said on Friday as it vowed to regain trust and rebuild after being rocked by allegations of institutional racism.

First team coach and former captain Gale was suspended last month as part of a probe into an alleged anti-Semitic tweet he sent in 2010 while Moxon had been absent from work due to a “stress-related illness”.

The departures follow allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq, who is of Pakistani descent and is a former captain of the England Under-19s.

Rafiq said he had received racist abuse and was made to feel like an outsider at Yorkshire and that he had even contemplated suicide.

The scandal has shaken English sport, cost Yorkshire sponsors and the right to host England internationals, and embroiled some of the biggest names in English cricket.

Yorkshire, whose chief executive Mark Arthur resigned last month, said in a statement a new director of cricket will be appointed imminently and a new coaching team was being recruited.

The backroom medical team, provided by an outside clinic, had also left.

“Significant change is required at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and we are committed to taking whatever action is necessary to regain trust,” said new chairman Kamlesh Patel.

“The decisions announced today were difficult to make, but are in the best interests of the club. Without making important changes to how we are run, we cannot move on from the past to become a culture which is progressive and inclusive.”

Patel said the club had a “huge rebuilding job to do” and was determined to learn from the mistakes made.

“We want to make Yorkshire County Cricket Club a place for everyone, from all backgrounds. To do this, we need to rebuild our culture and instil positive values in everyone associated with Yorkshire,” he added.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Rohith Nair)

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(Reuters) – Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton drew first blood as he edged out Formula One title rival Max Verstappen to go fastest in the opening practice session for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Briton lapped the 6.1-km long circuit in one minute, 29.786 seconds in his Mercedes, pipping Verstappen by just 0.056 seconds.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was third in the other Mercedes, two-tenths of a second off his team mate’s pace.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the first of only two races left on this year’s Formula One calendar, with the hard fought battle of the generations between 36-year-old Hamilton and 24-year-old Verstappen racing towards its conclusion.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points in the overall standings and has his first shot at wrapping up a maiden title with a race to spare this weekend.

Hamilton, who only needs to finish fifth to keep the battle alive into next week’s Abu Dhabi finale, is gunning for a third win in a row to force a last-race showdown in his quest for an unprecedented eighth world title.

Verstappen, quick out of the blocks, set the early pace as drivers got to grips with the unfamiliar flat-out blasts of the Jeddah track.

Hamilton, whose Mercedes is expected to have an advantage around the circuit’s high-speed layout, dialled himself in more gradually, vaulting to the top of the timesheets with 15 minutes of the hour-long session to run.

The Dutchman responded with a late run on soft tyres but was unable to usurp Hamilton.

Behind the top-three, Frenchman Pierre Gasly was fourth for AlphaTauri. Antonio Giovinazzi, making way at Alfa Romeo for Chinese rookie Guyanyu Zhou next season, was fifth.

Carlos Sainz led Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc in sixth with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and former champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel completing the top 10 for Alpine and Aston Martin, respectively.

The Jeddah track, which runs along the Red Sea, is expected to be the second fastest on the calendar behind only Italy’s “Temple of Speed”, Monza.

Hemmed in by walls, drivers and teams had feared lengthy stoppages in the case of any incidents.

But, despite drivers exploring its limits, Friday’s opening session remained uneventful.

The track also drew praise, as did organisers’ efforts to complete it in time.

Teams also carried a tribute to Sir Frank Williams on their cars, co-founder of the Williams team, who died on Sunday. The squad, among the sport’s most successful outfits, was sold last year but continues to race under the Williams name.

(The story has been corrected to change slug and read third win in a row in sixth para)

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by David Evans and Rohith Nair)

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By Abhishek Takle

(Reuters) – Formula One team McLaren will be satisfied with fourth in the overall team standings, but they will be giving it everything to seize back an unlikely third from old rivals Ferrari, team boss Andreas Seidl said on Friday.

The Woking-based team head into this weekend’s inaugural race in Saudi Arabia 39.5 points behind the Italian glamour team, who only need to outscore the former champions by five points to seal third.

The race in Jeddah is the penultimate round of the season before the finale in Abu Dhabi next week.

“We will give it still all the next two races in order to score as many points as possible and see if there is something happening,” Seidl told reporters via video conference from Saudi Arabia on Friday.

“At the same time, I think if we score fourth this year, I’m happy to be honest.

“Ferrari are simply coming back strong which was to be expected from a team like Ferrari.

“I think we maximised our points in the first half of the season due to some issues also on the Ferrari side, on the operations side, and we lost more than 30 points (in the last three races).”

McLaren ended last season third behind Mercedes and Red Bull in the constructors’ standings — their best finish to a year since 2012.

The team looked on course to repeat that result this season after taking a stunning one-two finish at Ferrari’s home race in Italy.

But they have lost ground in the six races since, with the Maranello-based Ferrari team winless but staging its own comeback from an uncharacteristically off-form season in 2020.

The last three races have been particularly bruising with McLaren, having dropped back to fourth in Mexico, scoring just four points to Ferrari’s 47.

Seidl, however, said McLaren can take heart from their performances this season.

Daniel Ricciardo’s win ahead of team mate Lando Norris in Italy was the team’s first since 2012 and their first one-two result since 2010.

Norris very nearly followed that up with a second victory in Russia before a tyre gamble in changing conditions went wrong and dropped him from first to seventh.

“These are the steps I want to see and I have to see within the team,” said Seidl. “Because it just confirms that the plan we have put in place is going in the right direction.”

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Rohith Nair)

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