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Vettel still has what it takes at Ferrari, says Webber
27 June 2019, 6:16 AM

Sebastian Vettel took the Formula One lead from Lewis Hamilton at last year’s Austrian Grand Prix but the Ferrari driver has now fallen so far behind there can be no repeat at Spielberg this weekend. After eight races, Ferrari’s German lags his Mercedes rival by 76 points and cannot catch up until August, even if Hamilton had three retirements in a row — unlikely for a man with only one since 2016.

Vettel, who won all four of his world championships with Red Bull, has gone 16 races without a victory and made some costly errors, while Hamilton has won 14 of the last 20.

Questions have increasingly been asked about Vettel’s performance under pressure while Hamilton speeds towards a sixth championship.

Australian Mark Webber, now-retired former Red Bull team mate, feels Vettel still has what it takes but needs better support and more ammunition from the oldest and most glamorous team.

“I think he needs a couple more lieutenants, he needs to have less responsibility in the team and just more reassurance that the Monday to Friday stuff is going to be dealt with,” he told Reuters.

“Seb’s still has got it, but it’s a real challenge to stay ahead against a Mercedes-Lewis Hamilton factor week in and week out.”

Vettel is third overall, and best of the rest behind the Mercedes drivers, with team mate Charles Leclerc fifth and 24 points further adrift.

Formula One’s most successful team have not won any title since 2008.

“I don’t find the challenge now different to last year or the years before,” Vettel said in France last Sunday. “We are in a better place than maybe 2015 and 2016 so I think 2017 and ‘18 have been a clear step in the right direction.

“It’s true that last year at this point we were more competitive but it is what it is now…what is important is to look back at these races and understand what we need to do better.

“I love racing, nothing has changed about that.”

This year’s car was the talk of pre-season testing with its straight-line pace in Barcelona but is losing time overall to Mercedes through the corners. Correcting the problems will take time.

In Canada, Vettel also led from pole but ended up a controversial second after a time penalty for going off and rejoining in an unsafe fashion.

The German has been wearing the red overalls since 2015, dreaming of emulating great compatriot and idol Michael Schumacher, but the magic is wearing thin even as Leclerc’s popularity grows.

The scrutiny, as ever, is intense and unsparing.

“Red Bull is like a Formula Three team compared to Ferrari. With Ferrari there’s an article every day in the Gazzetta dello Sport. It’s a religion there and being a driver is not easy,” said Webber.

“If you look at when Ferrari executed the best, we go back to when it was Ross (Brawn) and Jean (Todt),” he said, referring to the golden years at the start of the century when Ferrari won six successive constructors’ titles under foreign bosses.

“They had a big mix of culture and I think that’s still a bit of a missing link.”

So too is qualifying and single lap pace, with Vettel dangerous when starting off the front row but more vulnerable further back.

“Lewis is going to win the championship and Mercedes are going to win the constructors’ (title), it’s obvious. Mercedes are just too strong,” said Webber.

“Ferrari just have not got enough bullets. It’s like a football team, Mercedes just keep getting a result. Ferrari need everything to line up.”

US regulator identifies new flaw on grounded Boeing 737 MAX
27 June 2019, 5:53 AM

The US Federal Aviation Administration has identified a new risk that Boeing Co must address on its 737 MAX before the grounded jet can return to service, the agency said on Wednesday.

The risk was discovered during a simulator test last week and it is not yet clear if the issue can be addressed with a software upgrade or will require a more complex hardware fix, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The FAA did not elaborate on the latest setback for Boeing, which has been working to get its best-selling airplane back in the air following a worldwide grounding in March in the wake of two deadly crashes within five months.

The new issue means Boeing will not conduct a certification test flight until July 8 in a best-case scenario, the sources said, but one source cautioned it could face further delays beyond that. The FAA will spend at least two to three weeks reviewing the results before deciding whether to return the plane to service, the people said.

Last month, FAA representatives told members of the aviation industry that approval of the 737 MAX jets could happen as early as late June.

The world’s largest planemaker has been working on the upgrade for a stall-prevention system known as MCAS since a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October, when pilots were believed to have lost a tug of war with software that repeatedly pushed the nose down. A second deadly crash in March in Ethiopia also involved MCAS. The two accidents killed a total of 346 people.

“On the most recent issue, the FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” the FAA said in the statement emailed to Reuters. “The FAA will lift the aircraft’s prohibition order when we deem it is safe to do so.”

Boeing said in a securities filing late on Wednesday that the FAA has asked it to address through software changes a specific flight condition not covered in the company’s already-unveiled software changes.

The U.S. planemaker also said it agreed with the FAA’s decision and request, and was working on a fix to address the problem.

“Boeing will not offer the 737 MAX for certification by the FAA until we have satisfied all requirements for certification of the MAX and its safe return to service,” Boeing wrote in the filing.

Boeing’s aircraft are being subjected to intense scrutiny and testing designed to catch flaws even after a years-long certification process.

Two people briefed on the matter told Reuters that an FAA test pilot during a simulator test last week was running scenarios seeking to intentionally activate the MCAS stall-prevention system. During one activation it took an extended period to recover the stabilizer trim system that is used to control the aircraft, the people said.

It was not clear if the situation that resulted in an uncommanded dive can be addressed with a software update or if it is a microprocessor issue that will require a hardware replacement.

In a separate statement, Boeing said addressing the new problem would remove a potential source of uncommanded movement by the plane’s stabilizer.

A hardware fix could add new delays to the plane’s return to service.

The FAA also said on Wednesday that it continues “to evaluate Boeing’s software modification to the MCAS and we are still developing necessary training requirements. We also are responding to recommendations received from the Technical Advisory Board. The TAB is an independent review panel we have asked to review our work regarding 737 Max return to service.”

American Airlines Group Inc and Southwest Airlines Co earlier canceled flights through early September as a result of the grounding. On Wednesday, United Airlines said it also was removing MAX flights from its schedule through Sept. 3.

A fighter on a building
Libya’s Haftar loses main base in Tripoli in surprise blow
27 June 2019, 5:46 AM

Forces allied to Libya’s internationally recognized government on Wednesday seized the town of Gharyan south of Tripoli, home to the main supply base of eastern forces attacking the capital, witnesses and Tripoli officials said.

The takeover of Gharyan by Tripoli forces is a major blow to the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar, which on April 4 started an offensive to take Tripoli from the internationally recognized administration.

The offensive has not advanced beyond Tripoli’s southern suburbs, and the frontline had not changed significantly for weeks.

Gharyan was until Wednesday the main forward base for the LNA, where troops, weapons and ammunition arrived from the East. The LNA began its Tripoli campaign here.

Forces allied to the Tripoli government, backed by air strikes, stormed the town, some 90 km (56 miles) south of Tripoli, in the morning in a surprise attack, witnesses said.

They took the central operations room of the LNA, which by evening had left the town, they added. Gharyan is also home to field hospitals and there is a helicopter base outside the town.

The Tripoli-based Presidential Council in charge of the government said in a statement Gharyan had been fully “liberated”.

One of its members, Mohammed al-Ammari, warned in a separate statement against any revenge attacks.

The LNA still holds the town of Tarhouna southeast of Tripoli, its second main position in the campaign.

“This is a game changer,” said Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow with the North Africa and Middle East program at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“If Haftar can’t retake it quickly (which is doubtful) Tarhouna and the remaining LNA units will be more isolated, under resourced and with lower morale,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the LNA, whose spokesman Ahmed Mismari had hours earlier said that an attack by Tripoli forces had been repelled.

Haftar and his backers say they are trying to free the capital from militias which they blame for destabilizing Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Haftar’s critics accuse him of trying to seize power through force and deepening a conflict between factions based in the east and west of the sprawling North African country.

Haftar’s offensive has upended United Nations-led plans to stabilize Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-rich nation divided and caused living standards to plummet.

The conflict risks disrupting oil production, creating a vacuum exploited by militants and prompting more migrants to leave for Italy by boat.

Director of BNP Capital to testify at Capture Commission
27 June 2019, 5:27 AM

Director of BNP Capital Daniel Mahlangu will on Thursday give testimony at the State Capture Commission in Johannesburg.

BNP Capital was awarded an allegedly irregular tender by South African Airways (SAA) to source a R15 billion debt consolidation loan. On Wednesday the commission heard from former SAA CEO Siza Mzimela – who told the commission she was surprised when Dudu Myeni was appointed as board chair at SAA as she had the worst attendance record as one of the directors at SAA.

Mzimela says she eventually resigned due to frustrations regarding irregularities at the organisation and lack of support from her seniors. She says the board chair and the executive chair clearly had motives to interfere with procurement processes at SAA.

Mzimela said, “She would speak to the chair and speak to me as Group CEO and say I am sorry I have to run. Her main excuse was I had to run cause number one has called her into a meeting. (Zondo) sorry? She has to rush cause number one has called her into a meeting. (Zondo) Oh she used to say that? Yes to me. (Zondo) What was your understanding to whom she was talking about? I understood her to be speaking about the president at the time., which to me was aligned cause she was the chair of the foundation. So I assumed she was being called for that reason.”

Amazon’s new beauty store for professionals poses threat to retailers
24 June 2019, 9:41 PM

Amazon.com Inc on Monday unveiled its online professional beauty store to sell supplies to licensed professional stylists, barbers and estheticians, weighing on shares of other beauty retailers.

It would sell a wide range of brands from Wella Color Charm and RUSK to OPI Professional, and other supplies typically found in salons and spas, Amazon said in a blog post here.

Following Amazon’s announcement, shares of beauty retailers Ulta Beauty Inc fell about 3% and those of Sally Beauty Holdings plummeted 9%.

Stylists can now find almost everything they need to run their business in a single store at low prices, with fast, free shipping in one to two days on eligible orders with Business Prime, Amazon said.

“Stylists can find more of what they need at great prices with convenient delivery options, freeing up their time to focus on what’s important: their customers,” said Steve Kann, director of customer driven experience, Amazon business.

Amazon said the buyers would need a state-issued cosmetology, barber, or esthetician license to purchase products.

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