Spenders Spurs drawn with sellers Anzhi in Europa League

Group K opponents Spurs, who had been linked with Anzhi’s Brazilian playmaker Willian before he joined Chelsea instead along with the Russian club’s Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, have brought in several new faces.

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Tottenham have already broken their transfer record twice with the signings of Spain striker Roberto Soldado and Brazil midfielder Paulinho amid media reports that their Wales forward Gareth Bale will join Real Madrid in a world record deal.

The draw for the group stage of Europe’s second-tier club competition also featured Cypriot side APOEL, who have replaced Fenerbahce, and Norway’s Tromso, reinstated in place of Besiktas after the Turkish clubs lost appeals against match-fixing bans.

APOEL feature in Group F with France’s Bordeaux, Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Tromso are in Tottenham’s group along with Moldovan outfit Sheriff.

Former European champions PSV Eindhoven were drawn in Group B alongside Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, Ukraine’s Chornomorets Odessa and Bulgaria’s Ludogorets.

Sevilla, who won back-to-back UEFA Cups – the predecessor to the Europa League – in 2006 and 2007 will face Germany’s Freiburg, Portugal’s Estoril and Czech side Liberec in Group H.

Holders Chelsea and last season’s runners-up Benfica are competing in the Champions League.

There are 48 clubs across 12 groups. Group winners and runners-up advance to the knockout stage where they will be joined by eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage. The final will staged in Turin, Italy, in May.

(Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Tiger’s practice may be restricted by ailing back

Woods collapsed to his knees in pain with a spasm on the 13th hole during Sunday’s final round of The Barclays in New Jersey and though he recovered to nearly force a playoff, his ongoing back issues have forced a change of plans this week.

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The world number one pulled out of his good friend Notah Begay III’s charity event on Wednesday and kept himself away from practice sessions at the TPC Boston until Thursday’s pro-am competition.

That cautious approach came after Woods received a series of treatments for his back, some of which will continue for the rest of this week.

“Ice, stim (stimulation), ultrasound, soft tissue (massage), make sure the firing sequence is good, it’s in the proper sequence, and plenty of rest, something I’m not real good at, but I was forced to do it,” Woods said when asked about his treatment in recent days.

“I’m going to have to do it, I don’t want to have to do it. So hopefully my back will stay where it’s at right now if not improve, so I can start doing the other little exercises, start strengthening it and getting back to where it needs to be.”

CAREFUL BUILD-UP

Woods’ careful build-up to this week’s playoff event meant he initially planned to play fully only the first nine holes during Thursday’s pro-am but, after feeling an improvement in his back, he went on to complete the full round.

“It is obviously a lot better since Sunday,” said Woods, who tied for second at The Barclays, a stroke behind winner Adam Scott of Australia.

“I hadn’t swung a club since Sunday at the Barclays, and it was nice to go out today and feel comfortable and be able to hit shots.

“I was only going to play nine holes and chip and putt on the back nine, like I did at the Barclays, but it felt good so I continued playing today.”

Woods, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour this season, is known for putting in plenty of time on the range after his rounds but he said that strategy may have to be limited this week.

“It’s a day-to-day deal on how I feel, whether I’m going to practise or not after, whether or not I’m going to get a little bit tight now,” he told reporters.

“(I’m going to) go eat. If I get a little bit tight, then I probably won’t hit balls. But I’d like to putt a little bit, get a feel for the speed of the greens. As far as hitting balls, it’s going to be day-to-day.

“This was, as I said, the first day I hit balls or swung a club since Sunday. And it was a pleasant surprise to go out there and play without any discomfort.”

Woods will feature in a star-studded group for Friday’s opening round at the TPC Boston, having been paired with Masters champion and world number two Adam Scott, and third-ranked American Phil Mickelson, the winner of this year’s British Open.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

Messi in Argentina squad missing four suspended players

Messi, who suffered a hamstring injury during Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, is expected to be fit by the time group leaders Argentina visit Asuncion for the match on September 10.

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Higuain, top scorer in the South American qualifying competition with nine goals in 11 matches, was sent off against Colombia while midfielder Mascherano was shown a red card versus Ecuador in Argentina’s last two qualifiers in June.

However, striker Sergio Aguero is back after missing the 2-1 win over Italy in a friendly in Rome last week.

Coach Alejandro Sabella, who named an 18-man squad, is also without suspended first choice centre backs Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez who have two bookings in the competition.

Second-placed Colombia can catch Argentina at the top of the South American group if they beat Ecuador on September 6 while Sabella’s team can secure a berth at the next year finals in Brazil with a victory in Paraguay four days later.

Argentina, who lead the standings on 26 points and have three matches to go, do not play on September 6 when the eight other nations have qualifiers, most of whom have four matches left.

Colombia have 23 points, Ecuador and Chile are on 21, while Uruguay and Venezuela have 16 in the nine-nation group. The top four qualify for the finals while the fifth-placed team goes into a playoff against an Asian qualifier for another spot.

Paraguay, World Cup quarter-finalists in South Africa in 2010, have had a poor campaign and are bottom with eight points. However, they gave Germany a fright in a 3-3 draw in a friendly in Kaiserslautern last week on new coach Victor Genes’s debut.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco), Mariano Andujar (Catania)

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Fabriccio Coloccini (Newcastle United), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Cristian Ansaldi (Zenit St Petersburg)

Midfielders: Ever Banega (Valencia), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Erik Lamela (AS Roma)

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St Germain), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan)

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Rex Gowar in London; Editing byKen Ferris)

Joyous Afghans celebrate football win with dancing, gunfire

The national men’s team beat India 2-0 to win the South Asian Football Federation championship in Kathmandu late on Tuesday, Afghanistan’s first international football title, sending tens of thousands of joyous Afghans into the streets.

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Fans in cars and on motorbikes joined others on foot, cheering, blowing horns and waving Afghan flags throughout the night. Many danced in the streets of the capital, Kabul, after crowding around television sets in their homes, restaurants and coffee shops to watch the match.

“Now I know what being proud feels like, this is the happiest time in my life,” said fan Ahmad Bashir, an Afghan flag draped over his shoulders.

“I have no idea what we will do if we ever win the World Cup,” he said.

Most of those out in the streets of the strictly conservative Muslim country were men, although some families in cars joined in the celebrations, many shouting “Zendabad Afghanistan!” (Long Live Afghanistan!).

Afghans have struggled under the weight of three decades of conflict, stretching back through the occupation by former Soviet forces, a civil war, austere rule under the Taliban and then another 12 years of war since the Taliban were toppled.

Such celebrations would have been unimaginable under the Taliban, who banned music and television and forbade women access to education and most public gatherings.

The Taliban also banned most sport, and even used the national football stadium in Kabul for public executions.

“Our youths proved that we have the ability to make progress and win,” Karzai said in a statement issued by the presidential palace. Karzai’s office tweeted a picture of him watching the match in the palace.

Celebrations continued throughout Thursday, a brief respite for Afghans who fear increased violence as most foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

The night erupted into gunfire in Kabul and elsewhere across Afghanistan immediately after the match as fans fired AK-47 assault rifles – commonplace in many Afghan households – and even machine-guns into the air in celebration.

Witnesses said many of those firing into the air had been police. The gunfire panicked some residents, who feared an attack by the Taliban, and led to warning sirens being sounded in some foreign embassies.

The Afghan interior ministry and the intelligence agency congratulated the national football team in a statement.

They had to send out a second statement on Thursday urging people to stop the celebratory gunfire because of the risk posed by bullets falling back to earth.

(Editing by Paul Tait)

Time for Cooper jeering to stop, says All Blacks coach

Cooper has been on the receiving end from All Blacks fans for the past three seasons after the 25-year-old flyhalf enraged the country of his birth for “cheap shots” on New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw in international matches.

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Benched for the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney, Cooper was jeered by All Blacks fans when he came on for the last quarter of Australia’s 47-29 loss and is likely to receive worse if given game time in Saturday’s return match in Wellington.

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper on Monday labelled the jeering “unreasonable” and “below the belt” on Monday, and Hansen also suggested he had had enough of it.

“Two things, firstly we are probably all over it. Secondly, he probably brought it all on himself,” Hansen told New Zealand media on Tuesday.

“I don’t boo him and I’ll continue not to boo him. I think he’s a good player and not a bad bloke either when you have a quiet chat to him.

“But it probably would be good if we all got over it.”

Cooper was branded “Public Enemy Number One” in New Zealand at the 2011 World Cup, and booed every time he touched the ball.

The vitriol has even followed him at provincial level, and he was abused by fans in Christchurch when his Super Rugby side Queensland Reds lost to the Crusaders in the playoffs.

All Blacks winger Julian Savea also suggested fans should quit the catcalls.

“Nah, it’s not (good),” New Zealand media quoted Savea as saying. “If someone was booing me all the time I know it would be pretty tough. I don’t know what else to say on that, but I guess it’s tough on (him).”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

All Blacks juggle objectives ahead of Springboks clash

Hansen highlighted his 2015 World Cup plans on Thursday by giving young hooker Dane Coles his third start in his ninth test for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match (kickoff 8:35 a.

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m.) at Eden Park in Auckland.

But he resisted continuing the development of Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua for the hotly anticipated encounter, opting instead to restore first-choice prop Owen Franks and flanker Liam Messam after they returned from injuries.

Franks, still only 25, will earn his 50th test cap on Saturday and is considered one of the best tighthead props in the world, while blindside Messam’s inclusion at the expense of Luatua was for his experience and physicality around the ruck.

The decision to reinstall the pair was no doubt to combat the fierce confrontation Hansen expects from the Springboks pack, who battered Australia into submission in their 38-12 victory last week.

The win in Brisbane gave them a nine-match winning streak and they arrived in New Zealand confident they could be the first Springboks team to beat the All Blacks at home since John Smit’s side recorded a 32-29 victory in Hamilton in 2009.

“The All Blacks are a great side,” Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer told reporters this week. “There are no weaknesses there.

“You have to be at your very best in all facets of the game because they have a brilliant kicking game, they have a brilliant running game.

“They defend well. They scrum well and have a good lineout. That is why they’re the world champions.”

BALANCED APPROACH

The Springboks, so long criticised for their one-dimensional approach to the game, are developing a side that is starting to find the balance between a bludgeoning forward pack and backline willing, and able, to use the ball at pace and with width.

“We know physically they’re an awesome side, but with some of the tries they have been scoring they’ve been playing quite an open style,” flyhalf Daniel Carter told Fairfax Media earlier this week.

“They’re a bit more of an all-round package – whereas in previous years they have been quite one-dimensional.”

The Springboks have scored 14 tries in their three games in the southern hemisphere championship so far, including nine in a 73-13 rout of Argentina in the first round and four against the Wallabies last week.

Those two bonus point victories have given the Springboks a one-point lead over the All Blacks in the standings and the winners of the Eden Park clash will seize the initiative in the fight for the title.

Such is the anticipation ahead of the match that even Carter joined the pundits in describing it as the most important game in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup final.

“This is going to be the biggest match of our year so far, and even potentially one of the biggest since the World Cup because of the form they’re in,” Carter said.

“At home on Eden Park against an in-form Boks side – it’s an occasion you want to be part of.”

New Zealand: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Daniel Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Tony Woodcock

Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Steven Luatua, 20-Matt Todd, 21-Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Charles Piutau

South Africa: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Willie le Roux, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Flip van der Merwe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Gurthro Steenkamp, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Juandre Kruger, 20-Siya Kolisi, 21-Jano Vermaak, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Oracle win shows New Zealand has not locked up America’s Cup

While government-backed New Zealand won the third heat of the 17-race final series on San Francisco Bay, software billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle team led the first half of that match and controlled the entire fourth race, cruising into the finish about eight seconds in front of the Kiwis.

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Though Oracle started the finals behind by two races due to a jury-imposed cheating penalty, the series now looks like a contest between two well-matched, high-tech 72-foot catamarans.

“A lesser team probably would have crumbled in the fourth race,” a jubilant Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said at a news conference. “It feels good to shift the momentum over towards us.”

Oracle had better starts near the fog-enshrouded Golden Gate Bridge than New Zealand in both Sunday races. In the first Spithill forced the challengers into a right-of-way infraction that prompted a penalty.

But the Kiwis got around the Americans in an upwind tacking dual on the third leg off Alcatraz Island. Oracle was unable to regain the lead, trailing by 28 seconds at the finish line.

The New Zealand boat looked fast upwind, turning a 17-second Oracle lead at the mark ending the first downwind leg, into a 29-second advantage over Oracle at the windward turning mark near the Golden Gate.

Oracle’s AC72 seemed to excel when the wind increased to over 20 knots (23 miles per hour) in the second race of the day. Spithill, an Australian, used aggressive pre-start tactics to claim the advantageous position as the race kicked off.

The American team blocked every move Team New Zealand made to stay ahead at each of the five marks and reached a top speed of 46 knots (53 mph).

Despite what might have been a costly mistake, splashing his twin hulls back into the water off the hydrofoils too early at the third mark, he recovered and maintained a slightly higher average speed over New Zealand around the course.

Racing continues on Tuesday and Thursday. With two matches on each day, New Zealand could take back the “Auld Mug,” as the Cup in called in the sailing world, on Saturday.

Bookmakers contemplated a Kiwi sweep, but given Sunday’s close races, New Zealand still has an uphill battle.

“We want to keep the Cup here in the Bay,” Spithill said. “These guys want to take it to New Zealand.”

To hold onto the Cup, Oracle needs two victories more than New Zealand.

The Kiwis must win nine races to take the 162-year-old trophy. Oracle needs to win 11 because of a punishment for making illegal modifications to 45-foot catamarans it used in warm-up regattas.

Kiwi managing director Grant Dalton crewed on his yacht in Sunday’s first race. But after manning one of the pedestal grinders that provide the power to the yacht’s moving parts, the 56-year old took a break for the second race. A reporter asked New Zealand skipper Dean Barker if he could blame the lost race on Dalton’s absence.

Barker chuckled and said he remained confident in his team’s ability despite the loss.

“We sailed by our standards a pretty average race, and we still sailed a close race,” he said.

If New Zealand wins the Cup, Dalton has said he would use the defender’s right to set rules to force teams competing in the next America’s Cup to employ only sailors from their home countries. A nationality rule could heavily favour New Zealand, a sailing-crazed nation that produced many of the yachtsmen in this year’s America’s Cup competition.

Only two of Oracle’s sailors are Americans, and another two come from New Zealand. In contrast, all but two of New Zealand’s sailors hail from the tiny island nation.

(Editing by Alden Bentley)

Buffon and Italy ready to party

The goalkeeper will draw level with his old Juventus teammate and former national team captain’s 136 caps in their clash with the Czech Republic at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.

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It was Buffon’s impressive display in Friday’s 1-0 win against Bulgaria that helped put his side just three points away from securing a certain spot at the tournament finals in Brazil.

“I hope that it’s a night of celebrations for everyone. My personal situation will only be satisfying to me if we qualify for the World Cup,” said a sanguine Buffon after the nervy victory which moved them up to 17 points.

His world class saves from Ivelin Popov and Dimitar Rangelov helped maintain the slender lead Alberto Gilardino had given them late in the first half and stretched the Azzurri’s advantage at the top of Group B to seven points with three games remaining.

They are eight points ahead of the Czechs who conceded an injury-time goal to lose 2-1 at home to Armenia.

“I don’t think I did anything special. I’m the Italy goalkeeper and I have to show that every time I play, for me that’s how it is,” said Buffon, who was acclaimed in the Italian press following the win.

Palermo keeper Stefano Sorrentino told the Corriere Dello Sport: “In Italy there are two categories of goalkeeper. The first is ours, and includes normal goalkeepers, both the good and not so good.

“Then there is another category, where there is only Buffon.”

Manager Cesare Prandelli can count on the return of Milan pair Mario Balotelli and Riccardo Montolivo and Southampton striker Pablo Osvaldo from suspension, but has problems in defence with fullbacks Luca Antonelli and Ignazio Abate both out after suffering injuries on Friday.

Giorgio Chiellini looked extremely uncomfortable after moving to left back, and Prandelli has called up Fiorentina’s Manuel Pasqual and Sampdoria’s Lorenzo De Silvestri to cover the defensive gaps.

Should they win they will qualify, while a draw will be enough if second-placed Bulgaria, on ten points, fail to beat bottom side Malta, whose only points have come from their 1-0 win in Armenia in June.

Michal Bilek’s Czech team are on nine points thanks in part to a stuttering campaign during which they have won only one home game – against Malta.

They are locked in a four-way battle for the runners-up spot with Bulgaria above them and Armenia and Denmark, who are below the Czechs on goal difference.

Bulgaria, however, currently have the lowest points total of any second-placed team.

With only the eight best runners-up qualifying for the playoffs, whoever finishes behind Italy runs the risk of missing out.

The Czech’s shock 2-1 home loss to Armenia also highlighted their struggles in finding a striker able to finish off scoring chances.

Their equaliser in Friday’s defeat came from a long-range shot that was deflected into the net.

Czech captain Tomas Rosicky acknowledged that their poor home form has not helped the team’s cause, but said they would go to Italy, hoping to steal a goal against the run of play, much like Armenia did against them.

“It will be really difficult, that’s for sure, but if there is any chance at all, then it is worth fighting for,” Rosicky told the iDNES website (www.idnes.cz).

(Reporting by Terry Daley; editing by Toby Davis)

Bach calm as presidential vote looms

Having served the retiring Jacques Rogge for 10 years as a vice-president, the former fencer believes he has the experience, the connections and the know-how to lead the band of some 100 custodians of the Olympic Games.

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“The tension rises,” he told reporters in the busy lobby of the Hilton hotel hosting the IOC’s 125th Session.

If Bach was feeling tense, he did not show it as he smiled his way through questions, one eye on his colleagues milling around the foyer in a break from meetings.

Bach is in a field of six for the top job, but insiders say only Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang and Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion are serious rivals.

Few give much hope to Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka, Switzerland’s Denis Oswald or CK Wu of Taiwan.

While it is widely accepted that Bach is the man to beat, the German refuses to speculate.

“GREAT FINAL”

“I am looking forward to the decision. After all the training camps, now is the time to go to the piste,” he said, borrowing from his fencing past.

“I am an athlete and I am just in front of a great final — you feel you have done all your training so you can go with all confidence.

“But you have to know, in the grand final everyone starts on the same line.”

Mutterings of the beginnings of a mild smear campaign by Oswald leave Bach unfazed.

The Swiss administrator questioned Bach’s independence in the campaign, referring to support from the influential IOC member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, who openly backed Bach.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams later told reporters Oswald had apologised to the IOC, and that he had said more than he had intended in an interview.

“I understand he has been reminded of the rules of the election,” Adams said.

But while commentators on the sidelines worked themselves into a frenzy hours before the vote, Bach coolly brushed off the issue.

“I have not heard it. There are so many rumours these days that I have got used to not following them.

“I focus on the discussions I have with my colleagues and they are going well.”

VIABLE CHOICE

Singapore’s Ng is considered a viable choice, although with Tokyo being awarded the 2020 Olympics, it seems unlikely both decisions will go Asia’s way.

Still, though, seven of the last eight presidents have been Europeans, a fact which sits uneasily with some members. This could play in Carrion’s favour.

“I have a management style I feel is appropriate,” Carrion said. “Most importantly I am very committed to the Olympic movement.

“I think it is very important that the new president has independence and a clean sheet.”

All candidates are aware of the work that lies ahead. The outgoing president Rogge was a steadying hand who restored credibility to the body after a series of financial scandals; but there is still much to do.

“We have different challenges coming up,” Ng said. “We have to continue to be strong, to be firm, to be tough against doping.

“We must work closer with (global anti-doping body) WADA and the international (sports) federations.

“We should work more with countries and with sports who have problems.”

Bach sees four distinct challenges ahead, most pressing is the need to manage the size and cost of the Games that can be large enough to cripple some economies and scare off would-be hosts.

The new president will also have to manage a number of early problems including the fall-out from Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law ahead of February’s Sochi Olympics, and the disorganised state of Rio’s 2016 preparations.

“We must develop the concept of sustainability for the Olympic Games starting with the candidature,” he said.

“Secondly, we must ensure the credibility of the IOC which means zero tolerance with doping, manipulation and corruption.

“We must have better participation by the members, and we need to engage youth to win them as consumers of sports, but also to practise sports.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Grosjean a changed man on return to Spa

The Lotus Formula One driver was dubbed a ‘first lap nutcase’ by Australian Mark Webber last year and was banned for a race after causing a first corner collision at Spa that could have caused serious injury to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

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The forced retirement for Alonso proved crucial to the championship, with the Spaniard missing out on his third title at the end of the season by three points to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

Webber hurled the insult at Grosjean in Japan after another collision that destroyed his hopes of a podium finish but the Red Bull driver told reporters at Spa that he was sure the Frenchman was reformed now.

“I think he’s changed. He had to, obviously… I think he’s done a better job this year – which wouldn’t be difficult, let’s be honest,” said the Australian, who is close to Alonso.

“It was a bit of a weird one with Jenson (Button) what he did on the top chicane in Budapest (last month), so every now and again you still see snapshots of some errors but I think he’s improved,” added Webber, the oldest and most outspoken driver on the grid, who is leaving F1 at the end of the year.

“But his move on (Ferrari’s Felipe) Massa was very, very good in Budapest.”

CLEAN STARTS

Grosjean finished sixth in Hungary, the last race before the European summer break, despite a drive-through penalty and a retrospective 20 second penalty for a clash with McLaren’s Button, and was third in Germany before that.

He was also third in Bahrain and has kept out of trouble at the starts.

“I think I have a different mind from the past,” he told reporters, making clear that the change had come long before the birth of his son.

“I think I’ve progressed a lot and worked on that and I think the 2013 starts prove that I did my duties. I’ll keep pushing and trying to do my best in every circumstance,” added the Frenchman.

“I’ll keep progressing, keep working and keep doing the same things and I’ll keep doing clean starts.”

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier, who is fighting to keep 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen at his team for next season in the face of interest from elsewhere, commended Grosjean for his attitude.

“It maybe took him a little while to settle down and start performing to the best of his ability. With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to see him learn from those experiences and to start delivering the kind of results we’ve always known he is capable of,” he told the team website (www.lotusf1.com).

“In Germany and Hungary he really put together the complete package over two consecutive weekends… if he can keep up this level, Romain can be a future contender for titles, I’m sure of it,” Boullier added.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien)