Only one winner in the desert showdown

Three global sporting events took place in the Middle East last weekend, but there was one that stood out above the rest according to Nick Harris

Of course, I am biased, but there was only one winner in the desert showdown over the weekend. Three world sporting events in the sand and heat of the Middle East. The opening round of the MotoGP™ World Championship in Qatar. Across the desert the second round of the Formula One World Championship at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday. A heavyweight boxing fight between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou again in Saudi Arabia on Friday night. Three massive sporting confrontations 1500 kms apart on the same weekend.

For the second weekend in succession World Champion Max Verstappen totally dominated the Formula One race from the start, finishing with a 13.6 second advantage over his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. The long-awaited clash of the heavyweight giants Joshua and Ngannou lasted just two rounds when the Englishman knocked out his opponent. The opening round of the MotoGP™ World Championship just crackled with drama, excitement, and breathtaking racing over three proper days of track action. Where do you start?

On Friday the Marc Marquez style save with elbow, shoulder, and any other part of his body by Spanish teenager Pedro Acosta on his MotoGP™ debut. On Saturday morning just nine-hundredths of one second separated Jorge Martin, Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini in qualifying. In the afternoon the brilliant Jorge Martin won the Sprint to lay his cards on the table in the first points-scoring encounter of the season. Sunday was even better!

An immaculate display by Pecco Bagnaia chasing his third successive MotoGP™ World title on the Lenovo Ducati, while the sparks flew between his pursuers. Binder claimed second on the Red Bull Factory KTM ahead of Sprint winner Martin and an impressive Marc Marquez. Acosta learnt so much on route to ninth place on his MotoGP™ debut. Earlier, just 0.041 seconds separated David Alonso and Daniel Holgado in a Moto3™ battle, which was decided on the final bend. It was nearly as close in Moto2™ with Alonso Lopez and Barry Baltus separated by 0.055 seconds at the chequered flag.

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The only saving grace on the track for Formula One was the performance of 18-year-old British driver, Oliver Bearman, who finished seventh on his Grand Prix debut driving for Ferrari. Formula One needed a ray of light to penetrate the non-racing dramas clouding their paddock. Thank goodness MotoGP™ is in no such need, but if it was, Pedro Acosta like Bearman would be the savour. What a debut by the 19-year-old Moto2™ and Moto3™ World Champion. That save at turn one on Friday and then finishing third after the opening two practice sessions. Qualifying eighth and finishing eighth in the Tissot Sprint race on Saturday. An audacious overtake on Marc Marquez during his ride to ninth place on Sunday. We are going to hear a great deal more about Acosta and Bearman in the coming weeks. They are the future on two and four wheels.

So of course, I’m biased but I am sure the neutrals would agree there was only one sporting event to be at in the Middle East over the weekend. Under the floodlights at the Lusail International circuit in Qatar was the only place to be. Quite honestly it was no contest!