Toto Wolff says Mercedes do not have an "opportunity" to move for Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

The prospect of a dream partnership between six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Formula One's top young star Verstappen has often been speculated over.

But Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull, who will lose its engine provider, Honda, after next season, until 2023.

Wolff is happy to have Hamilton partnered by Valtteri Bottas, the duo providing a level of team harmony much different to when the Briton was sharing a garage with Nico Rosberg.

"The situation around Max doesn't provide any opportunity now," Mercedes team principal Wolff said to the Beyond the Grid podcast.

"He's bound to Red Bull, I respect his loyalty a lot and I think it's important for Red Bull to have Max.

"There's a lot of narrative around that and Red Bull picked him up from very early on when he joined Toro Rosso. The situation is what it is and it's good for him and good for us.

"Valtteri does a great job for us, and Lewis does a great job for us and they are still at the peak of their performance levels.

"Then we have juniors that are coming up that have been with us for many years and could be the future for us. So this is what we look at."

In-form Verstappen has reached the podium in the eight grands prix he has finished in 2020, winning once and taking second place five times.

Ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend, Hamilton leads Bottas by 69 points, with Verstappen just 14 adrift of the Finn in third.

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams in 2017 after the surprise retirement of Rosberg, who had just been crowned world champion after a heated 2016 title battle with his former friend Hamilton.

"Some things between Nico and Lewis we will never understand, because it goes back many years from go-karting into junior formulas," added Wolff.

"It grew from camaraderie to rivalry to animosity. They just fell out, pretty early on actually when I joined in 2013. Then it gets worse and worse and worse.

"There was a lot of negativity and that would drag the whole room down. It was very difficult. It is so refreshing that since Valtteri joined, we haven't had any of that."

Victory for Hamilton in Portugal – the first race held in the country for 24 years - would be the 92nd of his F1 career, moving him in to sole possession of the race wins record above Michael Schumacher.

The championship leader has won at three out of the last four circuits he has raced at for the first time - in Mugello this year, Sochi (2014) and Austin (2012).

Bottas, meanwhile, was unable to win at the Eifel Grand Prix last time out despite starting from pole position – the ninth time that has happened from his 14 poles.

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's record for the most Formula One race wins by triumphing at the Eifel Grand Prix.

The six-time world champion took advantage of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas' early error to seize the lead and then held off Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the Nurburgring.

Bottas, who started on pole, had a rotten day in Germany, retiring on lap 19 because of a mechanical failure, with Renault's Daniel Ricciardo finishing third.

Hamilton was able to increase his lead in the standings due to Bottas' retirement, the Briton now 69 points clear with six races to go as he closes on equalling Schumacher's record drivers' championships tally of seven.

Bottas was bidding to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career but a sluggish start off the grid opened the door to Hamilton in Turn One.

However, the Finn, racing in his 150th grand prix, battled back at Turn Two to regain the lead and show the kind of fighting spirit some have accused him of lacking.

Hamilton was back ahead at the start of lap 12, though, Bottas locking up at Turn One with an error that required him to pit and drop further back.

The introduction of the virtual safety car - brought out after Kimi Raikkonen clipped George Williams on his record 324th start - resulted in both Hamilton and Verstappen pitting to further deject Bottas, whose race was run not long after.

Hamilton was cruising to victory but when McLaren's Lando Norris abandoned the race, having also battled issues with his car for much of the afternoon, another safety car was deployed to give some hope to the chasing pack.

Verstappen very nearly smashed into the back of the race leader on the restart with 10 laps to go, but Hamilton duly delivered a lap record of 1:28.487 on 52 of 60 en route to a slice of history.

Max Verstappen believes his qualifying performance for the Eifel Grand Prix was further evidence Red Bull are closing the gap to Mercedes in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Verstappen narrowly behind those two in third after showing impressive pace throughout qualifying.

After putting Mercedes' record of taking every 2020 pole under serious threat, finishing just 0.292 seconds behind Bottas and an agonising 0.037s adrift of Hamilton, the Dutchman was in an optimistic mood.

Indeed, he had felt the Red Bull could have gone even better had he not lost grip at the end of Q3.

"It was an interesting qualifying," he said. "Overall, I think we are getting closer towards Mercedes, which is very positive.

"It was a decent qualifying – it was just in Q3 when it really mattered we were understeering too much.

"When it's so cold and you're understeering so much, you're graining the front tyres, eating up the rubber, which cost me a bit of lap time.

"In a way, I am a little bit disappointed as I was expecting a little bit more [in qualifying] but it is what it is and overall I can still be happy."

On whether he also expected to challenge Mercedes in the race, when Red Bull are typically stronger, Verstappen added: "I hope so.

"It's going to be even colder on Sunday, so it will be even more interesting as to what the tyres are going to do and how they are going to behave, so let's see.

"The track is fun to drive. Just looking forward to it and seeing what we can do."

Hamilton was on pole the last time there was an F1 race at the Nurburgring in 2013 and acknowledged unknowns for Sunday, particularly after bad weather meant there was no practice running at all on Friday.

Bottas won in Russia last time out, so this will be British driver Hamilton's second attempt to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 race wins.

Asked what could make the difference, Hamilton said: "It's the graining, how the tyres behave, whether it's a one-stop or two-stop race, how long the tyres will go, the start, whether there is safety car... there is a lot to play for so I need to get my head down.

"Going behind a safety car in these conditions will be tough. It's an amazing circuit, one of the historic circuits we have, so definitely great to be back here.

"When I look at the data there will be plenty of time [I could have gained]. Valtteri is obviously two tenths ahead so he did a good job and congratulations to him."

Pole-sitter Bottas is looking to achieve back-to-back wins for the first time.

"It's such a nice feeling when you get it done the last lap, with the last chance," said Bottas. "The last lap in Q3 was spot on. Just what I needed and it was nice to get it together.

"It's been pretty tricky with short practice and these conditions getting the tyres in the sweet spot on the out lap, that was one of the bigger things.

"Of course I believe I can win. That's the only goal and hopefully we can have a good start."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is not worried about the commitment of Max Verstappen despite the uncertainty over the team's next engine partner. 

Verstappen has claimed four race wins during Red Bull's two-year partnership with Honda, but the Japanese manufacturer will be leaving Formula One after the 2021 season. 

Horner accepts there is an onus on Red Bull to make sure they provide a competitive car for Verstappen, who sits third in the 2020 driver standings behind Mercedes due Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. 

However, he is not afraid the 23-year-old will already be considering his long-term future. 

"Max is committed to the team and there's no clause in our contracts that relate to engines," he told Sky Sports. "He wants to be competitive, we want to be competitive, so our goals are the same. 

"He has a lot of belief in the team, as we do in him, so it's our responsibility to make sure we have a competitive engine from 2022 onwards." 

Speaking of Honda's decision to end their partnership, Horner said: "Of course, it's disappointing, I think it's disappointing for Formula One to lose a brand like Honda. 

"We're grateful for them letting us know in plenty of time, so we've still got a year and a half left within our relationship. 

"It poses some big questions for the future but we've really enjoyed working with Honda, the collaboration has been great so far and there's an assurance that they're going to push all the way to the end of the relationship next year."

Horner believes now is an appropriate time for the sport to explore radical changes in engine technologies, aimed at levelling the playing field, keeping younger fans engaged and also aligning Formula One more closely with the global fight against the climate crisis. 

"It's a tough world at the moment; many things are changing," he said. "They [Honda] have made their reasoning clear: that their automotive investment and business is going in a different direction to that of Formula One and it poses some questions for Formula One to consider about future engine technologies. 

"It's brought into the spotlight what is the future of Formula One engines and should we even consider bringing a new technology forward from the 2026 introduction date. 

"If you look at the complexity of these engines, no manufacturer would come into Formula One under the current rules. I think we have to reduce significantly the cost, we have to reduce the variability between the engines. 

"Formula One has decisions to make about what is the future. We have an electric series in Formula E; we have bio fuels to consider and look at and the introduction of some of that is due in 2022. But do we look at something totally different for 2026 or ideally bring that forward to 2025? 

"You could consider hydrogen, other technologies. Or should Formula One just be entertainment and it be high-revving engines with an element of technology to them? There are some fundamental questions to be considered. 

"Whenever you hear a V-8, a V-10, a V-12 run, it's so emotive. We have to be careful that Formula One doesn't become a dinosaur, though, that our children still fall in love with the sport and it does have a relevance. It's a big question for Formula One. 

"The purist in me, the fan in me would love to go back to high-revving engines, but I think we also have a responsibility and an element of relevance. These engines currently don't have a great deal of road relevance. Yes, they're a hybrid, but there's not a lot of crossover into the car market at the moment, and that for a car company like Honda is very difficult."

Valtteri Bottas was buzzing with his victory at the Russian Grand Prix after revealing he was prevented from passing Lewis Hamilton at the start because of a "massive bee" on his visor. 

Bottas triumphed in Sochi to claim his second success of the 2020 season, in the process closing the gap on Mercedes team-mate Hamilton to 44 points in the standings. 

World champion Hamilton was handed two five-second penalties from the stewards for an illegal practice start and Bottas took full advantage, finishing comfortably clear of runner-up Max Verstappen. 

However, the Finn initially got off to a shaky start as he failed to overtake his colleague on the opening lap. He missed his braking point, which he later revealed was down to an unlikely distraction. 

"I tried [to overtake]," he said in his post-race interview. "I knew the start was going to be the first opportunity.  

"Actually, it was a bit compromised because there was like a massive bee or something that hit my visor as I was braking. 

"I couldn't really see when I should brake. So that's why I went too deep. But I knew it was going be a long race after that and, with the medium tyre, I had opportunities.  

"But obviously Lewis had penalties, so once I was in clean air I felt the pace was pretty awesome and I could really control everything." 

Verstappen also profited from Hamilton's penalties and was left feeling satisfied with his second-place finish having rarely threatened at any stage to mount a serious challenge to Bottas. 

"I was just trying do my own race. I think we did everything well, and I'm very happy with second," he said. 

"After the restart I think we were a little bit slow on the medium, but once we went onto the hard tyre, I think we were a little bit more competitive, so I'm happy about that. 

"To be able to split the Mercedes' cars again, I think we can be pleased with that." 

Valtteri Bottas triumphed in the Russian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton was left frustrated in his bid to match Michael Schumacher's all-time record for race wins.

Bottas claimed his second success of a rearranged 2020 season – his other came in the opener in Austria – to close the gap to his Mercedes team-mate in the overall standings. 

Championship leader Hamilton had to settle for third place, also finishing behind Max Verstappen, after a pair of time penalties proved crucial to his hopes of glory.

Having coming through what he described as a "horrible" qualifying session on Saturday to sit on pole, the Briton was placed under investigation before the action begun in Sochi after carrying out a practice start outside the designated area. 

The six-time world champion held off the challenge of a fast-starting Bottas to retain the lead during an eventful opening lap that saw the safety car deployed, though that was far from the end of the drama. 

When racing resumed, Hamilton was informed he had been penalised for his earlier infringement, a 10-second punishment he had to serve while pitting on lap 17 to switch to hard tyres. 

He returned to the track down in 11th place and while able to move through the field, his hopes of a third straight success in Russia – a result that would have seen him equal the legendary Schumacher's career tally of 91 victories – had been dashed by that enforced delay. 

Still, Mercedes did manage to maintain their 100 per cent record at the track, Bottas staying clear of trouble to prevail as he finished just under eight seconds ahead of Verstappen's Red Bull. 

Lewis Hamilton stands on the precipice of matching another of Michael Schumacher's great records in Formula One after snatching pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

Should the British driver convert his performance in qualifying to another victory, it would mean Hamilton matching Schumacher's 91 race wins.

That is the narrative that could play out in Sochi after Hamilton dramatically took pole, having been in danger at one stage of missing out on the third stage of qualifying.

The prospect of a locked-out Mercedes front row was disrupted by Max Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver outpacing Valtteri Bottas.

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

There was almost the shock to end all shocks: Hamilton being absent from Q3.

Sebastian Vettel's spin in the Ferrari triggered a red flag in the closing minutes of Q2 and that gave Hamilton a problem.

Looking to cross the start-finish line in time to allow himself another lap, Hamilton managed that and found a big lap to avert the prospect of him starting the race in midfield.

He avoided a stewards' punishment over a minor infraction when leaving the track briefly, and later described the session as "horrible".

An eighth pole of the season was a reminder of Hamilton's supremacy in this sport, and nobody would be surprised were he to win this race for a fifth time in seven seasons on Sunday.

The 1-2-3 in qualifying was no great surprise and reflected the drivers' season standings prior to Verstappen failing to finish twice at Mugello. The gap between the fastest laps of Hamilton and Verstappen was substantial - in F1 terms - at 0.563 seconds.

Neither Ferrari made it to Q3, Vettel licking his wounds after his crash and finishing 15th in the session, with Charles Leclerc 11th.

THE STARTING GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault) 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 10. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 
11. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 12. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
13. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 14. George Russell (Williams)
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 18. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams). 20. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

Hamilton is at that satisfying stage of his career where records keep falling to him, yet to match Schumacher's haul of 91 race wins would have seemed pie-in-the-sky talk to the young man who made his F1 entrance in the 2007 season.

That is the figure he can sensationally draw up alongside, with what would be a seventh race win of this strangest of seasons, Hamilton having already surpassed Schumacher's record haul of podium finishes this year.

A record-equalling seventh world title is also surely Hamilton's for the taking in the coming months, and there was a touch of Schumacher's resilience about him taking this latest pole after being backed up into a position of adversity.

Aside from the likelihood of a close battle in the opening few corners, one potential strategy issue for Hamilton is that he will start on the less durable soft tyres after his narrow Q2 escape, while closest rivals Verstappen and Bottas are on mediums.

As for Ferrari, well god bless the Prancing Horse but this season goes from bad to worse. After the short-lived succour of Vettel and Leclerc both finishing in the points at the team's 1,000th F1 race, last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix, this was the latest in a long line of qualifying sob stories.

Twelve months ago, Leclerc stormed the qualifying session in Sochi, earning a fourth successive pole. They are wretchedly slow this year, which is a problem Leclerc and Vettel have to tolerate and get on with the job. Sunday's grand prix is again unlikely to bring great joy for the Italian marque.

Meanwhile, if Sergio Perez wanted to make a point on Saturday, he very much succeeded. Set to be cut free at the end of the season by Racing Point, to allow for Vettel's arrival, Perez accused some Racing Point team members of attempting to hide things from him ahead of this weekend.

Clear-the-air talks followed, and Perez qualified on the second row on Saturday, nine places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll.

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, pole): "It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone. So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint." 

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 2nd): "P2 was very unexpected and I don’t say this often but I think this was one of my best ever qualifying laps and it felt really good. Of course we want to fight for pole and wins but this year it is not possible all the time, so then to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is very satisfying and I’m happy to be on the front row here. I think the Mercedes does still have more overall pace so they will be hard to beat but I’m happy with [qualifying] and I think we really extracted more than we thought was possible and we can be very happy with that."

Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes, 3rd): "There are some question marks there, which we’ll need to look into in the debrief and figure out why there was such a gap. But P3 is actually a pretty good place to start here and I think I’m on the right tyre as well. I’ve started third here before and look what happened, so I’ll try and do the same. It’s still all to play for."

Sergio Perez (Racing Point, 4th): "I’m very happy with our performance today: I think P4 was the maximum I could achieve because Max and the two Mercedes were very strong out there. We were able to qualify ahead of our nearest rivals, which is the main thing. It was a really tough session because the wind kept changing and we had the disruption of the red flag too. It’s a credit to the team that we were able to manage the sessions so well and extract the maximum from the car."

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, 11th): "We definitely had the pace to do something good, much better than expected. Unfortunately, we missed our chance, so I’m pretty disappointed, but that’s life.
It is frustrating that we didn’t make it to Q3 because I really believe that we had the potential to go through today."

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, 15th): "When I crashed I was trying to improve my time. I hadn’t had a good first sector so I was pushing. It seems that I was going too quickly and so I lost the car. It had already happened in turn 2 and then it happened again in turn 4. I tried to avoid the impact, but I couldn’t catch it. I’m sorry to have made extra work for the team, but at least I think the car can be fixed."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 190
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 135
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 110
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 57
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) - 63

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 325
2. Red Bull – 173
3. McLaren – 106
4. Racing Point – 92 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 82

Lewis Hamilton expects a tough battle to turn pole position into another race win at the Russian Grand Prix, despite setting the pace in qualifying.

Championship leader Hamilton appeared in serious danger of going out in Q2 after a spin for Sebastian Vettel forced a delay to proceedings.

However, after a close shave to make it through to Q3, the Mercedes driver went on to finish comfortably clear of the rest, putting him on course to match Michael Schumacher's record of 91 race wins on Sunday.

The Briton admitted he had done it the hard way during the session but the drama was not confined to the track, as race stewards summoned Hamilton over a breach of FIA regulations.

"It was one of the worst qualifying sessions - it was horrible," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 ahead of his meeting with the stewards. 

"Heart in your mouth the whole way. I got the lap time taken away, which is the first time I've gone wide there the whole weekend. I wanted to stay out and do another lap just to get a banker but they said, 'Come in and get new tyres'. Then the red flag came out. It was a real risk once we got out on that next tyre at the end. 

"Ultimately I'm starting on the soft tyre which is not good. It's nice being on pole, but here it's probably the worst place to be on pole with the draggier cars this year.  

"I'm most likely going to get dragged past tomorrow. Both the cars I'm racing against are both on the medium, so it's definitely going to make it hard to win the race. 

"Nonetheless I'm going to stay positive, try and figure out how I'm going to navigate my way through, get a good start or whatever it may be, and we'll see."

Hamilton was one of four drivers called to see the stewards for not returning to the track in the correct manner during qualifying.

As it stands, Max Verstappen will start from second place on the grid. The Red Bull driver snatched the position from Valtteri Bottas, denying Mercedes a front-row lockout as they aim to see Hamilton clinch a record-equalling victory.

"We were struggling a bit to find the right balance with the car on this track, it's quite slippery around here," Verstappen said to Sky Sports F1.

"Even this morning I was not entirely happy but through qualifying we were really working on trying to nail the balance and in Q3 the final run especially was not bad.

"To be second on the grid I didn't expect, so very pleased for that."

Lewis Hamilton boosted his chances of claiming a record-equalling race win at the Russian Grand Prix as he secured pole position in Sochi. 

The Mercedes driver triumphed last time out at the Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello to take his career tally of Formula One victories to 90, just one behind the legendary Michael Schumacher's haul.

Championship leader Hamilton appears right on course to match Schumacher on Sunday now after smashing the track record, albeit only after coming through a dramatic session that so nearly saw him miss out on Q3, followed by a nervy trip to see the race stewards.

A spin for Sebastian Vettel led to a red flag in the closing minutes, forcing Hamilton to contend with traffic as he looked to cross the line upon the restart in time to get one more lap in.

The Briton duly managed it, despite a brief trip off the track, then rose from fourth at the end of Q2 to finish comfortably quickest, producing a fastest lap of 1:31.304. 

However, Hamilton's position was put into doubt when he was one of four drivers to be summoned to see the stewards for failing to return to the track in the correct manner.

Valtteri Bottas appeared set to start alongside his team-mate but Max Verstappen denied Mercedes an eighth successive front-row lockout, the Red Bull driver snatching second place.

Sergio Perez produced an impressive Q3 performance to take fourth place, while Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz will start on the third row of the grid.

Max Verstappen conceded Red Bull have their work cut out even to qualify third at the Russian Grand Prix after Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes set the pace in Friday practice.

Bottas topped FP1 and FP2, beating Lewis Hamilton by 0.267 seconds in the second session when going head to head with the reigning world champion, who did not set a representative time in the opener.

Daniel Ricciardo - who has impressed for Renault with three consecutive top-six finishes – shone again by coming second and third, with Verstappen third in the first session before dropping to seventh in the next after a spin in one of his attempts at a flying lap.

Verstappen's team-mate Alex Albon was eighth and 12th across the two practices, so Red Bull are prepared for a tricky Saturday in Sochi, where the team have never recorded a podium finish.

"It will be tough in qualifying to be in P3," said Verstappen. "Clearly Renault are looking very competitive.

"I think in general we know that this track is not the best for us. We were trying out some downforce levels to see what is the best option. 

"In FP2 I think we could have done better but we are testing a few things out - some worked, some didn't, so it gives us a few ideas for Saturday.

"It will be tough in qualifying but in the race it looks a bit more competitive so I am happy about that.

"First of all we have to look at ourselves and make the right trade-off with downforce levels as well, make sure the car is stable. Then I'd be quite confident that qualifying will be tight."

Albon added: "It feels tricky. We knew it was going to be hard, the midfield have obviously made a big step since last year, so it is a bit more tight.

"It doesn't feel bad, it's just everyone is very fast, so we need to do some homework and find out where we can gain those little bits."

The gap between Bottas and Ricciardo was over one second in FP2, with Mercedes looking primed for a seventh straight victory at the circuit – their dominant advantage coming despite both drivers making slight mistakes in their qualifying simulation laps.

A focused Bottas, who has not won since the first race of 2020, said: "There is still definitely more to come. There were quite tricky conditions and that's why we saw many people making mistakes."

Carlos Sainz – who recovered from an FP1 spin - and Lando Norris were fourth and fifth in FP2 for McLaren, with Sergio Perez sixth and both Ferraris making the top 10 to hint at an improved weekend for the Scuderia.

Lewis Hamilton has the chance to make Formula One history this week at the Russian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver, who is dominating the 2020 drivers' championship as he holds a 55-point lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas, is on 90 career wins.

If he can make it 91, Hamilton would equal the all-time record held by Michael Schumacher, an accomplishment few thought was possible when the German – who has held the record since passing Alain Prost in 2001 - retired eight years ago.

The race begins 14:10 local time (12:10 BST) on Sunday, with the rest of the grid attempting to at least delay Hamilton writing his latest chapter in the history of motorsport.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton triumphed in a tumultuous Tuscan Grand Prix, beating Bottas as Max Verstappen retired on lap one to increase his championship lead.

There were two red flags - the first time that has happened in Formula One since Brazil in 2016 – and three safety cars amid chaos caused by multiple crashes.

Bottas was in prime position to win after overtaking pole-sitter Hamilton at the start, but the Briton, who also claimed the fastest lap, fought back to win for the sixth time this season.

While there was woe for Verstappen, some consolation for Red Bull saw Alex Albon claim his first career podium in third, a welcome result at a time Pierre Gasly – the surprise winner in Monza – was being connected with his seat.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN RUSSIA

All eyes will be on Hamilton's record pursuit and his past form in Russia bodes well. He has reached the podium in five out of six appearances, with four wins, a second place and a fourth place to his name. His Mercedes team have won all six previous editions.

Bottas has been despondent after challenging Hamilton at multiple races but being unable to put together a full race weekend to defeat his relentless team-mate. Unless there is a huge turn of events at the scene of his first career win this weekend, the title appears to be slipping away for the Finn.

Verstappen has dropped out of contention too after two straight retirements and will be desperate to get back on the podium. 

And while his team-mate Albon had an enjoyable race at Mugello last time out, he still has plenty to prove having been out-qualified by Verstappen at all nine races in 2020. He does have fond memories of this circuit, though, after rallying to finish fifth last year from a pit-lane start.

Three straight top-six finishes for Daniel Ricciardo have underlined Renault's improvement, but a podium remains elusive for the Australian, who will be replaced by Fernando Alonso next year when he moves to McLaren.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Hope for the rest? – This season Mercedes have locked out the front row on seven occasions in qualifying, but only converted that to a one-two finish on three occasions.

Qualifying key – Only once at this race has a driver won from outside of the front row (Bottas from third on the grid in 2017).

Red Bull lacking wings in Russia – The Austrian team have never recorded a podium finish in six attempts at this grand prix.

Ferrari flailing – Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel have failed to reach the podium for five straight races. If that happens again in Russia, it will be their worst run since also going six in a row without a top-three placing in 2016.

Russian Rubens – Kimi Raikkonen is looking to equal Rubens Barrichello as the driver to have raced the most grands prix in F1 ever (323). Vettel is also set to reach a milestone – he is poised to make his 250th career start.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 190
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 135
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 110
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 65
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) - 63

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 325
2. Red Bull – 173
3. McLaren – 106
4. Racing Point – 92 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 83

Lewis Hamilton triumphed in a tumultuous Tuscan Grand Prix, beating Valtteri Bottas as Max Verstappen retired to increase his championship lead to 55 points.

After a dramatic win by Pierre Gasly in Monza last week at a race that included a red flag, there were two this time around – the first time that has happened in Formula One since Brazil in 2016.

Amid the chaos caused by multiple crashes - the safety car came out three times - Bottas was in prime position to win after overtaking Hamilton at the start.

But the Briton, who also claimed the fastest lap, fought back to win for the sixth time this season, with Verstappen's retirement on lap one ensuring he holds a dominant position in the drivers' standings.

There was some consolation for Red Bull as Alex Albon claimed his first career podium in third, with Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris rounding out the top six.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the Tuscan Grand Prix in pole position as the defending Formula One world champion aims to secure his sixth win of the season.

It is already looking to be a tough ask for the chasing pack to catch Hamilton, who holds a 47-point lead over Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate will start second on the grid at Mugello, while Red Bull are primed to attack with both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon having placed in the top four in qualifying.

Ferrari, meanwhile, head into their 1,000th grand prix with Charles Leclerc fifth on the grid as the Italian outfit continue to struggle.

 

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

Hamilton took pole on Saturday, though his team-mate Bottas was left lamenting his bad luck after Esteban Ocon's mistake cost him vital time.

Bottas looked in a strong position to take top billing off Hamilton in his final qualification lap, yet Ocon span off the track and a yellow flag was raised.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel endured another difficult session as he failed to reach Q3.

THE STARTING GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
7. Lance Stroll (Racing Point), 8. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
9. Carlos Sainz (McLaren), 10. Esteban Ocon (Renault)
11. Landon Norris (McLaren), 12. Daniil Kvyat (Alpha Tauri)
13. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), 14. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
15. Romain Grosjean (Haas), 16. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 18. George Russel (Williams)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 20. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

TUSCAN GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

It is a landmark race for Ferrari, yet the team's poor season does not look set to improve drastically any time soon, with Leclerc having a lot to do from fifth if he is to achieve a podium finish, while Vettel – who will move to Racing Point at the end of the season – can hardly be considered a contender down in 14th on the grid.

Vettel's impending move means Sergio Perez has had his contract with Racing Point, who are soon to be Aston Martin, cut short, and the Mexican was handed a a one-place penalty for causing a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in practice on Friday.

Bottas, meanwhile, struggled to hide his frustration after he was denied the chance to pip Hamilton to pole, though that will perhaps give Mercedes' second-seat driver extra motivation to outshine the world champion.

Red Bull enjoyed a fine qualifying session and Verstappen seems well placed to challenge for his second victory of the season.

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID

Lewis Hamilton (pole): "This track is phenomenal… it's crazy! You go through Turns 6, 7, 8, 9 at like 170, 180 miles per hour, and the G-force we're pulling through there, it's insane, and it just gets more and more as you go through 8 and then 9. [Turns] 10 and 1 and 2 were the areas where I needed to improve and I managed to pick it up once I got into qualifying, so Valtteri did a great job in pushing me. But I'm really, really happy to be up there."

Valtteri Bottas (2nd): "I still had more time in there. Run one was okay, but not perfect. I was looking forward to the last lap but I didn't get the opportunity. It's disappointing because the speed has been good all weekend. For sure it [Ocon spinning off] had an effect. I knew there was more in it and I was confident that this weekend it belongs to me. But there's two types of luck, unlucky or lucky. And I got unlucky again."

Max Verstappen (3rd): "From my side, I always expected to be third. Of course, coming from Monza, this was a lot better. I always expected it to be better than Monza of course – I think Monza was just the worst track for us. Everything [at Monza] is just not good: low downforce, long straights, it's not what we like. But I'm pleased to be third."

Charles Leclerc (5th): "I'm very happy with the lap overall. I put everything together and P5 was definitely above any of our expectations so very, very happy. We are lacking overall performance to be able to fight with the guys in front, but the balance was good today, it gave me confidence. I could give my best on that quali lap. There's a good opportunity [in the race]. But on the other hand if we look at the race pace of the other teams on Friday, there are quite a lot of cars that are stronger from us."

Daniel Ricciardo (8th): "I think with Charles in fifth, I'm not sure he's got a fifth-placed race car, so that in itself might create a bit of a battle for that top five. Him qualifying there will hopefully make it a bit exciting."

Sebastian Vettel (14th): "It's a bit of a fight, but it's been a fight all year. So we try nevertheless to do everything we can to try and understand the car a bit more. I try to do anything I can with driving to adapt, but I think there's still more to look at."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 164
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 117
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 110
4. Charles Stroll (Racing Point) - 57
5. Lando Norris (Renault) – 57

Constructors  

1. Mercedes – 281
2. Red Bull – 158
3. McLaren – 98
4. Racing Point – 82 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 71

Formula One heads to Mugello for the first time for the Tuscan Grand Prix after a huge upset last time out.

The Italian Grand Prix saw a first-time winner as defending champion Lewis Hamilton and each of his title challengers faltered.

That shock result means there has been little change in the championship picture, but Max Verstappen will hope to cut the gap this weekend.

The race gets started at 15:10 local time (14:10 BST) on Sunday, as Hamilton aims to maintain his strong record at new tracks.
 

LAST TIME OUT

Pierre Gasly won a race in F1 for the very first time as he profited from Hamilton's 10-second stop-and-go penalty, holding off Carlos Sainz to claim maximum points.

Hamilton had led until he entered the pitlane while it was closed amid Kevin Magnussen's retirement, an error that proved costly as Charles Leclerc crashed and the field bunched up.

The Briton's result - seventh - was not as damaging as it might have been, however, as team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished fifth and Red Bull's Verstappen was outside the points.
 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN ITALY

A Red Bull response must be anticipated after Gasly's victory. As Hamilton happily pointed out after the race, the Frenchman was "dropped by the top team" but then beat Verstappen and Co. with AlphaTauri.

That would have stung for the senior outfit on a day Verstappen did not earn a single point and instead fell further behind Hamilton.

But then each of the big names - including Hamilton - will surely hope to bounce back. Although Gasly deserves immense credit for seizing his opportunity, the breakthrough win was handed to the 24-year-old on a plate.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Mercedes at Mugello? Hamilton has won on two of the most recent three occasions the series has introduced a new circuit (Austin in 2012, Sochi in 2014), while then Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg triumphed at the other event (Baku in 2016).

Celebrate in style? It is a landmark week for Ferrari. They have endured a tough season, but this is their 1000th grand prix, making the Scuderia the first F1 team to reach the milestone.

No home comforts? There will need to be a first in F1 history if Ferrari are to triumph. The Italian team have not won the first race at any of the prior three tracks used in their home country.

Out to end a drought? Both Ferrari and Red Bull are looking for a change in circumstances, with the Scuderia without drivers in Q3 at consecutive grands prix for the first time since the introduction of the format and Austrian outfit hoping to avoid a second straight race without earning a point.

Prost-igious company? Not since Alain Prost won four grands prix in a row in 1993 has a Frenchman enjoyed back-to-back F1 successes. Gasly is aiming to join the four-time champion.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 164
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 117
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 110
4. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) – 57
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 57

Constructors 

1. Mercedes – 281
2. Red Bull – 158
3. McLaren – 98
4. Racing Point – 82 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 71

Lewis Hamilton set a new track record to clinch pole position at the Italian Grand Prix in emphatic fashion as Mercedes secured the front row on what was a miserable day for Ferrari at Monza.

Championship leader Hamilton was given a bit to think about by Valtteri Bottas, but the Brit produced clean laps and ultimately held off his team-mate in Q3 thanks to a new track record of one minute, 18.887 seconds.

But it was a completely different story for Ferrari on home territory, with Sebastian Vettel failing to even get out of a dramatic Q1, as the German almost collided with George Russell in the final minute.

The day once again belonged to Mercedes, however, as Hamilton sealed a sixth pole in eight attempts this season, with the other two claimed by Bottas.

Vettel voiced his frustrations at the Alfa Romeos at the end of a chaotic Q1, with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi engaging in some aggressive driving in an attempt to skip some queuing.

But Vettel's complaints did little to distract from a bad day individually, as he was eliminated in Q1 for the first time since Hockenheim last season, sitting 17th.

Similarly, Ferrari were left with both drivers outside of the top 10 in their home GP for the first time since 1984, as Charles Leclerc was down in 13th.

Arguably the drive of the day came from Carlos Sainz Jr, with the McLaren driver rounding off the front three, while Racing Point's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen of Red Bull came in just behind.

Lando Norris in sixth concluded a positive day for McLaren, coming in 0.044 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.

Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly rounded off the top 10 ahead of Sunday's race.

 

Provisional classification:

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:18.887
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.069
3. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +0.808
4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +0.833
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.908
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.933
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +0.977
8. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1.162
9. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +1.203
10. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.290

Page 1 of 7
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.