Red Bull's drivers would have been intentionally exposed to coronavirus under a bizarre plan hatched by team advisor Helmut Marko. 

With the Formula One season on hold amid the spread of COVID-19, Marko was keen to create a kind of 'corona camp', suggesting it would be "the ideal time for the infection to come".

The 76-year-old outlined his controversial proposal, which was rejected by team management, in an interview with Austrian television station ORF.

"We have four Formula 1 drivers [Max Verstappen, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat] and eight or 10 juniors," he said.

"The idea was to organise a camp where we could bridge this - mentally and physically - somewhat dead time.

"And that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.

"These are all strong young men in really good health.

"That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts, and you can be ready for what will probably be a very tough championship once it starts."

The opening eight races of the 2020 campaign have already been called off, with F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey suggesting a revised schedule involving between 15 and 18 races could be included.

One Direction star Liam Payne is in the line-up for the first race in Formula One's Virtual Grand Prix Series on Sunday.

The F1 calendar has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, with the season - which should have started last week in Australia - not set to get under way until June at the earliest.

In its stead, the competition has launched an exhibition Esports tournament to be played out on Codemasters' F1 2019.

The first event is the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix and, alongside a number of F1 drivers, Payne will race for Williams.

The 26-year-old, who shot to fame on The X-Factor, will join F1 debutant Nicholas Latifi, last season's Formula 2 runner-up.

Payne is not the only celebrity entrant, with six-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy turning out for Red Bull.

Max Verstappen this week declined the opportunity to race for Red Bull as he did not feel he could be competitive.

"I never play that game," he told Ziggo TV. "It will take days to understand the game just a little bit better. And I don't want to get into it right now.

"Also [it is] because I'm very busy with the other racing games, so switching between all those games just doesn't work for me.

"And on top of that, I always race to win. I'm not going to drive around somewhere at the back. Then I'd rather not participate at all."

F1 assured "game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing", acknowledging a "wide variety of gaming skill levels". 

Golfer Ian Poulter will represent Renault, meanwhile, with each participant entering remotely from 2000 GMT.

Max Verstappen believes holding the Australian Grand Prix this weekend is the "sensible thing to do" amid coronavirus fears.

Confirmed global cases of COVID-19 have topped 120,000, with 4,382 deaths caused by the disease.

Australia has 127 cases with three deaths, and Verstappen was asked about whether it was right to hold the event in an attempt to raise spirits of supporters amid the outbreak.

At a time when a host of other high-profile events have been postponed, cancelled or held without fans, Verstappen is glad to be racing.

"I think it is a sensible thing to do," said the Red Bull driver.

"Of course it is all tricky at the moment, but we are trying to make the best of it.

"We are just trying to get on with the start of the season and hopefully have an exciting weekend.

"Hopefully it is not too different. It's difficult to say at the moment [what impact the virus is going to have], but you try to do the whole week as normal as possible.

"But of course, like you are doing at the moment, you try to take a little bit of a precaution."

Verstappen is expected to be one of the leading challengers to defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who is bidding to win a record-equalling seventh world title in 2020.

The Dutchman knows a faster start to the season will be needed if Red Bull are to mix it with Mercedes, after all five of his top-two finishes in 2019 came from the ninth race of the season onwards.

Verstappen added: "It is not only me, the whole package needs to be quick. So let's see.

"We have been working really hard all winter to be able to start the year in a better fashion compared to last year. And now it is time to find out if it is true or not.

"Lewis has been winning a lot. Mercedes has been winning a lot. As a team we will try to make it difficult for them."

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes broke down on day two of Formula One pre-season testing in Barcelona.

The six-time F1 world champion's W11 ground to a halt during the afternoon session at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Thursday.

Hamilton had to wait at the side of the track as the red flags were waved before his car was taken back to the garage.

Mercedes tweeted: "W11 is back in the garage. The team will now take a look to identify the issue which caused Lewis to stop on track."

The team later revealed Hamilton's car was troubled by "an oil pressure anomaly".

"@LewisHamilton stopped on track due to an oil pressure anomaly, which made the engine shut down as a precautionary measure," Mercedes said on Twitter.

"We will keep investigating further but unfortunately that concludes our running for the day."

The malfunction occurred just a fortnight before Hamilton starts the defence of his title at the Australian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel topped the leaderboard in the morning session after spinning into the gravel, while Red Bull driver Max Verstappen spun twice.

Hamilton was seventh-fastest on day one of testing after clocking up 89 laps.

Sebastian Vettel must rise to the challenge in 2020 to ensure he can prolong his Formula One career, according to David Coulthard.

The Ferrari driver is under pressure going into the new season after being outshone by new team-mate Charles Leclerc last year.

Four-time world champion Vettel last claimed the drivers' championship in 2013, with his Ferrari seat more vulnerable than that of Leclerc, who has signed a new long-term deal.

Coulthard believes the 32-year-old's quality is beyond doubt but fears for his career if he underperforms in 2020.

"He's a class driver, you don't win those championships without being so," Coulthard said to Omnisport about Vettel.

"We have seen in previous years, his last year at Red Bull, he lost a bit of consistency and performance, but he was able to bounce back at Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen. 

"Let's see if he can bounce back this year. It's in his hands. We know Charles is fast, we know he's able to get those qualifying results and race results, but Seb is a four-time world champion. 

"This year is a very important year for him to establish if we will see more of him."

Coulthard is concerned Vettel would not have another realistic option if the Italian team opt not to retain him.

"I just don't see where he could go logically at the level of expectation in terms of salary and what-have-you," added Coulthard.

"Red Bull seem quite set in their programme. McLaren have two young drivers. Mercedes, they don't need him. So, I think it's a little bit like Fernando Alonso, even if they want to race there isn't the opportunity for them." 

Coulthard ended his F1 career at Red Bull and is hoping to see Max Verstappen challenge defending champion Lewis Hamilton for title glory this season, even if the Briton remains the favourite.

On the title race, he said: "Easy money is to say Hamilton at Mercedes but I think it's absolutely possible on paper for the world champion to come from Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes. 

"I would love to see Max really challenge for the championship. He's got speed, he's got commitment, he's got a young, devil-may-care attitude. 

"He's a breath of fresh air because he's also very open, very honest, and not kind of aloof and standing off. So I think he would be a great champion.

"Mercedes have done an exceptional job, but we can see that Ferrari have come up over the last couple of years to being real contenders and Red Bull in their new partnership with Honda are getting a few victories.

"Those three teams can be challenging for, certainly race victories, and possibly the championships."

Red Bull revealed the new RB16 on Wednesday as Max Verstappen put the 2020 car through its paces at Silverstone.

The British-based team finished third in last year's Formula One constructors' championship, with Verstappen winning three races on the way to also taking third place in the drivers' standings.

Amid high hopes for the new campaign, which will see Verstappen and Alex Albon team up, the Red Bull cars will once more be powered by Honda engines.

Verstappen was the driver charged with taking the RB16 around the Silverstone track, with Albon waiting for his turn next week in Barcelona.

The team have been buoyed by 22-year-old Dutch star Verstappen last month agreeing a new contract keeping him with Red Bull until the end of the 2023 season.

Albon, watching on from trackside, caught an admiring glimpse of Verstappen roaring past the pits and said on the team's Twitter page: "The car is looking pretty good. Quite fast, quite fast."

Speaking last week, team principal Christian Horner said of the new car: "The lessons we learned last year have been carried over from RB15 to RB16.

"We also have stability in the team and that, alongside the momentum we built over the second half of last year, means we're in a very good place to mount a strong challenge this year."

Max Verstappen declared Lewis Hamilton is "very good, but not God" and hopes Red Bull can provide him with a car capable of ending the Brit's dominance this year.

Hamilton eased to a sixth Formula One title last year - and a fifth in the last six seasons - with Valtteri Bottas making it a Mercedes one-two.

Verstappen finished third in the driver standings, 135 points adrift of Hamilton after winning three races in 2019.

The Dutchman rates Hamilton highly, but says he is not invincible.

"Lewis is very good, he is definitely one of the best, but he is not God," the Dutchman said at a Red Bull media event in London.

"Maybe God is with him but he's not God."

Verstappen is optimistic Red Bull can be more of a threat this season but knows only time will tell if they are capable of mounting a serious challenge.

"I think last year already it was good, especially in a transition year like we had, it was very promising," he said.

"We really want to mount a challenge to especially Mercedes and I think we can do that.

"Of course we have to wait and see from testing, but I'm very much looking forward to it. Everybody's fired up. Everybody's very motivated, especially also coming off last year in the end. We were very competitive.

"We knew where we had to work on but you cannot solve that within two, three weekends, so because we tried a few things to learn and understand for this year, we are working in the right direction.

"But of course now it's also up to us to develop more than Mercedes and Ferrari during the winter. We have to start strong from the very first race, we have to be there."

Max Verstappen has committed his Formula One future to Red Bull, taking him off the driver market.

The 2021 season is when new technical regulations come into the sport but the Dutchman has joined Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in staying with his current team beyond that date.

Verstappen had previously been linked with a switch to Mercedes, with the long-term futures of a host of top F1 names like Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel still unclear.

Here, we look at why Verstappen, who has been with Red Bull for four seasons, has opted to stay at with the team for another four until 2023. 
 

Progress of Honda

Gone are the days when the Honda engine was the laughing stock of the grid and Mercedes' power unit was dominant. 

Ferrari were on top in that department last year and, at many tracks, Honda had made huge strides and were right there with them, with Verstappen's win in Austria being the manufacturer's first since 2006.

With their issues supplying McLaren now a distant memory, Verstappen clearly has faith Honda will continue their progress, which could be a decisive factor for the next championship and beyond once the new regulations arrive.

"Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together," Verstappen said when his new deal was announced on Tuesday.
 

His results are better every year

After joining Red Bull while the 2016 season was ongoing, Verstappen has made clear progress across his three complete campaigns with the team.

His first full year saw him finish sixth in the drivers' championship, registering four podiums and two victories.

More consistency followed in 2017 as he racked up 11 top-three finishes along with two wins en route to a fourth-place finish.

Last year, only the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Bottas finished ahead of the 22-year-old as he won a career-best three races, as well as recording his first two pole positions.

Undisputed number one

While the struggles of Pierre Gasly early in the 2019 season occasionally left Verstappen outnumbered and at a tactical disadvantage in races, there are also benefits to being an undisputed number one.

Leclerc and Vettel have disagreed over strategy and even took each other out in Brazil, while Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's relationship at Mercedes was problematic.

Verstappen may have an able team-mate in Alex Albon going forward but at least for now he is the more experienced and established driver. 

It does not look like he will be having any internal squabbles and, if he is in the 2020 title race against other teams, can be given strategic priority by Red Bull while their rivals are trying to appear fair.
 

Red Bull have done the job before

Mercedes have been the top team in F1 during the hybrid era, but Red Bull and their management team have proven they have the structure to deliver success.

Team principal Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey are long-serving figureheads who helped Vettel to four consecutive world titles between 2010 and 2013.

With Honda improving and the Red Bull chassis always one of the best, Verstappen must have faith that the team he has worked so closely with can take him to the next level, as they did with Vettel.

"Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One, which I have always been very grateful for," added Verstappen.

"I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a world championship together."

Max Verstappen has committed his future to Red Bull, signing a contract extension that runs until the end of the 2023 season.

Since becoming the youngest winner of an F1 race in his maiden season with the team in 2016, Verstappen has gone on to triumph in a further seven grands prix, while he managed a career-best placing of third in the 2019 drivers' standings.

Verstappen, whose previous deal was due to expire at the end of the 2020 season, will now remain with Red Bull for a further three campaigns as he seeks to deliver their first world title since Sebastian Vettel's fourth successive victory in 2013.

"I am really happy to have extended my partnership with the team," said the 22-year-old in a Red Bull media release.

"Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One, which I have always been very grateful for. Over the years I have grown closer and closer with the team and besides the passion from everyone and the on-track performance it is also really enjoyable to work with such a great group of people.

"Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together. I respect the way Red Bull and Honda work together and from all sides everyone is doing what they can to succeed.

"I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a world championship together."

Verstappen's new deal comes a fortnight on from Charles Leclerc signing fresh terms with Ferrari until the end of 2024, meaning F1's two brightest young stars are now tied down to their respective teams.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has been strongly linked with a move to Ferrari at the end of this year, ahead of sweeping changes to F1's regulations - including spending restrictions - that will come into effect from 2021.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: "It is fantastic news for the team to have extended our agreement with Max up to and including the 2023 season. With the challenge of the 2021 regulation changes on the horizon, continuity in as many areas as possible is key.

"Max has proven what an asset he is to the team, he truly believes in the partnership we have forged with our engine supplier Honda, and we are delighted to have extended our relationship with him."

Max Verstappen has committed his future to Red Bull, signing a contract extension that runs until the end of the 2023 season.

Lewis Hamilton described 2019 as the "best season of my life" after he officially collected the Formula One World Championship trophy at the FIA's awards gala in Paris.

The Mercedes driver finished ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull star Max Verstappen to win the drivers' title for a sixth time, putting him one behind Michael Schumacher.

He ended the campaign with a magnificent 11th victory in Abu Dhabi, a triumph that matched his personal best tally for wins in a season and ensured he comprehensively beat Bottas by 87 points.

After receiving his trophy, Hamilton told the watching audience he did not think he had enjoyed a better season in his F1 career.

"For me this has definitely been the best season of my life," Hamilton said.

"I've enjoyed collaborating with this incredible team. Not everyone realises it is almost 2,000 people in our team.

"Fighting hard with Valtteri and a lot of these up and coming young drivers this year has been fantastic.

"To come into a sixth year, to have fought for a world title at the front and sustained the performance we have collectively I think has been amazing. On the driver front, I’m definitely very happy with my performance this year. 

"There's been lots of great races, the last few years have been intense with Ferrari, but having another team [Red Bull] up there in the loop has made it more challenging for us all."

Hamilton expects a closer battle in 2020 with Verstappen, who won the award for Action of the Year for his battle with Charles Leclerc at Silverstone.

"I'm just looking forward to this winter - next year is going to be close," added Hamilton, who has been linked with a move to Ferrari in 2021 with his Mercedes contract having one year left to run.

"The Red Bulls with Max are going to be fantastic.

"The Ferraris have picked up their pace and have been extraordinary in the second half of the season.

"I'm hoping you're going to see the closest season yet. I'll be best prepared and hope for the best season there's been."

Verstappen's team-mate Alex Albon won the Rookie of the Year award, while Mercedes collected their sixth consecutive constructors' title.

Former Mercedes executive and three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who died in May, was honoured with the Personality of the Year award.

The 2019 Formula One season ended on Sunday with a familiar sight, Lewis Hamilton on a podium's top step.

Hamilton won his sixth world title this year, emerging victorious in 11 of the 21 races, including in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

It was also a fine campaign for Mercedes, who took the constructors' championship, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas finishing second in the final drivers' standings.

Here, with the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind the 2019 campaign.

 

10 - Hamilton became the first driver to win world titles with a span of more than 10 years. His first championship came in 2008 when he was driving for McLaren.

11 - With 11 race wins, Hamilton enjoyed his joint-best year having also taken the chequered flag that many times in 2014 and 2018.

19 - The world champion has now led from start to finish in 19 grands prix, the joint most of any driver in F1 along with Ayrton Senna.

17 - Hamilton had a place on the podium in 17 races in 2019.

13 - The Briton has recorded at least one pole position in each of the last 13 seasons (2007 to 2019), the joint-longest run in F1 history after Michael Schumacher's streak between 1994 and 2006.

61 - Hamilton has recorded 61 pole positions for Mercedes, more than any other driver for a single F1 team.

146 - In 146 grands prix, Hamilton has held the lead, more than any other driver in F1 history.

3 - Red Bull's Max Verstappen enjoyed his best year to date, winning three races across the calendar.

22 - It was a more challenging year for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who went 22 successive races between the Italian Grand Prix in 2018 and Singapore Grand Prix in 2019 without a victory - the worst run of his F1 career.

6 - Mercedes equalled Ferrari (1999-2004) as the team to have won the most successive constructors' titles.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton says he feels "privileged" to be the subject of a challenge from Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, yet the Red Bull and Ferrari men are aiming for better in 2020.

Hamilton won the final grand prix of the season in Abu Dhabi, finishing the campaign 87 points clear of Mercedes team-mate and nearest contender Valtteri Bottas in the drivers' championship standings.

Yet Verstappen and Leclerc, both 22, joined Hamilton on the podium on Sunday and look to represent the greatest threat to his crown heading into next year.

The Briton, now a 250-race veteran, is relishing the test as he enjoys taking on the sport's top prospects.

"These guys, there's a lot yof oungsters coming through," Hamilton said, referring to his two rivals.

"It's great to be in a period of time where there's lots of youngsters coming through, and I'm privileged to be here while they come through."

Verstappen finished the season third in the standings, 135 points back, with Leclerc fourth and a further 14 behind the Dutchman.

A true title challenge has not quite yet materialised for the more experienced Red Bull man, but he said: "To be P3 in the championship was a nice ending.

"We are all working hard, but it's good to take some time off and be with family and friends and come back stronger next year."

Leclerc pipped Ferrari colleague Sebastian Vettel in the table in his first year with the Scuderia.

He added: "I'm extremely happy about this year. I've learned a huge amount thanks to Seb.

"It's been a great year, a realisation of the dream since I was child to be with Ferrari and in Formula One, and it's up to me to get better and give them the success they deserve."

Lewis Hamilton is relishing another battle with Max Verstappen as he looks to claim an 11th Formula One victory of a 2019 campaign that concludes with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Sunday's race will see Mercedes bid for a sixth consecutive race win at Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton having come out on top in three of the last five editions.

The world champion earned the 88th pole position of his illustrious career in qualifying, the first time he has topped the grid in his last 10 attempts.

Hamilton was ecstatic to end that barren run in the 21st and final race of the year and has put himself in prime position to add a win which would equal the personal best season tally he previously recorded in 2014 and 2018.

Valtteri Bottas qualified second but will start at the back after taking a host of engine penalties, meaning Verstappen, who won in Brazil last time out, will renew his combat with Hamilton from Interlagos on the front row.

Asked about continuing their scrap, Hamilton said: "Absolutely, yeah. 

"I think we are in a slightly better position this weekend. Obviously, Max is continuing to drive well, but I'm looking forward to battling with him for sure.

"It's been such a long slog trying to get this pole position. I don't think my qualifying has been terrible but it's just not been at my usual standard perhaps, so of course it's incredibly satisfying. 

"Obviously that's not even half the job done. We've got to battle with the Ferraris and the Red Bulls but I think we put ourselves in the best position possible, so incredibly happy. 

"We just really tried to see what we could pull out of the car this weekend. It's well suited to the track and it's been feeling good."

Verstappen vowed to challenge Hamilton but is aware he faces a tough task due to Mercedes' strength at this track.

"I don't think it's going to be easy, but we are going to give it a good try as a team, try and put them under pressure and see what happens," said the Dutchman, who was 0.360s off Hamilton's track-record pole time.

"We always know that Mercedes are very quick on the long runs. You have to be realistic and I think Mercedes is very quick. But there's still a lot of chances for Sunday.

"Qualifying was pretty decent. We seem to lack a bit of grip compared to [Mercedes] and they are especially very quick in the last sector. They are always very dominant here on this track but we tried to be as close as we could."


LECLERC WILL TAKE RISKS

In the last 10 races in Abu Dhabi, where overtaking is difficult, only once has a driver starting behind the front row won, when Kimi Raikkonen triumphed from fourth in 2012.

The all-Ferrari second row of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel therefore have their work cut out after suffering more frustration following their crash in Brazil.

Leclerc, following Vettel, could not cross the line in time to set a final flying lap in Q3. He initially blamed his German team-mate for driving slowly, though the four-time world champion was also hindered by traffic.

The Monegasque, trailing Verstappen by 11 points in the fight to finish third in the drivers' championship, has vowed to take chances, though he also has fifth-placed Vettel just 19 behind him.

Asked if he could win, Leclerc said: "Yes, definitely, and I will take quite a bit of risk at the start. 

"I need to take some risk; I need to finish in front of Max for the championship and in the end I will give it all.

"We'll analyse it [qualifying] and try to understand for it to not happen again, because it's a big shame."

Three-time Abu Dhabi winner Vettel, who will start on soft tyres in contrast to mediums for the two Mercedes, Red Bulls and Leclerc, also had his say on the disappointing qualifying finish.

The German, who arrived to the circuit late this week after the birth of his third child, said: "Alex Albon was backing up because he had a McLaren in front of him. I don't know who was in front of the McLaren or whether the McLaren could be closer.

"It was just a pity because my tyres were very cold to start with and I lost it straight in the first corner and Charles didn't even start the lap."

Team boss Mattia Binotto conceded Ferrari had "screwed up" trying to take a risk by being the last cars out to take advantage of improving track conditions.
 

BOTTAS SETTING NO LIMITS

Bottas, meanwhile, insisted anything was possible after a retirement last time out ended a run of four straight podiums.

"Everything is always possible," said the Finn. "There's no point for me to set any limit really. Take every opportunity there will be and for sure there will be some. 

"We've seen crazy races this year – look back two weeks in Brazil. So anything is possible. Look forward to coming up and taking those opportunities and most importantly having fun in the car.

"We'll find the fighting spirit. I believe. Anything is possible. We do have a good car and normally Sunday is better than Saturday for us so we'll give it all I have for sure.

"We've had many ideas for the strategy and obviously it's going to be a challenge, coming up from there – but I do look forward to it. I'm sure it can be fun trying to come up."
 

LAST HURRAH FOR HULKENBERG?

The performance of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg will also be closely watched.

Replaced by Esteban Ocon for 2020 and with all other drives now taken, the German will start what may ultimately prove his last F1 race in ninth position as Renault look to hold off Toro Rosso for fifth in the constructors' championship.

"When I got in the car, it was business as usual," said the 32-year-old, who aims to return in the future. 

"We still have the job in the constructors, which is very important. I just want to live it, enjoy it, get it done."
 

THE GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
6. Lando Norris (McLaren)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
8. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
10. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Valtteri Bottas
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 387
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-73)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 260 (-127)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-138)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-157)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 701
2. Ferrari 479 (-222)
3. Red Bull 391 (-310)
4. McLaren 140 (-561)
5. Renault 91 (-610)

WEATHER FORECAST 

Sunday's race is expected to be hot, with temperatures of up to 27 degrees Celcius, with no threat of rain or high winds.

Max Verstappen will be pleased if he can hold off Charles Leclerc to seal third place in the Formula One drivers' championship, but he doubts it will give him lasting joy.

Having won the Brazilian Grand Prix last time out, Verstappen is 11 points ahead of Ferrari's Leclerc in the standings heading into the final race of 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

The victory in Brazil was Verstappen's first since July, and third of the season overall, while Leclerc has enjoyed a fine breakthrough year, with two race wins and a further seven podium finishes.

However, Red Bull driver Verstappen says he will take little joy in securing a third-placed finish, as it is not a feat which will be remembered when his career comes to an end.

"I think it's always nicer than finishing fourth or fifth, but looking back in 20 years' time and seeing that you were third in the championship wouldn't really make me very happy," Verstappen said in a news conference.

"I think we are all here to win and we are all here to fight for the title.

"I think it would be nice after the weekend to be third, but in 20 years' time, I don't think it will do much."

The Dutchman is confident that, come next year, Red Bull can close the gap on Mercedes – who, predominantly through Lewis Hamilton, have dominated F1 for the past six seasons.

When asked if he had a car capable of winning the championship, Verstappen said: "Yeah. I think we do, also looking at the plans for next year.

"I think [2019] has been very promising, and I think also we had some good results. For me what was also important was the reliability and I think that has been very strong throughout the whole year. Also the progression we've made with the engine itself, that has all been going very well but we always want more.

"So we will never be satisfied with what we are doing. But yeah, it's been good. I think it is a good base for next year as well where I think we learned a lot throughout the whole year.

"I feel confident that we can have a positive start to next season."

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