Charles Leclerc has been putting in the hours to ensure Ferrari bounce back from their worst season for 40 years.

In 2020, Leclerc finished eighth in the drivers' standings, with 98 points and two podiums to his name.

Even that fairly meagre return meant he fared better than Sebastian Vettel, who had 33 points and a solitary podium down in 13th.

The former world champion has joined Aston Martin for 2021 following the lowest points total of his career, with Carlos Sainz in place as Leclerc's new team-mate.

The Monegasque was cautiously optimistic at Friday's season launch, having left few stones unturned during the off-season, but he knows it is foolish to predict how a wounded Ferrari might fare against Formula One's other heavyweights.

"There has been a lot of work. We have been pushing quite a lot," he said.

"It always looks positive on paper but then we need to see what the others have done as a step.

"I have never been in [the] Ferrari [factory as much] as before this season. We have been doing quite a bit of tests with the old car. I feel very ready.

"I have been working in a similar way as in the past, trying to understand what my weaknesses were last year.

"I still believe tyre management is something I should push. I improved a lot last year and I hope there will be another step this year."

Last month, Leclerc was forced to put such intensive preparations on hold as he self-isolated having tested positive for coronavirus.

However, he offered assurances that there have been no lingering effects.

"COVID did not hit me that bad," said the 23-year-old. "I did some physical tests to make sure everything came back to normal and that is the case."

Having comprehensively out-driven Vettel as the younger man, Leclerc anticipates a different dynamic when Sainz – fresh from two seasons at McLaren – joins him on the grid for the 2021 opener in Bahrain on March 28.

"It is very clear we need to push for the team," he added.

"Carlos wants to beat me and I want to beat him too. We will try to be careful when we fight each other on track.

"What is most important is we separate what happens on the track and off the track. It is a fine line that every team-mate needs to find.

"Carlos is very competitive but he is also here for the benefit of the team, as I am. We will have to play it smart on that one."

Australian star Daniel Ricciardo vowed to "close the gap" in the race for Formula One championship glory and the new McLaren driver is refusing to make any excuses.

Ricciardo enters his 11th season in F1 having switched from Renault to McLaren, but the 31-year-old does not expect the transition to hold him back.

Since entering F1, Ricciardo has claimed seven grand prix victories and 31 podium finishes, while he earned fifth place in the drivers' championship during the coronavirus-hit 2020 season.

After moving to McLaren to replace new Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. and pair up with the returning Lando Norris, Ricciardo has an eye on climbing the ranks.

"What I expect out of myself in 2021 is to really hit the ground running," Ricciardo said.

"Naturally it does take some time to learn a new team, a new car, but I guess I'm going to be hard on myself, not to give myself too much time.

"I think with Renault I was the same. I really wanted to be there by Melbourne, that first race, but naturally it did take a bit of time.

"I don't want to be naive but I also want to make sure I'm just leaving no stone unturned and really by the end of year I've had a big contribution to the team, moving forward and closing the gap."

Fernando Alonso had surgery on a jaw fracture after a road accident while cycling but is expected to be fit for the start of the 2021 Formula One season.

There were initially doubts the two-time F1 champion would be ready to make his return to the series after a two-year absence at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28 following the incident in Switzerland on Thursday.

Alonso underwent an operation on his jaw and is expected to remain in hospital until Sunday at the earliest.

However, Alpine have confirmed they do not expect the injury to have any impact on their preparation for the new campaign, with pre-season testing scheduled to take place at Sakhir from March 12-14.

"Following his cycling accident yesterday Fernando Alonso was kept under observation in hospital in Switzerland," read an Alpine statement issued on Friday.

"Medics discovered a fracture in his upper jaw and conducted a successful corrective operation. The attending medical team are satisfied with his progress.

"Fernando will remain under observation in hospital for a further 48 hours.

"Looking forward, after a few days of complete rest, he will be able to progressively resume training. We expect him be fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.

"Alpine F1 Team and Fernando thank you for your wishes and will issue further updates when appropriate."

Marc Marquez has been cleared to step up his rehabilitation from arm surgery with the 2021 MotoGP season approaching.

Six-time MotoGP champion Marquez fractured his humerus in the opening race in Jerez last year and had to withdraw from the next grand prix after attempting to return.

He underwent three operations, the latest of which was carried out in December after it was discovered he had sustained an infection in the fracture.

Following a course of antibiotic treatment at home, Marquez has been given the green light to move on with his recovery.

A statement from Repsol Honda read: "A further review of Marc Marquez at the Hospital Ruber Internacional, 10 weeks after surgery for an infected pseudoarthrosis of the right humerus, has confirmed a favourable clinical situation.

"The medical team led by doctors Samuel Antuna and Ignacio Roger de Ona, and including doctors Juan de Miguel, Aitor Ibarzabal and Andrea Garcia Villanueva, assessed the radiographic signs of bone consolidation and were satisfied with the progress.

"From now on, and during the next few weeks, Marquez will be able to progress steadily in the process of functional recovery of the operated arm."

The 2021 MotoGP season is scheduled to get under way with a pair of races in Qatar, the first of which will take place on March 28.

Fernando Alonso is "conscious and well in himself" after the two-time Formula One world champion was involved in a road accident while cycling.

Alonso, 39, is set to return to F1 with the Alpine team this season, after a two-year absence, though there will now be doubts over his participation at the first race in Bahrain next month.

The Spaniard won successive F1 world championships in 2005 and 2006.

On Thursday, Apline confirmed in a statement that Alonso had been involved in an incident while cycling in Switzerland.

However, the statement did not confirm if Alonso was in hopsital.

It read: "Fernando is conscious and well in himself and is awaiting further medical examinations tomorrow [Friday] morning.

"Alpine F1 Team will not make any further statement at this point in time. Further updates will be given tomorrow."

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new contract to race for Mercedes in the 2021 Formula One season, it has been confirmed.

The reigning F1 champion will spend a ninth season with the Silver Arrows after winning a record-equalling seventh drivers' title in 2020.

Mercedes and Hamilton have agreed a deal that includes the formation of a joint charitable foundation with the aim of supporting greater diversity and inclusion in Motorsport.

Hamilton said: "I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team-mates. Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.

"I'm equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue.

"I'm proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can't wait to get back on the track in March."

Team principal Toto Wolff added: "We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process.

"Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.

"Lewis' competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners.

"The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it."

In a 2020 season that was truncated due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hamilton still made history by breaking Michael Schumacher's all-time F1 wins record with his 92nd victory at the Portugal Grand Prix.

This year he will hope to surpass Schumacher and become the first F1 driver in history to win eight world titles.

The 2021 season is scheduled to get under way with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new contract to race for Mercedes in the 2021 Formula One season, it has been confirmed.

Pierre Gasly has become the latest Formula One driver to confirm a positive test for coronavirus.

The Alpha Tauri driver confirmed he is self-isolating and "feeling ok".

Frenchman Gasly wrote on Twitter: "Hello everyone, I hope you're all safe and well.

"I wanted to let you know that I tested positive for COVID-19. I have told everyone I've been in contact with during these last days.

"I'm currently self-isolating and following the protocol set by the local health authorities. I'm feeling ok and will continue to follow my training plan from home while I remain in isolation. Take care."

Six drivers on the grid have now tested positive for coronavirus, with world champion Lewis Hamilton having been among those towards the end of the 2020 season.

Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll also missed races due to COVID-19 last year, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris of McLaren contracted the virus during the close season.

Jenson Button has returned to Williams in a senior advisory role after agreeing a multi-year deal.

Button was given his Formula One break by Williams 21 years ago when he was handed a drive for the 2000 season.

The 41-year-old Briton went on to be crowned F1 world champion during his time with Brawn in 2009 and retired in 2016 with 15 race victories to his name.

Button now returns to Williams, who were sold to American private investment firm Dorilton Capital last year as the Williams family ended their 43-year-old involvement in F1.

He will be tasked with passing on his experience at grands prix, while also attending team events in the United Kingdom.

Englishman Button said: "I am so delighted to once again be able to say that I've signed for Williams. Back when I was 19 it was a moment that changed my life and, despite the fact it was over 20 years ago, I already feel like I never really left.

"Sir Frank Williams showed faith in me which I will be eternally grateful for and I am incredibly excited to have the chance to come back and help the team as it strives once more for success."

Incoming Williams Racing chief executive Jost Capito said: "Bringing Jenson back on board is another positive step to help us move forward as a team both on and off track. Jenson has always been a friend of the team and so it is great to welcome him back into the Williams family.

"Back in 2000, Sir Frank saw the promising talent Jenson had as a driver and gave him his first opportunity in F1. He more than fulfilled that initial promise throughout a glittering career that culminated in world championship glory.

"More recently, he has shown his acumen in both the business and broadcasting worlds and remains a widely respected figure in the paddock."

Alpine have appointed Davide Brivio, the former boss of MotoGP team Suzuki Ecstar, as their racing director.

Renault announced the departure of team principal Cyril Abiteboul on Monday ahead of their rebrand to Alpine for the 2021 Formula One campaign, and now they have added new blood.

Brivio was linked to F1 after quitting his post with Suzuki Ecstar, who won the team and rider championships in last year's MotoGP season.

An Alpine statement read: "Davide Brivio joins Alpine F1 Team as racing director.

"We are delighted to confirm Davide Brivio will strengthen our team ahead of the 2021 Formula One season. His specific role and responsibilities will be announced in the coming weeks.

"Davide will report to the Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi.

"Davide joins Alpine F1 Team with a wealth of experience and success following more than 20 years in the MotoGP world championship.

"We look forward to welcoming Davide as we start the next stage of our Formula One journey."

Alpine's driver line-up is made up of Frenchman Esteban Ocon and former two-time champion Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has tested positive for coronavirus, the team have confirmed.

The 23-year-old was already isolating having been in close contact with someone who had contracted COVID-19.

Ferrari said Leclerc is isolating at home in Monaco and is displaying mild symptoms.

A team statement read: "Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver Charles Leclerc has tested positive for COVID-19.

"In accordance with the team's protocols, Charles is tested regularly and yesterday, the result from his latest test came back positive. 

"Charles notified us immediately and has informed everyone he has been in close contact with in the last few days.

"He is currently feeling ok with mild symptoms and is now self-isolating at home in Monaco."

Leclerc added on his Instagram stories: "Hello guys. I hope you are all staying safe.

"I want to let you know that I have tested positive for COVID-19. I am regularly checked according to my team's protocols.

"Unfortunately, I learned that I have been in contact with a positive case and immediately went into self-isolation, notifying anyone I had contact with. A subsequent test I took has come back positive.

"I am feeling okay and have mild symptoms. I will remain in isolation in my home in Monaco in compliance with the regulations set by the local health authorities.

"Stay safe and take care."

World champion Lewis Hamilton tested positive towards the end of the 2020 F1 season, while Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez have also previously missed time due to coronavirus.

Ferrari do not regret their failure to sign Lewis Hamilton for the 2021 season as they are confident Charles Leclerc can challenge the Formula One champion.

Hamilton has won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with Mercedes, although he has not yet committed to the Silver Arrows for the coming campaign.

A resolution is expected soon, but links to rivals Ferrari have never been far away.

A blockbuster move will not materialise on this occasion, however, as the Scuderia have secured Carlos Sainz Jr next to Leclerc in their 2021 line-up, replacing Sebastian Vettel.

And team principal Mattia Binotto is confident they have made the right move.

He told Sky Sports: "I don't think there will be regret because, at the end, when we took some decisions, we took them thinking they were the right decisions and today we have a fantastic driver like Charles, where we invested a lot as Ferrari.

"I think he's got a lot of talent. If he's got the right car, I'm pretty sure he can challenge Lewis Hamilton.

"We've made our choices and I think, together with Carlos, we are very strong. I don't think there will be any regret."

Although Leclerc - fourth two years ago with two wins to his name - would appear the obvious Ferrari contender, Binotto is not naming a "number one".

Sainz finished seven points better off than his new team-mate in 2020 while still with McLaren.

"There is not a number one and number two," Binotto said. "They will have equal opportunities - certainly at the start of the season. I'm pretty happy then that they are free to fight.

"I think what we have to do as usual is to optimise the team points, and when you optimise the team points, normally you are optimising the drivers' points as well. Team points is the number one.

"Later in the season, let's see how things will progress, let's see what objectives individual drivers can maybe achieve and if we need to adopt a different strategy, but at the start of the season, they will be free to fight."

The Formula One season will start a week later than originally scheduled in Bahrain after the Australian Grand Prix was put back to November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Melbourne's Albert Park Circuit was due to stage the opening race of 2021 on March 21, but F1 revealed a revised calendar on Tuesday.

The Bahrain Grand Prix will be the first of the year on March 28, with the event in Australia now taking place on November 21 - subject to World Motor Sport Council approval.

Travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 crisis will prevent the Chinese Grand Prix - which was due to be the third round of the season - going ahead on April 11 and no new date has been set for that race.

Imola is back on the calendar for the second race of the campaign on April 18, while there is a spare date in the calendar of May 2 for a race to be staged and a venue for that weekend will be announced in due course.

The season is due to end with a record 23rd race of the year in Abu Dhabi on December 12 and F1 expects fans to return to the grandstands this year.


"It has been a busy start to the year at Formula 1 and we are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged," said president and CEO of Formula 1 Stefano Domenicali.

"The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season.

"It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November and are continuing to work with our Chinese colleagues to find a solution to race there in 2021 if something changes.

"We are very excited to announce that Imola will return for the 2021 season and know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula 1 after the winter break and our revised season opener in Bahrain. Obviously, the virus situation remains fluid, but we have the experience from last season with all our partners and promoters to adapt accordingly and safely in 2021."


F1 2021 calendar in full:

March 28 – Bahrain (Sakhir)
April 18 - Italy (Imola*)
May 2 - TBC
May 9 – Spain (Barcelona)
May 23 – Monaco (Monaco)
June 6 – Azerbaijan (Baku)
June 13 – Canada (Montreal)
June 27 – France (Le Castellet)
July 4 – Austria (Spielberg)
July 18 – United Kingdom (Silverstone)
August 1 – Hungary (Budapest)
August 29– Belgium (Spa)
September 5 – Netherlands (Zandvoort)
September 12 – Italy (Monza)
September 26 – Russia (Sochi)
October 3 – Singapore (Singapore)
October 10 – Japan (Suzuka)
October 24 – USA (Austin)
October 31 – Mexico (Mexico City)
November 7 – Brazil (Sao Paulo)
November 21 - Australia (Melbourne*)
December 5 - Saudi Arabia (Jeddah**)
December 12 - Abu Dhabi (Yas Island)

*Revisions to calendar are subject to World Motor Sport Council approval **Subject to circuit homologation.

Andrea Dovizioso has hit out Gigi Dall'Igna, revealing he did not have a calm conversation with Ducati's general manager for three years before he left the team.

It was announced last August that Dovizioso would not stay on for the 2021 MotoGP season after eight years with Ducati.

The 34-year-old Italian rider has since announced he will take a sabbatical this year but hopes to return to the premier class further down the line.

Dovizioso has lifted the lid on how on his relationship Dall'Igna with disintegrated.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "What is the relationship with Gigi? Zero.

"In the past years it was at 30 per cent, then since Jorge Lorenzo arrived in 2017 – in arguing and going against each other – my team and I became a bit isolated.

"We no longer talked about the development of the bike, we no longer held meetings to develop it.

"But in Ducati there is potential to do so, because the competence and skill are very high. Of these eight years it's the only thing that makes me angry, because we could have done more. Gigi and I have not spoken calmly since 2017."

Dovizioso suggested Dall'Igna had too much power and said he was never offered a new deal, despite claims his demands were too high.

"These decisions come only from Gigi. There is talk of Ducati, but it is wrong because all the decisions are his. Like the choice of Lorenzo in 2017," he said.

"At the beginning of 2016 there was the possibility of taking on [Marc] Marquez, but Gigi had already decided that he wanted Lorenzo."

He added: "Gigi stated that he understood that it was already over from the 2019 meeting between the Sachsenring and Austria. That was supposed to be a technical meeting, we had different ideas, there was friction and we wanted to meet with all the engineers.

"It started as a technical meeting but then ended as a confrontation between the two of us. Gigi felt attacked, beaten. I think at that moment he closed the doors, but he did it quietly and what he says confirms it.

"It was said that I wanted this and that. All lies. There was never an offer, there were no negotiations. I still did not know that they no longer wanted me.

"But what they said was the confirmation that for Dall'Igna it was already over after that 2019 meeting."

Carlos Sainz compared Ferrari and McLaren to LaLiga heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona, and is confident of a successful transition to the Scuderia. 

The Spaniard spent the past two seasons at McLaren, making the podium on two occasions, but is Ferrari-bound for 2021, replacing Sebastian Vettel.

Sainz spoke about how the objective for both teams is to cut the gap to dominant Mercedes, while he feels the fact he will have raced for both teams proves he is doing something right in his career.

Asked by AS if racing for Ferrari is like playing for Real Madrid, the team Sainz supports, he replied: "It's one way of saying it…but McLaren is Barca, which is also a very good team to be on. 

"It cannot be compared, because in addition both are in a restructuring to try to dethrone Mercedes in the future. 

"But they are the two best teams in history and when you go from one to the other it means that you are doing something right in Formula One."

At Ferrari, Sainz is joining a team where the pressure is always on to be a success and internal politics have historically always been a lingering presence in the background.

But Sainz is confident of being able to bring a harmonious atmosphere like the one he was part of at McLaren.

"That I managed to do it at McLaren means I can do it at Ferrari. If I could create a good team, generate good dynamics at McLaren, why not do it at Ferrari? I can do it," he added. 

"I like the people out there, I like Mattia [Binotto, Ferrari team boss] and I like what I see, what we have talked about. 

"There was no hesitation when it came to signing the contract and going forward. In my head there is no possibility that this environment and similar situation cannot be generated. 

"If I could at McLaren, I can at Ferrari."

Sainz's predecessors at Ferrari Vettel and Fernando Alonso arrived with huge reputations as two of the most gifted drivers of their generations and with world titles to their name.

Neither man was able to end Ferrari's wait for a champion dating back to 2007 but Sainz believes it is wrong to judge their success at Maranello based on titles.

"They leave with a few victories and podiums, if you call that going empty…I only have two podiums," he said. 

"Are they leaving without a championship? Yes. But the same has happened to nineteen drivers, every season for the last 10, when Red Bull or Mercedes have dominated. 

"There are nineteen drivers a year who have gone empty, but I do not include those who have raced for Ferrari. Nobody leaves Ferrari empty."

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