Charles Leclerc extended his championship lead by winning the Australian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen retired for the second time in three races on Sunday.

Ferrari driver Leclerc led from start to finish at Albert Park to secure his second victory of the season, with Sergio Perez finishing second and George Russell third.

World champion Verstappen pulled over on lap 39 of 58, while Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz - who started the day second in the driver standings - spun off early in the race after starting back in ninth spot.

Leclerc got off to a good start and Lewis Hamilton moved up from fifth to third behind world champion Verstappen.

The safety car was deployed when Sainz found himself in the gravel after losing control on lap three, with Leclerc extending his advantage as Perez used the DRS to overtake Hamilton.

Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on lap 19 and the safety car was out again when Sebastian Vettel retired, giving Russell the opportunity to pit and remain in third place.

Leclerc fended off Verstappen when the race restarted and that was as close as the Dutchman came to taking the lead before he pulled over due to another issue with his Red Bull.

Monegasque Leclerc was untroubled, easing to a second win in three races and put the icing on the cake by clocking the fastest lap.

Leclerc finished over 20 seconds ahead of Perez, with Russell securing a podium spot and Hamilton crossing the line in fourth spot.

Ferrari star Charles Leclerc insisted rivals Red Bull hold the advantage heading into the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Leclerc's Scuderia have opened up a 40-point lead in the constructors' championship after two races, with the Monegasque driver and Red Bull's Max Verstappen claiming one win apiece across Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Ferrari pair Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, but the former is expecting a tough challenge at the redeveloped Albert Park in Melbourne.

Formula One returns to Australia for the first time in two years, with the track modified to make it much faster than it used to be, which Leclerc feels will not work in Ferrari's favour.

"Overall the track characteristics here are not fitting very well with our [car], but everything is to play for," Leclerc said.

"I still think we will be in the mix – it will still be very close."

Leclerc boasts a 12-point lead over team-mate Sainz in the drivers' standings, having secured victory in Bahrain and second in Jeddah, and reigning champion Verstappen sits a further eight back.

But Leclerc reiterated that Red Bull will be the favourites on Sunday, given Verstappen's team appear the leaders on straights and Albert Park has removed a chicane while widening some corners.

"I think the old one would have suited us better," he added. "But it is the way it is and we will try to maximise everything as always, and hopefully Imola [after the Australian GP] will be a track that suits us a little bit better.

"It is not like it is going to be a big gap. If we do the perfect job, everything is possible."

Sainz echoed Leclerc's sentiments as he labelled Red Bull the favourites.

"Our car has been strong in all the circuits we have been to so far, but it's true in Jeddah, with more straight-line [speed], the Red Bull looked like the better car and [had] the better balance in terms of top speed and corner speed," Sainz said. 

"So, given how long the straights have become here, maybe they are a bit more up for it. But I think we can still do a good job."

While Ferrari appear concerned with the modifications in Melbourne, DRS strategy is also expected to play a significant role in the third race if the opening two are anything to go by.

Leclerc has attempted to utilise the DRS overtaking aid in both those races, letting Verstappen through before the detection points and then benefiting in overtaking zones, and he expects a similar tactical battle to follow again.

"We have seen in the past two races this strategy with DRS, and I am pretty sure we will see it even more here, because basically all the straights have a DRS zone, so overtaking will be a thing and clever racing can make a big difference here," he said.

Two races into the 2022 Formula One season, a new era of regulations and while it is evident to see that Ferrari and Red Bull have started the strongest, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen seem to be relishing the duel.

It is currently one race apiece for Leclerc and Verstappen, but both the former's win in Bahrain and the latter's in Saudi Arabia have been characterised by hard but fair wheel-to-wheel racing.

Coming into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Ferrari's strength this season can be seen in the fact they have opened up a healthy 40-point buffer in the constructors' championship after only two races.

Leclerc and Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, with the Monegasque's respective first and second place finishes coupled with bonus points for the fastest lap in the opening two races.

Following a tightly contested race in Saudi Arabia, Leclerc and Verstappen were revelling in the opening battles for the championship.

"It wasn't enough today, but my God, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this."

Especially in comparison to how sour the relationship became between him and Lewis Hamilton as they fought for the title in 2021, Verstappen is also enjoying the hard but fair racing.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the world champion said after his Saudi win. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game."

 

Mercedes' lack of pace working against Hamilton  

Meanwhile, Mercedes have endured a difficult start to the 2022 season, claiming third and fourth thanks to Red Bull DNFs in Bahrain before a fifth and 10th place finish in Saudi Arabia, well off the pace at the front.

Their troubles with speed and managing downforce in relation to their heavy porpoising is difficult for any team, let alone one with expectations of drivers' and constructors' championships.

With that all in mind, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has taken eight pole positions at Albert Park, tied with two other drivers for the most ever in F1 at a single track – Michael Schumacher at Suzuka and Ayrton Senna at Imola are the other two, while Hamilton also holds eight at the Hungaroring.

 

No home race advantage for Aussies

McLaren's poor start to the season could only serve to compound matters for Daniel Ricciardo at his home race.

No Australian driver has ever won, taken pole position or reached the podium in 35 editions of the Australian GP.

Ricciardo (2016, 2018) and Mark Webber (2010) only managed to secure fastest laps and mere points finishes.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 45
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 33
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 25
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 22
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 16

Constructors

1. Ferrari 78
2. Mercedes 38
3. Red Bull 37
4. Alpine 16
5. Haas 12

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari are a challenger for this year's Formula One drivers' and constructors' titles, despite Max Verstappen's victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Following his DNF in the season opener in Bahrain, Verstappen bounced back to claim the 25 points in a tightly contested race.

With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium in both races, however, Ferrari have opened up an early 40-point lead in the constructors' championship. Leclerc has also added to his respective first and second-placed finishes with two bonus points from fastest laps.

According to Horner, it is a sign of their legitimacy and strength this season.

"Ferrari have got a great car, they've got great drivers," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really tough battle. If that's what we're set for the rest of the season... from what we've seen in the first two races, it's been epic.

"They're all competitive teams. Ferrari are a big team, they've been a sleeping giant for a couple of years. They've got great strength in depth. It was just a great motor race. We enjoyed it, it was good hard racing between the drivers, and let's see what happens in Australia."

In the second consecutive race this season, Verstappen and Leclerc were locked in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle, with the defending champion seeing off the Ferrari challenge in Jeddah this time.

Horner praised the reigning world champion's race management, with Verstappen well placed to hold off Leclerc's late charge, while also saving some words for fourth-placed pole-sitter Sergio Perez.

"It was a very patient race from Max," Horner said. "He looked after the tyres for the end of the race there, and then after the last safety car, he really went for it.

"[Sergio] has driven brilliantly all weekend. He got that pole, his race pace was great, and he's just got unlucky with track position with the safety car. We've seen that happen sometimes."

The F1 season resumes in April with the Australian GP in Melbourne.

Max Verstappen hailed the race pace of his Red Bull after snatching victory in a gripping tussle with Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman edged out the Ferrari of Leclerc to deny the Monte Carlo racer consecutive wins after his victory in Bahrain, where Verstappen failed to finish.

Verstappen passed Leclerc for the lead with just a handful of laps to go on Sunday after sitting behind him all race, initially in third and then second after Sergio Perez dropped down the field.

It meant the 24-year-old earned his first points of the season as he aims to become a two-time world champion, and speaking afterwards, Verstappen admitted he was glad to have got off the mark.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the Dutchman said. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game.

"They were really quick through corners, and we were really quick on the straight. The tyres were wearing out quite quick.

"You could see by the end we had a little bit more pace. I tried to get by, it wasn't easy, they were playing smart tricks in the last corner, but eventually I managed to get ahead.

"Even after that, he was constantly in the DRS. [I'm] really happy we finally kick-started the season."

Leclerc, who had looked poised for his second win as many races, took time to congratulate his opponent and point to the thrill of the jostling for first place.

"It wasn't enough today, but my god, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this. It was fun.

"We had two very different configurations. We were quite quick in the corner, but slow in the straights. It was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straight. He did a great job, it was a fun race."

The Ferrari driver felt the race only reinforced the respect the pair have for each other, adding: "It's always been there, especially when you finish a race like this on a street track.

"We've been pushing like I've rarely pushed before, we take risks. Of course there's respect."

Sergio Perez expects to be even quicker in Sunday's race than he was during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Perez took pole position for the first time in his career by going two hundredths of a second faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Q3.

Carlos Sainz was fastest in Q1, Q2 and after the first runs in the final session, but the Spaniard had to settle for third on the grid, ahead of reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Perez, who looked set for a podium in the season-opening race in Bahrain until technical issues forced him to retire on the final lap, suggested there is more to come from the Red Bull duo.

"We've been focusing more on race pace than qualifying," Perez told a news conference.

"We've felt that we've given away some qualifying performance to gain it in the race, but obviously we're going to see [on Sunday].

"I expect these two [Leclerc and Sainz] are going to be very strong, but I really hope that we can have a strong race."

Leclerc took the win in Bahrain ahead of Sainz, and he feels is in a good position to make it back-to-back victories at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

"I think it's very strange because we're actually quicker with the used tyres than the new tyres, and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for the next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window," said Leclerc.

"But overall, I think for the race, I'm quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident."

Ferrari's Sainz was looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel with the Red Bulls, with the stage set for the drama to begin from lights out.

He said: "I expect an exciting start. Honestly, Checo [Perez] in front, Max behind, Red Bulls on the dirty side, us on the clean side but at the same time here in this tarmac, there's so much grip, clean or dirty side I don't think makes much of a difference.

"I think it's just going to be an exciting race. And I look forward to it. I think it's great for Formula One to have all four drivers just battling it out there. And I think we all have good respect for each other."

Sergio Perez brought an end to his long wait for a first Formula One pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, cutting short Ferrari's early-season dominance.

The Scuderia had looked set to continue their outstanding form, potentially locking out the front row in a hectic qualifying session that was delayed for an extended period following a terrifying crash for Mick Schumacher, son of former Ferrari superstar Michael.

Schumacher hit the concrete barrier at Turn 12 at 170mph, although he showed no signs of injury when he was eventually pulled from his Haas, heading to hospital for precautionary scans.

That incident came in the middle of Q2, with Lewis Hamilton having sensationally bowed out in Q1, leaving Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to battle with Red Bull duo Perez and Max Verstappen.

Defending champion Verstappen struggled to stay in touch, and it had appeared as though Sainz might be the man celebrating a first pole when he set the benchmark in Q3.

But he was passed by team-mate Leclerc and then Perez in his 220th grand prix, marking the longest wait for a driver before qualifying fastest, with ex-Red Bull man Marc Webber (131) the previous record-holder.

With Sunday marking 11 years to the day since Perez's first entry, he said: "It took me a couple of races, no?

"What a lap, unbelievable. I could do 1,000 laps and I don't think I could beat that one. It was unbelievable.

"We were not expecting too much from qualifying, we were focusing mainly for the race, so hopefully we get [the win] tomorrow."

Earlier, there had also been a red flag in Q1 following a crash involving Nicholas Latifi, after which Hamilton could not recover from a slow start.

His third time was his fastest but enough only for P15, where he soon fell below Lance Stroll to bow out in Q1 for the first time since the 2017 Brazilian GP and the first time on pure pace since the 2009 British GP.

Mercedes struggled to explain the result, as George Russell ran fourth fastest in that initial session, and Hamilton would not use the distraction a day earlier – when practice was halted due to a missile attack near the track – as an excuse.

"I just struggled with the balance of the car," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "It's not where we want to be."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 1:28.200
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.025s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.202s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.261s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.868s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.904s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.947s
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.983s
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.388s

Somehow, the opening race of the 2022 Formula One season in Bahrain last weekend managed to compare to the drama of 2021.

The first Ferrari one-two finish since Singapore in 2019, wheel-to-wheel duels between race winner Charles Leclerc and reigning world champion Max Verstappen, Mercedes achieving damage limitation with late DNFs for both Red Bull cars, new regulations creating the potential for a huge shakeup in the pecking order – there was a lot that went on at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday.

Ferrari are the biggest story coming into Jeddah this weekend, though.

There was enough to suggest Ferrari would compete with Red Bull and Mercedes coming out of winter testing, but just how competitive remained to be seen.

Despite Verstappen's failure to finish, Leclerc and Carlos Sainz dispelled any doubt in that regard with a maximum points haul. Something that arguably reinforces the point on Ferrari's strength was Sainz admitting he did not have the best of weekends.

"I mean in FP1, FP2 and FP3 I was very far behind, the most far that I've been ever in Ferrari and that's why even with a one-two that we scored I'm not entirely happy with the weekend, because as a Ferrari driver it's been my most difficult weekend," Sainz said.

"It just shows I need to put my head down, understand this car, understand where is Charles making the difference with his driving and the way he's approaching the corners and driving the tyres, also in the race."

For Leclerc, however, there's a belief that he finally has a car accordant to his talent to compete for the driver's title.

"Coming into this season, we surely knew we were going to be in a better position compared to the past two years but we didn't really know where, and now we see that we are actually in the mix to fight for a title, so it's amazing," he said.

Ferrari and Mercedes battle across the grid

The fascinating battle between a resurgent Ferrari and a previously dominant Mercedes will not just be fought between the factory teams this weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Amid new regulations, an interesting detail was the battle below the top teams. Ferrari power units made for five of the top ten positions in Sakhir, and four of the top six.

Meanwhile, apart from Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the factory cars, Mercedes-powered cars made up the bottom six cars to have finished.

The Ferrari-powered Haas and Alfa Romeo have long been lagging at the back of the pack, but now look strong enough to take up the fight to Alpine, as well as the ambitious and Mercedes-powered McLaren and Aston Martin teams.

The midfield battle will be as fierce as the one at the front of the grid, while Saudi Arabia might shed some more light on the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

How quickly Red Bull bounce back?

Red Bull provided the bulk of the late drama in Sakhir, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both failing to finish, due to fuel pump failure.

New fuel regulations for 2022 have meant higher engine temperatures on lower fuel, and Red Bull did not do enough low-fuel running during winter testing to encounter what they did in Sakhir.

Meanwhile, Mercedes and Ferrari were able to rectify these problems heading into the season start.

The question is, though the Red Bull is unquestionably strong in terms of race pace, how much will Verstappen have to play catch-up in the drivers' standings as the team sorts their fuel pump problem out?

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 26
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 18
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 15
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 12
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 10

Constructors

1. Ferrari 44
2. Mercedes 27
3. Haas 10
4. Alfa Romeo 9
5. Alpine 8

Carlos Sainz declared Ferrari "properly back" after finishing second in a Scuderia one-two that gave Mattia Binotto sweet relief following two barren years.

Ferrari had not celebrated a race win in Formula One since Sebastian Vettel led a one-two at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc was the junior driver on that occasion, but in Bahrain on Sunday he moved to the top of the drivers' standings for the first time in his career.

Leclerc was a deserving winner, while Sainz profited from a double Red Bull retirement to claim second.

"Ferrari is back and properly back with a one-two, where the team should be and should have been the last few years," Sainz said afterwards. "The hard work is paying off and we are there."

Team principal Binotto had expected Red Bull to be "stronger" and expects both they and Mercedes will "come back very soon", but for now he enjoyed being able to revel in a precious victory.

"It's a relief, it's fantastic. A one-two was unexpected," he told Sky Sports. "It has been a great race and Charles defended the position.

"It was nice to see him battling and fighting for the position, for the win.

"In the end, it was a bit lucky, certainly. It was a heart attack for me on the pit wall, when you're consolidating the position and you've got the safety car 10 laps from the end [before Verstappen retired]."

There is always expectation on Ferrari, so this result should go some way to easing the pressure very slightly.

"The pressure is high, very, very high," Binotto said, "but what we need to do is try to focus on what we are doing and forget about it; otherwise, I think it would be too much stress.

"We came here focused on the performance, trying to have a clean race. The drivers have done the job."

Charles Leclerc says Ferrari could not have hoped for a better start to the season after he led a one-two in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Leclerc claimed maximum points as the Scuderia secured their first victory since the 2019 season.

The Monegasque driver took the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, with Lewis Hamilton finishing third in a miserable start to the campaign for Red Bull.

Defending champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired late in the race in Sakhir on a dream day for Leclerc.

"[I am] so happy," he said. "The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team. We knew it would be a big opportunity for us and the guys have done such an incredible job in building this amazing car.

"Starting in the best way possible; pole position, victory, the fastest lap, one-two with Carlos - we couldn't have hoped for any better.

"I was trying to be as clever as possible, brake early in Turn One and twice, it worked out. I took back my first position, and I am incredibly happy to make it work."

Sainz was also elated to see Ferrari back in business.

"First, congrats Charles and Ferrari," he added. "Ferrari are properly back with a one-two, where the team should be. The hard work is paying off, and we are there.

"For me, it's been a very tricky weekend - I'm not going to lie. I didn’t have the pace today, but I managed to hold it and bring the one-two for the team.

"I have some homework to do over the next few days, and I'm sure I'll come back stronger."

Mercedes should not be considered challengers for the Bahrain Grand Prix, so says Charles Leclerc, though reigning world champion Max Verstappen remains wary of their threat.

Ferrari driver Leclerc and Red Bull's Verstappen secured pole and second on the grid respectively for Sunday's Formula One curtain-raiser.

Indeed, Ferrari and Red Bull took all four top spots in Sahkir, where Lewis Hamilton ultimately qualified fifth on Saturday, with his new team-mate George Russell down in ninth.

Mercedes have looked off the pace over practice and Leclerc, who claimed his 10th career pole at the circuit where he clinched his first in 2019, predicted the Silver Arrows will struggle to close the gap.

"I personally, still had the doubt after FP3," Leclerc stated of Mercedes' performance. "It was quite obvious that they were not at ease.

"Considering what happens in the years before, they were hiding their gains quite a lot, This year? Well, actually, they weren't hiding their gains. They were struggling more than other years.

"I still expected them maybe to be fighting for [pole position] with us. Then for the race tomorrow. Considering their pace of today, I don't think so but let's wait and see."

Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto said being "competitive" was the team's ambition for 2022 as he unveiled the new F1-75 car – warning Mercedes and Red Bull would be tough to catch.

A sleek look meant Ferrari could be happy about their design work, but Binotto was adamant the proof would come on the track when the car's true pace against the rest of the field can be gauged. It was 2019 when the team last won races.

"I would like the F1-75 to be the car that allows our fans to once again be proud of Ferrari," he said. "Our goal is to reignite the Prancing Horse legend and we can only do that by winning again."

Those words came in a bullish statement, and the team principal was perhaps more guarded about the prospects for topping the podium and championship success when he spoke at the launch.

"That is not our target, it is our ambition, because we are Ferrari," Binotto said. "I think we need to be somehow realistic, and if I look at last year the gap to the best was certainly very big at the end of the season.

"It means that those teams are very strong and if they have been strong in the past, they will continue to be very strong. So, they are still for us a benchmark.

"Our objective is to be back competitive, and for me being competitive means somehow being capable of winning races, and somehow try to go to each single race and to fight for the best position."

He said Ferrari's staff had been "brave", "united" and "open-minded" in coming up with the new car and backed drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as having "the right talent, the right capacity, the right mentality and the right approach" for the job that lies ahead.

"They are part of the team; they know to be on the podium, the best position on the podium, we need our car to be sufficiently fast to achieve it," Binotto said, in a video interview published on the official F1 website.

"Our objective together is to try to develop the car as much as we can, certainly at the start of the season to exploit it to the maximum of its potential, and let's see if our car will be fast enough to be capable to battle for the best position."

A host of technical changes in the sport this year have cast uncertainty on how the season might play out, but Binotto expects Ferrari, a distant third in the constructors' championship last year, will face a major challenge to reel in Mercedes and Red Bull. The team are not shying away from that, though.

Leclerc said: "We've got great people here in Ferrari, hopefully great drivers too, and hopefully when we put everything together on track, we'll be able to fight for wins."

Sainz is in the process of discussing a new contract, to keep him with the team beyond the end of 2022, and the Spanish driver said of those talks: "They're progressing. I'm very happy in Ferrari. We are both happy with each other. It's just now a matter of getting to agree on what's going to happen in the future. I hope we have something to tell you in the near future."

Lewis Hamilton collected his 100th Formula One victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after pipping Lando Norris to top spot.

Norris, who secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, spun off the track with three laps to go as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and sneak into a late lead to secure his century of race victories, the first F1 driver to achieve such a haul.

McLaren, who collected their first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish, with Max Verstappen making important ground to finish second.

Verstappen, who led the championship going into the race, had started from the back of the grid after Red Bull had a new engine installed, but he magnificently recovered to make the podium and ensure Hamilton moves into just a two-point lead.

Carlos Sainz took the lead on the first corner, with Norris, George Russell and Lance Stroll in close company.

Daniel Ricciardo, who would eventually settle for fourth, was back in fifth as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso looked to make ground on the McLaren man who was the shock Monza winner.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was climbing slowly up the grid as he overtook Valtteri Bottas and then Charles Leclerc, moving ominously through the field.

Norris' pole position looked to be paying off when Alonso and Perez had to pit, giving the 21-year-old the lead with 16 laps to go.

He had Hamilton in close company four laps later, and it appeared to be a two-car battle as the Englishmen jostled for first place.

Hamilton took the lead 11 laps later and went on to win as Norris spun out, with Verstappen coasting to his podium placing after making the smart decision to put the intermediate tyres on early.


Mercedes magic

Mercedes made the early decision to put on the inters as their rain radar suggested the wet weather was going to come before the finale.

With others choosing to stick out there and get through it, Hamilton surged into a late lead as Norris' tyres failed him, while Bottas climbed up from 17th on the grid to finish fifth to prove the Mercedes team's decision was an excellent one.

McLaren mistake

A visibly upset Norris addressed the television cameras after the race in Sochi but stood by the decision to stay out there.

The Briton battled to pole position in the adverse conditions the previous day but, for as long as Norris remains without a race win, this will resemble a missed opportunity for him and for McLaren to collect back-to-back wins after their success in Monza.


IN THE POINTS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +53.271
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:02.475
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:05.607
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:07.533
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1:21.321
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:27.224
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1:28.955
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:30.076
10. George Russell (Williams) 1:40.551

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

WHAT'S NEXT?

There is another two-week gap until the next race, which is the rearranged Turkish Grand Prix.

Lando Norris will endeavour to make the most of his "amazing" maiden pole position at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 21-year-old British driver finished quickest in his McLaren in Sochi on Saturday, edging out Carlos Sainz, while compatriot George Russell was third.

Lewis Hamilton will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll make up the rest of the front eight.

Championship leader Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid after his Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Norris, who made his Formula One debut in 2019, hopes to capitalise on a shock opportunity after a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session.

"It’s my first in X number of races, and it could be my only pole for a while. It feels amazing, especially in these conditions," Norris told a media conference.

"Another race win for McLaren would be lovely. But I don’t expect so, I think Mercedes are a long way up the road from us and Red Bull probably similar.

"I think with either conditions I can look forward to it. We can score some good points, we can have a good race, because we are in the best position possible."

Norris joked the circuit in Sochi was not ideal for his first-ever pole but is hopeful he can make a good start to the race.

He added: "Probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be pole is here, especially with the straight down to turn one, but I’m still very happy.

"We saw that the cars are in a good position, in the wet now and also in the dry. It's a long run down to turn one or turn two, so I have to look forward to that and make sure I prepare for that well."

Ferrari driver Sainz acknowledged the front two can expect to be tested by their rivals, but the nature of the track may give them some assistance.

"It’s a strange circuit, this one, because obviously race pace is important and we need to see how easy it is to overtake," said the Spaniard.

"Normally in the past it has been quite tricky. Obviously, we have the two Mercs and the Red Bull that are going to be pushing us a lot.

"They are clearly, around here, half a second to a second quicker than us, so at some point they will put pressure on us and we will need to see if we can keep ourselves ahead.

"Obviously, the target is to finish ahead of them, try to get Lando at the start – although I am starting on the dirty side, he is at least starting on the clean side – and see from there if we can race hard and have some fun at the front."

Max Verstappen went top of the Formula One drivers' standings for the first time in his career but admits he faces a huge fight to stay ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull star earned a maiden Monaco Grand Prix victory as Hamilton trailed in seventh, with the Mercedes team as a whole enduring a desperate day.

Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire from the race while running second when the pit crew were unable to remove a tyre, with Verstappen and fourth-placed Sergio Perez nudging Red Bull above Mercedes at the summit of the constructors' standings.

Neither Verstappen nor his team would be presumptuous enough to suggest this changing of the guard at the top of each championship is anything but potentially fleeting though, given the margins are so tight and this was just the fifth stop-off in a 23-race season.

"It's so special around here to win and to be for the first time on the podium here," Verstappen said. "It's an amazing race and you really have to keep your focus, but it's really cool.

"You never know what's going to happen, but it was all about looking after your tyres and finding a good stop gap of course. The others went earlier so that made it a bit easier for me, but it was pretty much in control.

"Of course you always want to win this grand prix. I remember when I was very little watching this grand prix and to be standing here of course I'm very proud.

"But I'm also thinking ahead. It's still a very long season, but this is a great way to continue."

Hamilton has won the last four championships and six of the last seven, while Mercedes are chasing an eighth consecutive team title.

They will have many better Sundays in the coming months, and a team statement on Twitter summed up their dismay at the Monaco outcome.

The statement said: "Tough one to swallow. This has been one of our hardest days as a team in a very long time. We have to accept it, own the failure, learn from it and move on from here."

Carlos Sainz finished second, with Verstappen keeping the Spaniard at a safe distance.

It was close to a nine-second gap at the finish, as Sainz delivered for a Ferrari side who had to stomach the pre-race blow of withdrawing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.

Monaco native Leclerc majorly damaged his car with a heavy crash in qualifying, and despite subsequent assurances that he would be on the grid, Ferrari changed their minds just minutes before the race began, citing a problem with the left driveshaft.

As Leclerc licked his wounds, Sainz delivered a sterling drive for his first Ferrari podium finish. Even then, it felt bittersweet.

"It is a good result," said the 26-year-old Spaniard. "If you had told me before coming to Monaco that I would finish second, I would definitely have taken that.

"It's just the whole circumstances of the weekend, having Charles on pole, me missing out in qualifying yesterday on a good lap, it just maybe doesn't taste as good as it should.

"But if I reflect back in the week I will be very happy and proud of the weekend. And I think Ferrari as a team need to be proud about the team and the step they've done this year.

"When you see the other car not starting from pole, all of a sudden the responsibility relies on you, trying to salvage the weekend. I felt the team deserved at least a podium this weekend."

Third place went to Lando Norris, whose McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, a former winner in Monaco, could only finish in a lowly 12th place.

"I didn't think I'd be here," Norris said, at his post-race interview. "It's always a dream to be on a podium here.

"It's extra special, I didn't think it was going to happen. It's special here, so I'll cherish it."

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