Formula One returns this weekend with Red Bull clearly the team to beat after a dominant 2022 season.

Max Verstappen won his second straight drivers' championship but in far more comfortable fashion than the previous year when the most dramatic of finales saw Lewis Hamilton pipped.

And unlike in 2021, it was a double celebration for Red Bull as the team also took the constructors' title after a run of Mercedes triumphs.

But Red Bull's commanding campaign did not start as strongly as it finished, and hope of a repeat will encourage the chasing pack at this week's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both forced to retire at this event a year ago, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc controlled proceedings with pole position, the fastest lap and a race win.

Unfortunately for the Scuderia, it was not a sign of things to come.

Verstappen was back on the top step of the podium at the next race and soon disappeared into the distance.

That initial result was nothing out of the ordinary as Red Bull have only once won the first race in the calendar, back in 2011 when they took the first two.

Those slow starts clearly do not hamper Red Bull across the rest of the season, although they will hope to avoid a similar early setback this time and have both Verstappen and Perez off to a fast start.

Charles the chief threat

If Red Bull are to be beaten again this week, last year's victor Leclerc appears the man most likely to profit. In the past six races in Bahrain, he is the only man to secure pole twice. A third would make this his favourite event.

Meanwhile, podiums for both Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz would make Ferrari the first team to tally 800 in F1.

But Leclerc has been guarded on the merits of his SF-23 car, telling F1's Beyond the Grid podcast: "Sometimes I've had a car that feels good, and until you see the lap time, you're like, 'okay, this feels pretty good'. And then you have a very bad surprise watching the lap time. Sometimes it is the other way."

All eyes on Lewis

The driver of most interest this weekend might be the man who finished the season sixth last year. Lewis Hamilton vanished from contention, and while Mercedes' issues were the key factor, he also trailed new team-mate George Russell.

At the very least, Hamilton will expect to fight back and beat Russell this year.

Only in Abu Dhabi (10 points) and Great Britain (zero points) has Russell won fewer points than his 12 in four editions of the Bahrain GP, so the opportunity is there for Hamilton to forge an early lead.

Charles Leclerc has high expectations for Ferrari in 2023 despite the difficulties of last year.

Leclerc won two of the first three Formula One races in 2022, but only managed one victory through the remainder of the campaign.

A number of dubious race management calls proved costly for Ferrari, who finished a distant second behind Red Bull in the constructor standings.

Ferrari replaced team principal Mattia Binotto with Frederic Vasseur, who last month outlined the team's title intent.

It is a sentiment echoed by Leclerc, who said: "The goal is to win, clearly. I am really looking forward to getting back in the car and trying to win that championship.

"Last year was a good step forward. We need to do just the same this year and hopefully get that championship.

"That is the target for the team and for me, too – get more wins, hopefully be more consistent from the first race to the last race.

"So far it is intense. You can feel the responsibility. But the most important is to be successful – we have to deliver. The most important is to win and the challenge is in front of us.

"When you are at Ferrari coming from 2022, you can't have another objective than to win.

"I don't want to stay it will be easy because Red Bull and Mercedes will have the same target and only one team and driver will win. But we need to have this kind of target.

"We need to bring the mindset to do a better job tomorrow than today and to be always trying to improve the system."

Leclerc was speaking as Ferrari unveiled their new car for the 2023 season, which starts in Bahrain next month.

Frederic Vasseur is to become Ferrari's new team principal in January after the departure of Mattia Binotto, the team announced on Tuesday.

Vasseur's newly vacant role as Alfa Romeo/Sauber's managing director is then expected to be filled by McLaren boss Andreas Seidl, ahead of Sauber's switch to becoming the Audi factory team in 2026.

Having been with Sauber in the team's various forms since 2017, Vasseur will join a Ferrari outfit that won four races in the 2022 season but remained well off the pace in challenging Red Bull and Max Verstappen for the constructors' and drivers' championships.

Ferrari announced in November that Binotto would step down at the end of the year, allowing Vasseur to join and reunite with Charles Leclerc.

He was in charge of Alfa Romeo during Leclerc's rookie F1 season in 2018.

Vasseur will be aiming to end Ferrari's long title drought, having not won a constructors' or drivers' championship since 2008.

Ferrari are still among the most prestigious and successful Formula One teams despite their long wait for more silverware, and Vasseur is thrilled to be joining such a historic constructor.

"I am truly delighted and honoured to take over the leadership of Scuderia Ferrari as Team Principal," Vasseur said in Ferrari's announcement.

"As someone who has always held a lifelong passion for motorsport, Ferrari has always represented the very pinnacle of the racing world to me."

Benedetto Vigna, Ferrari's CEO, added: "We are delighted to welcome Fred Vasseur to Ferrari as our Team Principal.

"Throughout his career he has successfully combined his technical strengths as a trained engineer with a consistent ability to bring out the best in his drivers and teams.

"This approach and his leadership are what we need to push Ferrari forward with renewed energy."

Vasseur's move comes in the wake of Jost Capito leaving his role as Williams team principal, having finished bottom of the 2022 constructors' standings.

Jost Capito is stepping down as the principal of Williams, the team announced on Monday.

Capito had been in the position for two years having initially joined the team as CEO in December 2020.

The 64-year-old leaves his role after Williams finished bottom of the constructors' championship standings in 2022, having now done so four times in the last five years.

In Williams' announcement, Capito said: "It has been a huge privilege to lead Williams Racing for the last two seasons and to lay the foundations for the turnaround of this great team. I look forward to watching the team as it continues on its path to future success."

Williams become the second team in Formula One to head into 2023 without a team principal appointed, after Ferrari announced in November that Mattia Binotto was to step down at the end of the year.

It is rumoured Sauber's Frederic Vasseur could soon be the third team principal to leave his job, amid speculation he could replace Binotto at Ferrari.

Christian Horner was not surprised to hear of Mattia Binotto's departure from Ferrari and rubbished speculation he would leave Red Bull to fill the vacancy.

Ferrari announced last week that Binotto had handed in his resignation as team principal after a frustrating season, where the team fell short of their objectives despite a fine start to the campaign.

An error-strewn year saw Charles Leclerc lose a 46-point advantage over Max Verstappen and Red Bull, eventually finishing a distant second-place to the two-time world champion.

Ferrari's hunt for a successor to Binotto has seen Horner linked with a move across the paddock but he affirmed his commitment to Red Bull.

Asked whether he was surprised by Binotto's exit, Horner told Sky Sports: "Not really. It is obviously Ferrari's choice.

"I think it will be the sixth team principal I have sat opposite since I've been at Red Bull. Obviously, it's very difficult for him. They had a great car this year, they were very competitive.

"My commitment is very much with the Red Bull team. I've been there since the beginning and have a really close attachment."

Verstappen will be looking to hand Red Bull a third consecutive drivers' championship in 2023, as well as retaining the constructors' championship, but Horner expects a tougher fight when the season begins in March – predicting Mercedes to be back near the top.

"Both those guys [Lewis Hamilton and George Russell] had great seasons. George finishing ahead of Lewis in his first year with the team was an impressive performance but Lewis is obviously still right there," Horner added.

"You've got to assume they're going to come back fighting hard next year, Ferrari as well will be looking to make progress, so it's set to be a really tough season."

Red Bull will also have to cope with the penalty issued for breaching Formula One's budget cap, resulting in a reduction of time allowance in the wind tunnel.

However, with development of the 2023 car already well underway before the punishment was issued, it is expected that the biggest impact from the penalty will be felt in 2024.

Ferrari have confirmed the departure of team principal Mattia Binotto, ending a professional relationship that extends all the way back to 1995.

The 53-year-old, who originally joined almost three decades ago as a member of their engine department, succeeded Maurizio Arrivabene in 2019 in charge of the Scuderia.

But his departure has been widely expected following a Formula One season that saw Ferrari rival Red Bull in the early stages before dropping away amid a series of technical errors and operational failures.

Binotto will officially depart at the end of the year, on December 31, with the team adding a search for his successor is already underway.

"With the regret that this entails, I have decided to conclude my collaboration with Ferrari," he confirmed in a statement.

"I am leaving a company that I love with the serenity that comes from the conviction that I have made every effort to achieve the objectives set.

"I leave a united and growing team. I think it is right to take this step at this time, as hard as this decision has been for me."

Ferrari chief executive officer Benedetto Vigna paid tribute to Binotto, and added he leaves the team in a prime place to continue to compete at the top of the sport.

"I would like to thank Mattia for his many great contributions over 28 years with Ferrari and particularly for leading the team back to a position of competitiveness during this past year," he stated.

"As a result, we are in a strong position to renew our challenge, above all for our amazing fans around the world, to win the ultimate prize in motorsport.

"Everyone here at the Scuderia and in the wider Ferrari community wishes Mattia well for the future."

Charles Leclerc lauded the "perfect race" at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after holding off Sergio Perez to secure second in Formula One's drivers' championship.

Red Bull star Max Verstappen was a distant memory for the rest of the grid on Sunday, easing to a third-straight Abu Dhabi win and 15th victory of 2022 after already securing the world title.

Team-mate Perez did not have as much reason to celebrate, though, after being unable to overtake Leclerc, who finished three points ahead of the Mexican in the drivers' standings.

Ferrari opted to go with a one-stop pit strategy with Leclerc at the Yas Marina Circuit and the Monegasque driver hailed a faultless performance in the final event of the season.

He told Sky Sports: "I was 110 per cent from the first lap to the last. We had the perfect race.

"I knew the only way for us to beat Checo [Perez] was with a different strategy and playing with time management, which we did really well. We made the one-stop work so I am really happy."

Leclerc's performance was enough to secure Ferrari second in the constructors' championship, again behind Red Bull, as the Italian team finished 39 points ahead of third-placed Mercedes.

The 25-year-old hopes his team can correct their mistakes and strategy decisions from 2022 to compete for the title after making progress this campaign.

"I really hope next year we can make a step forward and fight for the championship but considering where we were, it is a step forward," Leclerc added.

"We still need to work on race pace as we tend to struggle on Sunday but we will push during the winter break."

Perez may be left to rue Verstappen's refusal to allow his Red Bull team-mate to overtake in Sao Paolo last weekend, seemingly handing the advantage to Leclerc in the drivers' championship.

The Mexican refused to dwell on the negatives after the race in Abu Dhabi, though, instead pinpointing the positives as Red Bull look to improve on an incredible season next year.

"It is how it is. Sometimes everything can be really close. At the end of the day, I've got to be happy," Perez said.

"I gave it all, as a team we gave it all through the season, and I'm sure we will come back stronger next year.

"We had great moments, great battling. I think I struggled a bit this year in terms of managing the tyres in the race, that can be something that we will improve for next year, and generally just be a bit stronger." 

Max Verstappen claimed a record third straight victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc edged Sergio Perez for second at Formula One's season-ending event.

The Red Bull pair dominated the headlines in Sao Paulo last Sunday after Verstappen refused to allow Perez to overtake to aid his battle with Leclerc in the drivers' championship.

Verstappen became the first driver to win three consecutive races at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, but the Brazil decision came back to haunt Red Bull as Leclerc held off Perez to claim second.

That saw the Ferrari driver beat Perez to second in the drivers' championship, while Lewis Hamilton ended the 2022 season without victory for the first time in his career after late Mercedes car failure and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel signed off with a point.

Sao Paulo winner George Russell suffered a five-second penalty after an unsafe release in the pits, before Fernando Alonso retired on lap 28 due to problems with his Alpine car.

Red Bull decided to pit Perez on lap 34, handing second to Leclerc, before the Mexican eventually battled past Hamilton to move into third with 11 laps remaining.

Mechanical issues for Hamilton saw the Mercedes star forced to withdraw on lap 56, while Ferrari opted to keep Leclerc on the same hard tyres with a one-stop strategy throughout.

That decision proved rewarding as Leclerc held off Perez to finish behind 15-race winner Verstappen as Ferrari secured second in both the drivers' and constructors' championship behind Red Bull.

Hamilton claims unwanted record

Hamilton experienced a season to forget as he and Mercedes battled with car issues – no more so than on Sunday – and underwhelming performances against the dominant Red Bull.

The seven-time world champion boasts the most wins in history at Abu Dhabi (five) but was unable to draw on that experience as he finished without a win or pole position this season amid a frustrating campaign.

Vettel bows out

Four-time F1 champion Vettel announced in July he would retire at the end of the 2022 season, with the last event in Abu Dhabi acting as his final swansong.

The German, who was heard questioning his team's strategy on radio, could only manage 10th in his final outing but ended with the most points in history for Aston Martin (80) after his 299th career race.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +8.771 seconds
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +10.093s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +24.892s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +35.888s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +56.234s
7. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +57.2402
8. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:16.931s
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:23.268s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1:23.898s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 454
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 308
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 305
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 275
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 246

Constructors

1. Red Bull 759
2. Ferrari 554
3. Mercedes 515
4. Alpine 173
5. McLaren 159

Max Verstappen was thrilled to join team-mate Sergio Perez in locking out the front row at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Red Bull, following a week of controversy.

Championship winner Verstappen attracted criticism in Sao Paulo last week after refusing a team order to let Perez pass on the final lap.

Lack of teamwork was not an issue in Saturday's Abu Dhabi qualifying, however, with Verstappen helping Perez to second place, while securing for himself a third consecutive Yas Marina circuit pole position.

"It was a bit up and down qualifying, started off quite well, Q2 was a little bit more messy, I don't know why. I couldn't quite get the grip together," Verstappen said.

"In Q3 it all felt a bit more normal, though we had a bit of a scare as the car turned off before the first run, so we had to reboot everything.

"We're very pleased and very happy that both cars are on the front row. Of course, we want to win the race, but we also want to finish second with Perez in the championship, so that's a great start for tomorrow.

"It always sounds great, today was amazing, I still expect it to be a good battle tomorrow but at least we have two cars there, so we can do what we want."

Perez specifically mentioned the teamwork conducted with Verstappen, who finished 0.228 seconds in front of the Mexican.

"I didn't make the final step in Q3, especially in the first run, so we were a bit behind, but it's good to lock out the front row tomorrow. Max did a great job for me, we worked as a team really strongly in that final run," Perez said.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was third quickest, clocking in just 0.04 seconds behind Perez, and team-mate Carlos Sainz took fourth on the grid.

"It's the place we deserve, Red Bull were stronger," said Leclerc. "We are still in quite a good position, it's going to be close to Perez for sure.

"I'm sure we can work with Carlos, I have no doubt in that, we'll try to maximise the team result. Red Bull is a bit stronger on a Sunday, so it's going to be tricky, but hopefully we can do it and get second place in the championships."

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto remains "pretty relaxed" after discussing his future with chairman John Elkann amid claims the Italian could be sacked.

Reports in Italy this week suggested Ferrari were moving to appoint Alfa Romeo's Frederic Vasseur to replace Binotto, who has been in the Formula One role for four seasons.

In that period, Ferrari have struggled to compete with dominant Mercedes and Red Bull teams, though Binotto's team could finish second in the constructors' championship this year.

Ferrari sit 19 points clear of third-placed Mercedes heading into Sunday's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Binotto far from fearing for his future with the Italian constructors.

"Obviously it's not down to me to decide, but I'm pretty relaxed," Binotto told reporters on Saturday after Ferrari talked down exit reports earlier in the week.

"The reason why I'm relaxed is that I always [have] open, frank and constructive discussions with my bosses, with my chairman, not only in the short term but the medium and the long term.

"When these speculations were out, I had a chat with my chairman John Elkann.

"We discussed openly what was the best way to move forward, and we decided to release a statement was maybe the best way to close any speculation and clearly show that speculation is totally with no foundation."

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have helped a resurgence this season for Ferrari, who went winless in 2020 and 2021 but have won four races in 2022.

Monegasque driver Leclerc appeared an early contender for the title before Max Verstappen and Red Bull ran away with the drivers' and constructors' championships.

Despite erroneous pit decisions, reliability issues with the car designs and mistakes from their drivers, Binotto offered a positive outlook on Ferrari's performance but said there was room to improve.

"Yes, there are still a lot of things that we need to progress, weaknesses have been shown," he said.

"But I'm pretty sure that as we did in the past, we will review, we will try to address them."

Ferrari have denied reports they are preparing to replace team principal Mattia Binotto with Alfa Romeo's Frederic Vasseur.

The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper claims the Italian team have decided to end Binotto's spell at the helm after four seasons.

Binotto, 53, has overseen a period where Ferrari have often struggled against the might of the Mercedes and Red Bull teams.

Charles Leclerc sits second in the drivers' championship this season, level on points with Sergio Perez but a long way behind Max Verstappen, who has clinched the title.

As a team, Ferrari sit second ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. They are narrowly ahead of Mercedes but a huge 195 points adrift of Red Bull.

Leclerc finished fourth in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz taking third place.

Ferrari said in a team statement on Tuesday: "In relation to speculation in certain media regarding Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto's position, Ferrari states that these rumours are totally without foundation."

Vasseur, 54, is team principal of the Alfa Romeo team, with the famous marque having returned to Formula One in 2018 in a tie-up with Sauber. Alfa Romeo plans to end its association with Sauber at the end of 2023.

Kimi Raikkonen was Ferrari's last drivers' champion in 2007, while the team last won the constructors' championship in 2008.

George Russell was lauded by team-mate Lewis Hamilton after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, with the first-time Formula One race winner left "speechless" by his success.

Having won Saturday's sprint race, Russell led from the start in an eventful race on Sunday, coming out on top after two restarts following safety cars at the Interlagos Circuit. 

Russell had to fend off Hamilton – who had earlier clashed with Max Verstappen but come away largely unscathed and unpunished – after the second safety car, but there was no bad blood between the Mercedes duo at the end.

"What an amazing feeling," said Russell after sealing Mercedes' first win of the season. "Just a huge thank you to the whole team for making this possible. 

"It has been an emotional rollercoaster this season. This was a tough race, I felt in control.

"Lewis was super-fast and when I saw the Safety Car, I thought this is going to be a really difficult end, he put me under so much pressure.

"I am speechless. On the in lap, all of these memories start flooding back, starting with my mum and dad at go-karting and going through to all of the support I have had from the rest of my family, my girlfriend, my trainer, my manager.

"The list is endless. I can't thank them all enough, I am super proud."

Hamilton said: "A huge congratulations to George. What an amazing drive he did today.

"He did an amazing qualifying yesterday, so he truly deserves it. To my team, so proud of everyone back at the factory and here. This is an incredible result. 

"We’ve worked so hard through this year to get a 1-2 and to get a win, and so this is hugely deserved by everybody so a huge thank you."

On his collision with old rival Verstappen, who received a five-second time penalty, Hamilton added: "What can I say, you know how it is with Max."

The harmony in the Mercedes camp was not replicated in the other teams. 

While Red Bull's Sergio Perez was left infuriated by Verstappen, who refused to hand sixth place back to the Mexican after failing to overtake Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc also wanted Ferrari to concede Carlos Sainz's place on the podium to boost his chances of finishing second in the world championship.

Leclerc will now head into the final race in Abu Dhabi on level points with Perez.

"I think we can be happy with that," said Sainz. "It is a shame that Mercedes are so quick but congratulations to George."

George Russell led from the start in a dramatic, stuttering Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday to clinch his first Formula One win, holding off Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Having won the sprint race at the Interlagos Circuit on Saturday, Russell kept his composure while those around him clashed and collided in a race full of incident.

The race was halted by a red flag on the first lap, with Daniel Ricciardo crashing into Kevin Magnussen, and Hamilton was perhaps fortunate to come away unscathed and unpunished after a collision with Max Verstappen following the restart – which saw the world champion handed a five-second time penalty.

A second safety car was brought out after Lando Norris lost power on the track with 19 laps remaining, but another fine restart from Russell saw him see off Hamilton and claim a deserved maiden victory.

Sunday's race was dramatic from the start as Ricciardo and Magnussen crashed out as early as Turn 8 – and the restart brought another collision, this time between old rivals Hamilton and Verstappen.

Hardly strangers to battles and bruises down the years, Hamilton and Verstappen tussled on Turn 2.

Verstappen got around the seven-time world champion on Turn 1, but despite appearing to have the racing line on the inside on the next corner, it was the Dutchman who was punished after a significant collision – though both cars were able to stay in the race.

Charles Leclerc was also sent spinning into the barrier after an incident involving Norris, but the Ferrari was able to continue.

Hamilton recovered swiftly, with the Mercedes driver clawing his way ahead of Norris, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez.

A three-second loss in the pits cost Verstappen further time, though the Red Bull's speed was on show as he quickly cruised back into the points.

However, Norris' vehicle failed him on lap 52, resulting in a second full safety car. Having seen his 11-second lead cut by that stoppage, Russell might have lost his nerve, but a wonderful restart propelled him out of Hamilton's DRS range.

Sainz came in third, leaving Leclerc dismayed, though the day belonged to Mercedes, who are aiming to cap a frustrating season with a flourish.

Team-mates tussle

There are few friends in F1, it would seem. While Hamilton was happy to congratulate his team-mate Russell on a maiden F1 success, there was frustration within the ranks of Ferrari and Red Bull.

Leclerc was begging Ferrari to instruct his team-mate Sainz to give way, and concede a podium place, in order to boost his chances of finishing second in the world championship.

Verstappen, meanwhile, ignored Red Bull's instructions to hand sixth place back to Perez if he was unable to pass Fernando Alonso. "I have given you my reasons," Verstappen said on the team radio. 

Magnussen's weekend ends in sorrow 

Haas driver Magnussen took a shock pole in qualifying on Friday, though he went down to eighth in the sprint race. However, by Turn 8 on the first lap, the 30-year-old had crashed out.

Ricciardo, who could now face a grid penalty in his last race for McLaren, was to blame for clipping the back of Magnussen's car, with the Australian compounding the issue when he failed to avoid the spinning Haas, sending both vehicles into the wall and out of the race.

IN THE POINTS

1. George Russell (Mercedes)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.529 seconds
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +4.051s
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +8.441s
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +9.561s
6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +10.056s
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +14.080s
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +18.690s
9. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +22.552s
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +23.552s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 429
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 290
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 290
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 265
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 240

Constructors

1. Red Bull 719
2. Ferrari 524
3. Mercedes 505
4. Alpine 167
5. McLaren 148

Mercedes enjoyed a strong Saturday ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix as George Russell won the sprint race at Interlagos.

Kevin Magnussen was the surprise pole holder after his brilliant qualifying session on Friday, though the Haas driver, who had promised to go "maximum attack" slipped well down the grid.

Russell qualified third and delivered a brilliant drive to claim his first race win and get himself on pole for Sunday's grand prix.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari clinched second, though a five-place penalty should see Lewis Hamilton join his team-mate at the front of the grid, although the result will be subject to a stewards' enquiry.

Hamilton will be investigated, along with Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, for his position in his grid box at the start of the sprint.

Should he retain his place in second, Hamilton – who is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most wins at Interlagos (four) – will take his place on the front row for the first time in 2022.

Max Verstappen went out on mediums instead of soft tyres, and that decision backfired as he dropped from second to fourth, though the world champion will move up thanks to Sainz's penalty, which came as a result of the Spaniard clipping the Dutchman's Red Bull.

Sergio Perez, Verstappen's team-mate, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris will start ahead of Sainz, while Magnussen will have to settle for eighth.

For Mercedes, the omens are good, with 15 of the last 17 winners at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix having come from the front row, with eight of the winners having started on pole.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. George Russell (Mercedes)
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +3.995
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +4.492
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +10.494
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +11.855
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +13.133
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +25.624
8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +28.768
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +30.218
10. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) +34.170

Max Verstappen powered to a record 14th win of his championship-winning season as the Red Bull driver roared to victory at the Mexican Grand Prix.

The Dutchman matched Formula One's single-season wins record shared by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel when he snatched a 13th success last week in Austin at the United States Grand Prix, and in Mexico City he went one better.

Many in the crowd were willing on Verstappen's Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez, but he had to settle for third place and another podium, a repeat of his result last year at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Perez separated the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton, who finished second, and George Russell, who took fourth, with the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in fifth and sixth.

It was a race that was bereft of drama, and the tone was set from the start. It was clean as pole-sitter Verstappen held off the Mercedes pair, with Hamilton nudging ahead of Russell in the early stages and Perez getting between the Silver Arrows as he climbed to third place.

That was how it finished, of course, and there was little to report of any import between the start and finish.

Hamilton had cast doubt on Mercedes' ability to get a first win of the season, and despite taking second and fourth, they never really looked like rivalling Verstappen for the win.

Three-quarters of the way through the race, Hamilton asked his team whether he was running on the wrong tyres and was told by the Mercedes garage they were confident in their strategy. At the finish, he again cast doubt on team tactics.

He had also pointed to power drop-offs. At that stage, Verstappen led Hamilton by just over 10 seconds, and Mercedes were counting on the Red Bulls needing second pit stops, but that prospect went away.

Russell complained over the team radio that his tyres were "gone" on the 67th lap but was told "his tyres will be more gone than yours" as he looked to close in on third-placed Perez. Little changed as the drivers remained in the same order through to the finish.

A joyful Verstappen said on team radio, after being congratulated for his record drive: "Double podium as well, that's amazing here in Mexico, well done guys."

 

The Max and Lewis show rolls on

Verstappen and Hamilton were first and second, but the gap was 15 seconds by the end of the race and it was barely competitive. What the result means, though, is they have now finished first and second in a race on 33 occasions, extending the record they established in Austin.

Red Bull, meanwhile, have stretched their winning streak to nine races, matching a team-best set in the 2013 season when Sebastian Vettel won the closing nine races of that campaign.


F1? It's a team game

With Verstappen and Red Bull already having the championships wrapped up, others are jostling for places in the drivers' and constructors' standings.

Mercedes entered this race 53 points behind second-placed Ferrari, with only races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi to come, and they had a strong day, raising hopes the Silver Arrows could yet finish as runners-up. The gap is now down to 40 points.

Ferrari's Leclerc saw his run of five consecutive podium finishes come to an end in a race where he was rarely a factor up front.

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