George Russell believes Mercedes have the potential pace to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull for race wins this season, but not at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

Russell finished a lowly 11th in Friday's second practice session in Melbourne, adding further anguish to what has been a challenging opening to the 2022 Formula One season.

He and Mercedes team-mate, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, only claimed respective fourth and third place finishes at the season opener in Bahrain after Red Bull had to retire both cars.

Finishes of fifth and 10th for Russell and Hamilton respectively in Saudi Arabia provided a clearer reflection of where the once-dominant Mercedes team is in the 2022 pecking order, amid new regulations.

"We do believe there is a solution and we do believe there's a lot of lap time on the table once we optimise that," Russell said.

"It's more optimism and excitement. We're not here scratching our heads, not understanding why we're off the pace. We absolutely know why we're off the pace and we know what we need to work on to improve that.

"We're a long way behind Ferrari and Red Bull. It's going to take time and we just have to be disciplined and patient because we are so far behind and because of the cost cap, we can't afford just to throw things at it and trial and error at race weekends."

The extra week between the Saudi Arabian and Australian Grands Prix has not rectified the extreme porpoising issues Mercedes cars have experienced at high speeds so far, relative to other teams.

A higher downforce setup would significantly impact the car's speed and performance, meaning a balance must be struck, something rival teams have been quicker in achieving.

Russell, who signed for Mercedes upon the expectation he would be challenging for race wins and ultimately the driver's title, believes the team must be patient.

"We need to trust the process and bring the upgrades when we have total faith and confidence they will do as we expect," he said. "And that will be a number of races before we start seeing that."

Lewis Hamilton may be in search of a third Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, but Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff warned not to expect a "magic fix" amid a slow start to the season.

Mercedes have fallen well short of early leaders Ferrari, who hold a 40-point advantage over Red Bull in the constructors' championship after the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton managed to finish third in Bahrain in the season opener despite ongoing questions following a series of design changes by his team to comply with new regulations for the 2022 season.

However, Hamilton succumbed to his first performance-related Q1 elimination since 2009 in Jeddah as Mercedes failed to make the top five on the grid for the first time since the 2013 Italian Grand Prix.

Wolff was honest in his assessment ahead of the next race in Melbourne, with Mercedes aiming to rectify their issues with the W13 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height.

"We are in a learning race and the first two weekends have shown we still have plenty to learn," he said on Thursday.

"At the moment, our track performance is not meeting our own expectations, but everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is focused on understanding the problems and finding the right solutions.

"There won’t be a magic fix for the next race weekend. But we're pushing to steadily bring gains over the upcoming races, to hopefully move us closer to the front of the pack.

"Until then, we need to maximise each opportunity and make the most of the package we have."

Both Hamilton and George Russell played their part in the W13 development, and Wolff appears unworried by the upcoming challenges with his driving pair to call upon.

"Lewis and George are making an important contribution to the overall effort," he continued. 

"Providing feedback, spending time in the simulator and working together to help push us forward.

"So, there are various challenges ahead of us but that's something we relish, and is when a team really shows its true spirit."

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

Lewis Hamilton has "struggled mentally" to deal with global events this year, the Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion has disclosed.

In an Instagram stories message, the British star said anyone feeling the same should realise "you are not alone" and there should be a brighter future.

Hamilton, 37, wrote: "It's been such a tough year already with everything that is happening around us.

"Hard some days to stay positive. I have struggled mentally and emotionally for a long time, to keep going is a constant effort but we have to keep fighting, we have so much to do and to achieve.

"I'm writing to tell you it's ok to feel the way you do, just know that you are not alone and that we are gonna get through this!

"A friend reminded me today, you are so powerful and you can do anything you put your mind to! We can do anything we put our mind to.

"Let's remember to live in gratitude for another day to rise. Sending you love and light."

Hamilton did not explicitly mention the circumstances that have left him low-spirited, but world events have impacted upon his sport already in 2022.

Formula One's Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled this season due to the military invasion of Ukraine, and conflict struck close to the heart of motorsport only last week.

A Houthi missile strike that hit an Aramco facility 10 miles from the Jeddah circuit during a practice session last Friday sparked concern over the safety of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Saudi energy and chemical company is also a sponsor of F1, as well as a principal sponsor of the Aston Martin team.

Amid criticism of the Saudi regime's human rights record and fears for their safety, there was serious concern over a driver boycott of Sunday's race. 

Hamilton, who qualified 16th, finished down in 10th, but the seven-time world champion said afterwards he was just pleased to finish the race and leave the country.

"I am so happy the weekend is done," Hamilton said on Sunday. "I am so happy everyone is safe, I am just looking forward to getting out. I just want to go home."

Las Vegas will return to the Formula One calendar in 2023 after an absence of more than four decades.

Vegas will be the third city in the United States to host F1 races, joining Miami and Austin on the schedule.

Races were previously held in the city in 1981 and 1982, though unlike back then, the new race will take place along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.

An F1 statement read: "The 14-turn track will run for 3.8 miles (6.12km) with top speeds expected to hit around 212mph (342km/h).

"The design features three straights, a high-speed cornering sequence and a single chicane section, with the Grand Prix to be run over 50 laps."

At an announcement event in Vegas on Wednesday, F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali said: "This is an incredible moment for F1 that demonstrates the huge appeal and growth of our sport with a third race in the US. Las Vegas is a destination known around the world for its excitement, hospitality, thrills, and of course, the famous Strip.

"There is no better place for Formula 1 to race than in the global entertainment capital of the world and we cannot wait to be here next year. I want to thank everyone who helped deliver this event, especially Governor Sisolak, the Clark County Commission, Steve Hill at the LVCVA, and our local partners."

Various drivers reacted to the news on the F1 website, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen saying: "It's going to be fun."

Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton simply added: "That’s going to be a pretty hardcore event."

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have reaffirmed their concern over Formula One racing in Saudi Arabia.

A Houthi missile strike that hit an Aramco facility 10 miles from the Jeddah circuit during the first practice on Friday sparked concern over the safety of the race.

The Saudi energy and chemical company is also a sponsor of F1, as well as a principal sponsor of the Aston Martin team.

Amid criticism of the Saudi regime's human rights record and fears for their safety, there was serious concern over a driver boycott of Sunday's race. 

However, the event went ahead as planned, with reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen beating Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton, who qualified 16th, finished down in 10th, but the seven-time world champion was simply happy that the paddock could finish the race and leave the country.

"I am so happy the weekend is done," Hamilton said.

"I am so happy everyone is safe, I am just looking forward to getting out. I just want to go home."

Red Bull's Verstappen confirmed the drivers will be looking to take their concerns over the future of the race further.

"We had a lot of guarantees that of course it would be safe but after this weekend all the drivers together, we will speak with F1 and the team bosses to see what is happening for the future," he said.

"Of course, I am relieved [to have got through the weekend," added McLaren's Lando Norris.

"It is a nervous place to be and you are going to have these nerves."

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have "a lot of work" to do to match Red Bull and Ferrari after a disappointing Saudi Arabian Grand Prix performance.

The seven-time world champion was knocked out following a shaky Q1 session on Saturday, and he began from 15th on the grid and ultimately came home 10th in Jeddah, saying it was a "gutting" outcome.

Hamilton could have finished higher were it not for pit-stop confusion amid virtual safety car conditions a dozen laps from the end, while George Russell drove a sedate race to finish fifth.

Both were well off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, who locked out the front two rows in qualifying and then the podium as Max Verstappen got off the mark for the season with the win.

Speaking afterwards, Hamilton felt little had been done to improve the Mercedes car since Bahrain owing to the short turnaround, and said the pace of his vehicle remains a serious concern.

"Not much has changed really since the last race. It's only been a few days," the Briton said.

"What I know is that today, I couldn't keep up with the Haas at the end. The power they have, they came sling-shotting past me when I overtook [Haas driver Kevin] Magnussen earlier on in the race."

However, Hamilton, who drove to a P3 in the season-opener last weekend after both Red Bull cars suffered mechanical failures late on, believes he has the crew to help turn things around.

"We've got a lot of work to do for sure, but I know we've got a great team, and we'll just keep our heads down and try to improve," he said on Sky Sports.

Hamilton added: "It's gutting but we need to keep fighting, it's all we can do."

Team principal Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes' performance was a grim reminder of how far off the pace they are so far, saying: "Today’s race was the reflection of where we currently stand.

"The overall picture is sobering, and it's clear that we need to continue working hard if we wish to deliver a stronger performance in Melbourne."

Hamilton faces a two-week wait in which to help fine-tune his car before the F1 season resumes with the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019.

Max Verstappen put the frustrations of Bahrain behind him with a superb drive to edge Charles Leclerc for victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver and reigning world champion picked up his first points of the F1 season after coming out on top in a pulsating battle with his Ferrari rival.

It marked a return to the podium for the Dutchman after a late mechanical failure denied him a top-three finish at last week's season opener in Sakhir.

Leclerc seized the lead early on from Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez amid a safety car procession, following a crash by Williams' Nicholas Latifi, and looked poised for back-to-back wins after victory in Bahrain.

But amid a thrilling final stretch at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Leclerc was caught on the main straight heading into lap 47 by Verstappen.

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz came home in third, to leave pole-sitter Sergio Perez fourth, while Lewis Hamilton, who started 15th following a dreadful qualifying session on Saturday, fought through the grid for a points finish in 10th.

After a tumultuous build-up to race day on and off the track, an uncharacteristically sedate start saw the grid mostly hold position in the opening moments.

Verstappen made one of the few jumps, getting the edge on Sainz down to Turn 1, but he was otherwise unable to gain early ground on Perez and Leclerc until Latifi's crash facilitated a reshuffle at the top.

Having maintained a one-second-plus advantage over Verstappen after taking the lead, Leclerc was forced to fight tooth and nail to keep himself ahead of the Red Bull man.

But with just four laps to go, he could not hold on to his slender lead and the Dutchman passed to notch up those first points of his title defence.

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

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton was surprisingly eliminated in Q1 during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday. 

It was the first time Hamilton was knocked out of the first session in a dry qualifying since Brazil in 2017, though on that occasion he crashed. The last time he exited in Q1 on pace alone was at the 2009 British Grand Prix. 

The session was red flagged after Nicolas Latifi crashed but the Briton was twice too slow to break the top 15 and took on fuel for an additional lap. 

Although Hamilton managed to improve upon his time, it was only enough for P15, with Lance Stroll subsequently knocking him down into the bottom five. 

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate George Russell advanced to Q2 in fourth. 

Lewis Hamilton is eager to get his teeth stuck into another Formula One title challenge as soon as possible, but his Mercedes continues to struggle in 2022.

New regulations in F1 this season, introduced to encourage "closer racing", have already shaken up the grid – to Hamilton's detriment.

Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari one-two at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez would both have finished ahead of Hamilton, too, had Red Bull not suffered a dramatic double retirement.

The seven-time champion has been honest enough to acknowledge his W13 car lacks the pace of its rivals, but that does not mean he is happy to take a back seat.

"I don't currently feel too stressed, but I want to get in the fight as soon as possible," Hamilton said ahead of FP1 at the Saudi Arabian GP on Friday.

"The last race was an amazing feeling for us, given where we thought we were going to be, to come out with the result that we did.

"But we can't rely every weekend on that to happen, so we need to move fast, and move forward as fast as we can."

Hamilton would likely have been frustrated then by his performance in the first practice session later in the day, running in an alarming ninth as Leclerc and Ferrari again set the pace.

While Red Bull are confident they have mastered the issues that prompted their Bahrain DNFs, there is little evidence so far of Mercedes getting to grips with the porpoising that has caused Hamilton such problems.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell was down in 15th on Friday, but he at least appears a little more patient in his first year with the team.

"In Formula One, things change incredibly quickly," Russell said. "We are very fortunate that the calendar is not very dense at the start of this season, and even if it's a couple of months, we're only six or seven races down out of a 23-race season.

"If you come out of the blocks incredibly fast after the summer break, even as Mercedes and Lewis did last year, you're still in with a shot.

"So, we need to be in almost damage limitation mode at the moment, pick up the pieces where there's an opportunity, and don't throw away unnecessary points."

Mercedes have not failed to take either a pole position or race win through two grands prix of a season since 2013.

Meanwhile, Russell could become the second Silver Arrows driver – after Michael Schumacher in 2010 – to complete three races without reaching the podium, having deputised for Hamilton once while with Williams.

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

Lewis Hamilton hopes he can continue to use his position within Formula One to push for greater diversity, saying such an achievement would be "more rewarding than any championship".

The Mercedes driver has won a joint-record seven world titles across his career, tied only with Michael Schumacher, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the sport's history.

Yet he has commanded just as much attention for his off-track activities in recent years, with the Briton leading anti-racism and pro-LGBTQ demonstrations within F1.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – where he protested against anti-LGBTQ laws last year – Hamilton revealed he hopes to thrive in continuing to push for broader change.

"That's my role here I think to continue to hold those conversations, sit with Stefano [Domenicali] and say what are you doing and how can we work together?" the 37-year-old told Sky Sports.

"It goes back to bringing people on the journey rather than calling people out and unfortunately it takes a lot of yapping, but I think people seem more keen to be on the journey together and they empathise more with it and say yes, we can do a better job.

"I've got this platform and I am able to apply pressure in an uncomfortable way sometimes, but also it is a real opportunity to spark that change and that for me is more rewarding than any championship.

"My goal is that in the next five, 10 years you're looking back at the sport and I am watching TV, hopefully with my kids, and they see young women engineers and mechanics and they'll know there is an opportunity."

Having lost the 2021 F1 World Championship to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances, Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title.

But while winning honours remains a motivation for Hamilton, he feels such feats do not move the needle on the matters he wishes to help solve.

"I think as I started getting older, I started thinking I am winning these championships but what does it really mean?" he added.

"I realised that these championships are very rewarding personally, but they're not changing anything.

"You have another credit to your name, but it doesn't change the world, it doesn't change the fact we still have wars, we still have racial injustice.

"There are still people being abuse, there are all sorts of things out there, so what are we going to use this medium for, what are we going to use this platform for?

"I guess I really discovered my purpose – it's not just being a racing driver."

Lewis Hamilton admitted he does not think Mercedes will be more competitive at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but believes his podium finish in Bahrain has still boosted spirits.

Mercedes struggled with their new W13 car through much of the weekend at Sakhir, but came away with a surprise third-place finish after both Red Bulls failed in the final laps, allowing Hamilton – who had qualified fifth – to capitalise.

While Hamilton has already stated their result was "the best result we could have got" in the circumstances, the seven-time world champion doubts they will be up to the pace in Jeddah.

"No, I don't think so," he said in a news conference. "Of course we've learned a lot from this week. The car was very hard to drive but it could always be worse.

"I’m hoping for the next race we manage to find some improvements but it's a fundamental issue that's going to take a little bit longer I think to fix."

Mercedes previously considered their objective in Bahrain to be damage limitation given their disadvantage, but Hamilton agreed they had been lifted by their unexpected reward.

"I think [it is] incredibly motivating for the whole team," he added. "Everyone’s stayed positive, everyone's just kept their head down and kept working. No one moaned.

"In terms of our processes, in terms of squeezing absolutely everything out of the car, I think that's what we did today. I think that's a true showing of strength within.

"It is such a long season. It's going to be such a hard battle but we love a challenge. I really do enjoy a challenge."

Hamilton would have missed third without the double retirement that hit both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, but the seven-time world champion refused to consider it karma for last year's Abu Dhabi final.

"I don't have a response to it," he added. "I just focused on our job. Obviously it was unfortunate for them today but, yeah, I just focus on positives."

Charles Leclerc and Carlos claimed a Ferrari one-two to emerge as the early pacesetters of the season.

Christian Horner and Max Verstappen reflected on a "brutal" Bahrain Grand Prix – but one in which they saw cause for optimism.

Red Bull failed to earn a single point in the first race of the 2022 Formula One season after both defending champion Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were forced to retire in the closing stages.

Verstappen had been on course for P2, while Perez was battling with Carlos Sainz to make the podium, with Ferrari instead claiming a one-two as Charles Leclerc triumphed.

Team principal Horner was still waiting to identify the exact nature of the mechanical failure that cost Red Bull, although he clarified it was unrelated to either a handling issue for Verstappen or a fire onboard Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri.

"It was a brutal finish to that race for us," Horner told Sky Sports. "What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated in the last couple of laps.

"It looks like a similar issue on both cars. We don't know exactly what it is yet, whether it's a lift pump, whether it's a collector or something along those lines. We've got to get into it and find out exactly what's caused it."

That Red Bull were competing with pre-season pace-setters Ferrari until that point was a clear positive for Horner, however.

"Zero points for us is tough," he said. "The positives we can take is we've had a competitive car.

"We were fighting for the race win at different points of that race, and we've got to get on top of these issues quickly.

"It's a long season, 23 races, so we've got to get this behind us and get stuck into the next event."

Verstappen had been frustrated for much of his drive and was not happy with Red Bull's performance, even if he agreed there were signs they could still compete.

"It was not great today. We didn't really show what we could do, for whatever reason," he said. "There is potential, for sure, otherwise you are not up there.

"We've lost a lot of points again in one race weekend, so that's really not good. I know one retirement means it's not over, but I would prefer to have at least 18 points."

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