“If Lewis were to leave,” pondered George Russell as he addressed the prospect of Hamilton joining Ferrari. “That would put Mercedes in a tricky spot. It would almost look like he’s lost faith in the team.”

Russell was speaking in an episode of Netflix’s newly-released Drive to Survive series – a chapter the Mercedes’ PR machine envisaged would celebrate Hamilton’s decision to stay with them.

Hamilton, after all, had signed a two-year contract extension last August to remain with the Silver Arrows until the end of 2025.

But following Hamilton’s shock decision to tear up his contract a year early in favour of a move to Ferrari, Russell’s remarks – too late to be pulled from Netflix’s sixth season – shed a very public spotlight on the awkward dynamic that faces the grid’s once-dominant team and its superstar driver ahead of the new season which starts in Bahrain on Saturday night.

Mercedes transformed Hamilton from a man with a single world championship to a one-man winning machine. He has seven world championships and 103 victories. No other driver in history can boast such an impressive resume.

But Hamilton is motivated by capturing the eighth title he believes he was robbed of in Abu Dhabi in 2021. And the 39-year-old no longer thinks he can achieve the record-breaking feat with Mercedes. As Russell would say, he’s lost the faith.

Can Hamilton be blamed? He has not tasted victory for two years. Mercedes did not win one of the 22 rounds last season. He heads into the new campaign as a 16/1 underdog to win the championship.

This year is being called Hamilton’s last dance with Mercedes. But do not expect it to be a samba.

Mercedes will remain at the sharp end of the grid this season. They have ditched the concept that has failed them so miserably for the past two years and introduced a new design philosophy – one that both Hamilton and Russell said is more predictable and easier to drive.

But will it possess the speed to knock Red Bull and Max Verstappen off their perch?

F1 works in cycles and, although Mercedes carried Hamilton to six championships in seven glorious years, this period in time belongs to the team from Milton Keynes, despite the on-going controversy surrounding its team principal Christian Horner and allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against him by a female colleague.

Horner continues to deny the claims and a resolution is expected before Saturday’s curtain raiser.

Red Bull swept all before them in 2023, winning every race bar one, with Verstappen taking 19 victories as he waltzed to a hat-trick of titles.

Such was their superiority, Red Bull and their genius designer Adrian Newey could afford to start work on this year’s challenger long before the others.

And the finished product, unveiled in all its glory at last week’s test, sent shivers down the spines of their competitors. The fear, for those not in a Red Bull cockpit, is that Newey’s latest masterpiece is an improvement on its brilliant predecessor.

Given the sport’s rule book is largely unchanged and the budget cap means rival teams can no longer break the bank to discover a winning solution, Verstappen heads into this mammoth 24-round campaign as the favourite to become only the sixth driver in history with four world titles to his name.

Alarmingly for the neutrals, Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, has predicted this season will be “one long victory lap” for Verstappen and his all-conquering team – and that’s before a wheel has been turned in anger.

But all is not lost – and that is when we return to Hamilton.

While Verstappen could prove an unstoppable force on track, Hamilton’s agonisingly long goodbye with Mercedes – one that is set to stretch nine months and six days – will provide a fascinating subplot.

The new Formula One season begins in Bahrain on Saturday with Max Verstappen bidding to win a fourth consecutive world championship.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions heading into the 2024 campaign.

Who is the favourite to win the title?

Red Bull’s preparations for the new season have been overshadowed by allegations facing team principal Christian Horner. Horner, who is fighting to save his career following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague, insists it is business as usual at Red Bull. Off-track it has been anything but for the team which has dominated the sport for the past two seasons. But on-track it has been precisely that.

Verstappen — in an upgrade of the machine which carried him to 19 victories from 22 rounds last year — set a blistering pace on the opening day of last week’s test, finishing 1.1 seconds quicker than anybody else.

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, summed up the ominous feeling in the paddock. Writing about Verstappen on ‘X’ he said: “He’s gloating. He’s taunting us. He knows. This year is going to be one long victory lap. You cannot begrudge anyone their success. All we can do is watch and admire.”

So, can anyone challenge Verstappen and Red Bull?

Ferrari ended last year with five pole positions from the final nine races and Carlos Sainz secured the only non-Red Bull win of the season in Singapore. The Italian team have worked hard over the winter on translating their one-lap pace into race conditions, where they tended to struggle in 2023.

They will take solace from a trouble-free test and their pace appeared relatively encouraging, too. Sainz topped the time charts on the second day, while Leclerc ended the final day quickest – albeit on speedier rubber than Verstappen.

An upbeat Leclerc said: “We are in a much better place and it is an easier car to drive. The feeling was good. We have been consistent straight away and this will help us in the race.”

And what about Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by choosing to quit Mercedes and join Ferrari in 2025. The news broke earlier this month and is likely to be difficult for those at Mercedes to digest. Hamilton took the decision – one he described as the hardest of his life – after two winless years with the Silver Arrows.

Mercedes are armed with a new design philosophy for the new campaign but – although both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell spoke of an improved, more reliable machine – there was little to suggest from testing that they have closed the gap to Red Bull.

Mercedes finished ahead of Ferrari in last year’s constructors’ championship but do not be surprised if the Scuderia start the new season ahead of them.

What about the other teams?

McLaren came alive in the second half of 2023, with Lando Norris scoring seven podiums. But the British team looked short of last year’s form in Bahrain last week – although it is a track which has not always suited them in recent seasons.

Aston Martin finished fifth in the constructors’ championship, with Fernando Alonso, now 42, leading their charge for a second season. Alpine are set to head the midfield, with Williams, the newly-rebranded RB and Sauber teams (nee AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo) and Haas likely to follow.

Have there been any driver changes?

No. This season’s line-up is the same as the previous year – the first time that’s ever happened. But with Hamilton already announcing his move to Ferrari for 2025 and 13 of the 20 drivers out of contract at the end of the season – next year’s grid is sure to have a whole different feel about it.

What else happened during the winter break?

Aside from Hamilton’s blockbuster transfer, his soon-to-be Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc penned a new deal which is expected to keep the 26-year-old Monegasque dressed in red until 2029. Lando Norris also extended his stay with McLaren until at least the end of 2026.

Andretti’s move to become the 11th team on the grid was blocked by F1 bosses. The British Grand Prix will remain on the calendar for another decade after Silverstone agreed a new long-term deal with F1’s American owners’ Liberty Media.

How does the calendar look?

There will be a record-breaking 24 races – the longest season in history – starting in Bahrain on March 2 and ending in Abu Dhabi nine months and six days later.

The Chinese Grand Prix returns after five years away, while the round in Japan moves from its traditional October slot to April. The roster features six sprint races in China, Miami, Austria, Austin, Qatar and Brazil. The format has been tinkered with, too. Qualifying for the sprint will now take place on Friday, with the grid for Sunday’s main event decided on Saturday, following the shortened race.

What else do I need to know?

The opening two races will both take place on a Saturday. The Muslim holy period of Ramadan starts on March 10. As such, the second round in Saudi Arabia has been brought forward by a day. FIA rules stipulate there must one week between races, meaning the Bahrain GP will also be 24 hours earlier than usual.

Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

Max Verstappen believes Lewis Hamilton’s swansong season with Mercedes will be “awkward” following his rival’s 2025 transfer to Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to Ferrari next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old Briton made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke. Hamilton said he is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories before he trades silver for red.

But speaking at Red Bull’s car launch on Thursday, reigning world champion Verstappen believes Mercedes will be forced to omit Hamilton from some meetings during the forthcoming 24-round campaign.

“For the rest of the year, I would say it’s a little bit awkward,” said Verstappen.

“It’s not like they are suddenly enemies. He has achieved so many great things with them. They are still behind him, and for sure he has a great relationship with everyone, especially (Mercedes team principal) Toto (Wolff).

“But he knows at one point, and Toto for sure will tell him: ‘Look, I know we’ve had all this success, but you can’t be part of certain meetings any more’.

“That is normal in F1. It’s probably a bit weird. But you are professional enough to deal with that. And once he’s sitting in the car, they will of course go flat out for him.”

Verstappen, who last year claimed 19 victories from 22 rounds as he secured his third successive title, also believes Hamilton and Ferrari were forced to reveal the tie-up sooner than they would have wished.

The Red Bull star added: “It must have been leaked to announce something that big that early in the season.

“Him going to Ferrari is not really shocking. It’s not a surprise they were talking. I just think the announcement was a bit rushed.”

Verstappen, who gets his first taste of this season’s Red Bull when testing begins in Bahrain next Wednesday, opens his bid to become a four-time world champion at the first race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Lewis Hamilton is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories as he gears up for his season swansong before quitting for Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to their rivals next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke.

Standing alongside team principal Toto Wolff, Hamilton faced just three questions from Mercedes’ in-house moderator in a nine-minute, no-frills and perhaps awkward – given the rawness of the British driver’s decision – car launch.

“The focus through the whole of winter training is getting the team back to where we once were,” said Hamilton.

“We have had these difficult couple of years which have been really grounding for us. It has helped us regroup and really look at things.

“(The last few weeks) have obviously been emotional and it is very surreal to be here.”

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August. But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early.

Last year marked a second straight season without a victory for Hamilton – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

They finished an eye-watering 413 points behind Red Bull while Hamilton, third in the individual standings, was 341 points adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the Dutchman secured a hat-trick of world crowns.

Wolff metaphorically conceded at the final round in Abu Dhabi that Mercedes will have to scale Mount Everest to topple Verstappen.

But on Wednesday, Wolff said: “This is a complete relaunch of a car. It is very different, not only aerodynamically but underneath the car too.

“There have been so many mechanical changes which we hope will translate into more performance, more predictability and a car the drivers can really push.

“The most important thing is to look inward and what is it that we got wrong? We found some clues, we tried to eliminate as many variables as we could and the buzz in the company is something I have not seen for so many years.

“We know it is a big mountain to climb because if a team is so far ahead like Red Bull were last year then it is not easy.

“But we have a superb driver combination and hopefully a fast car. There are some good ingredients to be back at the front again.”

The Austrian, informed of Hamilton’s shock transfer only a fortnight ago, added: “It will be our last season with Lewis so we are keen on bringing a quick car.”

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were given their first taste of their new car during a damp shakedown test at Silverstone.

On Thursday, the spotlight will be back on embattled Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as the world champions present their machine for the new campaign.

Horner is under investigation by the Formula One team’s parent company Red Bull GmBH following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

Last Friday, Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours. He categorically denies the claim.

Horner remains in his role and he will speak to the media on Thursday at the team’s Milton Keynes HQ – although it is understood legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Fernando Alonso believes he is an “attractive” candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – but has denied holding talks with the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton, 39, is entering his final season with the team which carried him to six of his seven world championships after agreeing a shock move to Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s departure from Mercedes will create a vacancy alongside George Russell, while Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also due to have a seat available with Sergio Perez’s contract expiring at the end of the season.

Alonso’s two-season deal with Aston Martin is up for renewal in 2025. It is understood the British team are keen to retain the double world champion’s services.

“I am aware of my situation which is very unique,” said Alonso, who won back-to-back world championships with Renault in 2004 and 2005.

“There are only three world champions on the grid and I am the only one available for 2025, so I am in a good position.

“On a move to Mercedes, there has been nothing at all. I know the driver market has started earlier this year, but this will not affect me in terms of preparing for the season.

“If I want to keep racing beyond this year, the first and only talk at the beginning will be Aston Martin. I trust this project and that will be my first priority.

“But if we cannot reach an agreement I know that I am attractive to other teams. I will not stay in Formula One just to have fun. I am not that kind of person and not that kind of driver. Let’s see what the options are.”

Commenting on Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, Alonso, who drove for the Italian team between 2010 and 2014 but fell short of winning the title, added: “It was a surprise, I will not lie, not because the change itself but from the outside it seemed like he was very linked to Mercedes and very loyal to Mercedes.

“Ferrari is a special team but it is more special when you win. Maybe Lewis can bring that extra fight for the championship because the car is there.”

Alonso finished fourth in last year’s drivers’ championship as his Aston Martin transformed from also-rans to frontrunners.

Alonso scored six podiums in the opening eight rounds and might have ended his 10-year wait for victory had his team’s strategy been more on point at the rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix.

The Silverstone-based team’s form fell away in the second half of the year but Alonso continued to out-perform his machinery, taking further podiums in the Netherlands and Brazil.

He ended the year 132 points and six places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll – son of the team’s fashion billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll – and was voted third, behind Max Verstappen and Hamilton, by his fellow drivers and finished runner-up to Verstappen in a poll of the grid’s team bosses.

Alonso, 43, in July will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix and the evergreen Spaniard raised the prospect of competing deep into his forties.

He added: “A few years ago I would say 41 or 42 is the limit, but after last year I saw I was motivated, performing well, and I was thinking I could race a few more years.

“Now, this winter, I have exceeded expectations in terms of the physical tests, so if I am motivated and ready to commit, I can race until 48, 49 or maybe even 50.”

Pre-season testing starts in Bahrain a week on Wednesday ahead of the first race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

Fernando Alonso could be the ideal 'short-term fix' for Mercedes as they look to replace Lewis Hamilton, particularly after Lando Norris signed a new long-term contract with McLaren.

That is according to former Force India and Williams driver Paul di Resta, who even believes an ambitious swoop for three-time world champion Max Verstappen is not out of the question.

Seven-time drivers' champion Hamilton has activated a break clause in the two-year contract extension he signed with Mercedes last year, and the 2024 season will be his last with the team before he makes a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

For Mercedes, attention has turned to the candidates to replace Hamilton. Carlos Sainz – who will leave Ferrari to make room for Hamilton at the end of this year – has been touted as a possible target, though other names are also in the frame.

Norris was long thought to be a natural fit if either Mercedes or Red Bull found themselves with an empty seat, but the 24-year-old penned a "multi-year" extension with McLaren last month.

Di Resta thinks Norris would have been the go-to name for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, but with his future seemingly secure, long-term options appear thin on the ground.

"Where do they go? They found themselves a bit stuck because I think it was unexpected," Di Resta told Stats Perform of Mercedes' driver hunt. 

"When you look at the driver market, I was surprised to see Lando sign with McLaren for as long as he did, given there were Red Bull seats and potentially a Mercedes seat coming up. 

"The obvious choice for me, if I was Toto, would have been to go for Lando. Last year, I actually think he was next-best to Max in terms of the performance and where he was. 

"I think he was a step up even from Lewis over the course of the year, in what he was able to achieve. He had it under control, so that would have been where my attention went. 

"You can see Lando doesn't turn up to odd events and excel, he is very consistent over the course of the year and I think he's ready to fight for championships, but obviously that's gone." 

Some believe Mercedes could promote 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli from their junior team, but Di Resta thinks it is too soon for the teenage prodigy, suggesting two-time world champion Alonso – who is contracted to Aston Martin until the end of this year – as an alternative. 

"They need a short-term fix, they probably need a good name," he continued. "I wouldn't be surprised if Fernando fit that bill for the next year or two, until they reassess where they are if they're bringing through some young guys. 

"I've heard people talk about Antonelli, I can't see how he's ready, I can't see if somebody like that is ready to go up against Max and Lewis. 

"With the weight of a manufacturer like that on top of you, you don't want to hit that too hard too soon, you want to build the foundations of how you go about your Formula One racing first."

Di Resta does not expect Mercedes to rush their search for a successor, and he even suggested they could enquire about Verstappen's availability, pondering whether the Dutchman has a similar break clause to that recently activated by Hamilton.

"They've got some time. I don't think it's a decision they can rush into," Di Resta said. 

"At the start of the season, we're already talking about next year, but you never know, you could go and chase Max!

"I'm sure somebody like Max could equally have an option like Lewis had got, because when they are like Lewis, Max and Fernando, they mean as much as the team does."

Lewis Hamilton may have endured a strained relationship with former team-mate Fernando Alonso, but Paul di Resta does not expect a repeat when he links up with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton stunned Formula 1 fans earlier this month with the announcement that he will leave Mercedes for Ferrari after the 2024 season.

Hamilton has failed to win a race since Red Bull's Max Verstappen beat him to the title in contentious circumstances in 2021, and the move to Maranello surely offers the 39-year-old his last chance to pull clear of Michael Schumacher by winning a record-breaking eighth crown.

Hamilton will take Carlos Sainz's seat with the Scuderia, racing alongside Leclerc, who finished second in the drivers' championship back in 2022.

The Brit memorably clashed with fellow big name Alonso when the duo were team-mates with McLaren for the 2007 season, but Di Resta does not foresee a similar feud developing with Leclerc.

"I don't think you will see fireworks. I think they've both got tremendous respect for each other," the former Force India driver told Stats Perform.

"They're both fast. They're both very clean drivers. I think how they go about their racing is different to how others would go about it. 

"I think Charles has proven he's definitely one of the fastest guys that can pull a lap out of a car. Can he do that over the course of every Grand Prix? 

"I think you can see that probably only Max and Lewis have been able to do that recently. Fernando is probably another one out there, with that extra bit where you can pull race wins out of nothing.

"I'm interested to see whether Charles can go on top of it, maybe Charles will lift himself with the pressure, but there's one thing for sure, it's going to be the hardest team-mate that he's had to go up against.

"I'm sure Lewis doesn't fear going up against Charles. I think the biggest thing is getting that Italian culture around them, but Lewis has been around this business a long time and he knows this."

Reports have suggested Ferrari are also looking to bring in Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington to help him settle, and Di Resta would not be surprised if other staff members follow Hamilton in leaving Mercedes.

"I'm also interested to see what personnel he's going to take with him to make him feel comfortable. He's already talked about the engineer," Di Resta said. 

"Are there other people he's talked to? Maybe that was the key to getting [Ferrari chairman] John Elkann and [team principal] Frederic Vasseur to make it happen."

Winning an eighth Formula One world championship with Ferrari would cement Lewis Hamilton's legacy, but that will be no easy task as the Scuderia go through an overdue rebuild.

That is the view of former Force India driver Paul di Resta, who believes Hamilton's move to Maranello will be "box office" for all F1 fans. 

The upcoming 2024 season will be Hamilton's last with Mercedes, with the seven-time drivers' champion activating a break clause in his contract with the team in order to join Ferrari from 2025.

Hamilton has endured a frustrating couple of years since missing out on an eighth world title – which would have seen him surpass Michael Schumacher for the outright record – to Max Verstappen at the end of a hotly contested 2021 season.

While Di Resta thinks Hamilton is joining Ferrari with the belief that they will offer him a better chance of returning to the top of the standings, he has warned things may not be so straightforward, with the team rebuilding after finishing third in the constructors' standings last season.

"I was surprised," Di Resta told Stats Perform. "For somebody who's been so successful and has driven a car powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine for every lap, for every bit of success he's had… To change that over at this point in your career, I think it's a big thing.

"I think he and Toto Wolff bounced off each other very well. You could see there was one goal, they seemed like they gelled together in the sense of where they wanted to go, to win this eighth title for Lewis.

"I think they set that up well, and it was good to have George [Russell] alongside him as well, who I think pushes Lewis, and I think Lewis excels under pressure. 

"That's the difference with him; when pressure is added, he steps up more than others. But somewhere within this, he's felt uncomfortable, to be persuaded to go to Ferrari.

"They're a team going through a rebuild at the moment, going through a big change in terms of how they go about racing… they had to because they let themselves down on a lot of occasions."

Taking Carlos Sainz's seat after the Spaniard failed to agree a new contract with Ferrari, Hamilton will race alongside Charles Leclerc, who finished second in the drivers' championship in 2022 but dropped to fifth last year.

While Di Resta is certain Hamilton has received assurances from Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, he says there are no guarantees that the move will work out.

"Lewis has been convinced. He's obviously been given security, he's obviously been given something that's driven him," Di Resta said. 

"I think it's great news for Formula 1, to see him go there. It would be another step up if he wins another title, that would rubber stamp what has already been an incredible career, but it's a big task. 

"He's obviously got to get on top of Charles as well, who's been part of that family for a long time. I'm excited to see it. It could be box office."

Di Resta did, however, admit Hamilton made the right move when leaving McLaren for Mercedes in 2013, noting how his former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso has failed win a title since leaving Renault in 2007.

"If you look at what Lewis did, going from McLaren to Mercedes, there was a bit of vision there," he said. "I've always said, 'Is it skill or is it luck?' 

"You look at Fernando versus Lewis, Fernando seems to have made the wrong decisions at the wrong times. Lewis has made the right decisions and stepped forward. 

"Mercedes have lost out because it was unexpected, and if you look at what's been promised to Lewis from the Ferrari side, he's going there with a belief that they're going to do it.

"With how it plays out, I think the early days are going to be key to how successful it will be."

Lewis Hamilton may have endured a strained relationship with former team-mate Fernando Alonso, but Paul di Resta does not expect a repeat when he links up with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.

Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton stunned fans earlier this month with the announcement that he will leave Mercedes for Ferrari after the 2024 season.

Hamilton has failed to win a race since Red Bull's Max Verstappen beat him to the title in contentious circumstances in 2021, and the move to Maranello surely offers the 39-year-old his last chance to pull clear of Michael Schumacher by winning an eighth crown.

Hamilton will take Carlos Sainz's seat with the Scuderia, racing alongside Leclerc, who finished second in the drivers' championship back in 2022.

The Briton memorably clashed with Alonso when the duo were team-mates with McLaren for the 2007 season, but Di Resta does not foresee a similar feud developing with Leclerc.

"I don't think you will see fireworks. I think they've both got tremendous respect for each other," the former Force India driver told Stats Perform.

"They're both fast. They're both very clean drivers. I think how they go about their racing is different to how others would go about it. 

"I think Charles has proven he's definitely one of the fastest guys that can pull a lap out of a car. Can he do that over the course of every Grand Prix? 

"I think you can see that probably only Max and Lewis have been able to do that recently. Fernando is probably another one out there, with that extra bit where you can pull race wins out of nothing.

"I'm interested to see whether Charles can go on top of it, maybe Charles will lift himself with the pressure, but there's one thing for sure, it's going to be the hardest team-mate that he's had to go up against.

"I'm sure Lewis doesn't fear going up against Charles. I think the biggest thing is getting that Italian culture around them, but Lewis has been around this business a long time and he knows this."

Reports have suggested Ferrari are also looking to bring in Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington in order to help him settle, and Di Resta would not be surprised if other staff members follow Hamilton in leaving Mercedes.

"I'm also interested to see what personnel he's going to take with him to make him feel comfortable. He's already talked about the engineer," Di Resta said. 

"Are there other people he's talked to? Maybe that was the key to getting [chairman] John Elkann and [team principal] Frederic Vasseur to make it happen."

In a shocking turn of events, Jamaican rallycross sensation Fraser McConnell has been left without a seat in the Extreme E Championship as X44 Vida Carbon Racing Team, founded by Formula One legend Lewis Hamilton, officially withdraws from the series.

The announcement came as a surprise to the motorsport community, especially after X44 had proudly unveiled the signing of McConnell in March 2023.

X44 released a statement Wednesday on their decision to exit the series after three successful years. The team expressed gratitude for their time in Extreme E, highlighting their achievements, including multiple race victories and a world championship. The departure signifies the end of an era for X44, leaving behind a legacy of success on the track and a commitment to sustainable racing.

The team's statement read, "After three years as part of the Extreme E family, we're today announcing that X44 will be departing the series. We've had an incredible three seasons competing as X44, winning multiple races and even a world championship."

X44 acknowledged the contributions of their drivers, including McConnell, stating, "Thank you to our drivers @cris_tortu, @frasermcconnell, and @sebloebofficiel, and all our talented teammates who worked hard to help us achieve everything we did."

In March 2023, X44 had proudly announced the signing of McConnell for the upcoming season. The Jamaican driver, recognized as the most competitively successful Jamaican driver in international rallycross racing, was set to replace the experienced Sebastien Loeb.

However, with X44's sudden withdrawal from the series, McConnell finds himself without a team for the upcoming season. The team assured fans that they would continue to support the series from the sidelines and expressed interest in the developments at Extreme H, the series set to replace Extreme E.

McConnell expressed his gratitude for the opportunity afforded him by X44, stating "Thankful for the opportunity and the memories we made together. I will be forever grateful."

It was recently revealed that Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 Formula One season and will join Ferrari in 2025.

 

Lewis Hamilton has announced he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season ahead of a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

The 39-year-old is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.

But the seven-time Formula One world champion has activated a release clause in the deal, and Ferrari subsequently announced he will join the Italian team on a multi-year contract that starts in 2025.

Mercedes issued a statement confirming Hamilton’s early exit on Thursday evening, signalling the end of an extraordinarily successful partnership during which Hamilton won six of his world titles in the space of seven years from 2014-20.

Although they enjoyed incredible success, the team have since fallen off the pace and Hamilton has not won a race since controversially missing out on a record eighth world championship in 2021.

Hamilton said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

“But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto (Wolff, Mercedes team principal) for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.

“I am 100 per cent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows one to remember.”

Wolff said Mercedes accepted Hamilton’s decision to leave.

“In terms of a team-driver pairing, our relationship with Lewis has become the most successful the sport has seen, and that’s something we can look back on with pride; Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history,” he said.

“However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come.

“We accept Lewis’s decision to seek a fresh challenge, and our opportunities for the future are exciting to contemplate. But for now, we still have one season to go, and we are focused on going racing to deliver a strong 2024.”

Following the Mercedes statement, Ferrari issued a one-line statement announcing Hamilton’s move.

“Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” the statement said.

Charles Leclerc recently agreed a new long-term deal with Ferrari, so it will be Carlos Sainz that makes way for Hamilton, with the Spaniard’s contract expiring at the end of the 2024 season.

Sainz issued his own statement, which said: “Following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024. We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world.

“News about my future will be announced in due course.”

Hamilton began his Formula One career with McLaren and won his first world title with them in 2008 before switching to Mercedes in 2013.

In terms of race wins, he is the most successful driver in the sport’s history with 103, 12 ahead of Michael Schumacher, with whom he shares the record for the most world titles.

Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of a blockbuster move to Ferrari in 2025, the PA news agency understands.

Hamilton, 39, is entering the first of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.

But it is understood the seven-time Formula One world champion is eligible to leave Mercedes at the end of the year.

PA has been told that confirmation of Hamilton’s transfer to Ferrari could be announced as early as February 1.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari declined to comment when contacted by PA.

Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has been linked with a surprise move to Ferrari for the 2025 season.

Reports in the Italian media have suggested the British driver could leave Mercedes at the end of the upcoming campaign.

Hamilton, 39, has raced for Mercedes since 2013 and signed a contract extension with the team last year.

Michael Schumacher’s one-time rival Damon Hill has described the German’s plight as a “terrible tragedy” and a reminder to “treasure every day”.

On Friday, it will mark 10 years since Schumacher’s skiing accident in the French Alps where he hit his head on a rock and suffered a near-fatal brain injury.

Schumacher, now 54, has been kept out of public view ever since, with only a handful of visitors allowed inside the family home near Lake Geneva in Switzerland where he is receiving round-the-clock medical care.

The former Ferrari and Benetton driver claimed the first of his seven world championships following a controversial season finale in Adelaide in 1994 where he was accused of ramming Hill off the road.

Reflecting on Schumacher’s condition, Hill, 63, told the PA news agency: “It is a terrible tragedy. This is not how you want anyone to end up.

“It makes you treasure every day and be thankful for your good fortune. I think about his family. It is so hard for them.”

Updates regarding Schumacher’s health have been few and far between, and a representative for the family told PA that there are no plans to acknowledge the anniversary of his accident.

His wife Corinna, offered a rare insight on her husband’s state in a Netflix documentary in 2021.

“I miss Michael every day,” said Corinna, who has enforced a wall of secrecy to protect one of the biggest names in modern sporting times.

“But it is not just me who misses him. It’s the children, the family, his father, everyone around him. I mean, everybody misses Michael, but Michael is here.

“Different, but he’s here, and that gives us strength. We’re together. We live together at home. We do therapy. We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable. And to simply make him feel our family, our bond.

“‘Private is private’, as he always said. It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible. Michael always protected us and now we are protecting Michael.”

Schumacher added to the two titles he won at Benetton with five championship triumphs for Ferrari at the turn of the century, posting a series of records many viewed as untouchable.

Lewis Hamilton has since matched Schumacher’s collection of titles and surpassed his 91 wins. Hamilton, 38, who is contracted to drive for Mercedes until the end of 2025, has 103 victories.

Schumacher’s son, Mick, is currently a reserve driver for Hamilton’s Mercedes team having spent two seasons with Haas before he was dropped at the end of last year.

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