Max Verstappen said he is targeted by Formula One’s boo brigade because they are jealous of him winning.

Verstappen landed a third victory of the season with a fine drive from ninth at Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix to extend his championship lead to 14 points over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

The double world champion was heckled as he was introduced on the grid in the moments before the race, and then also on the podium as he was presented with his winner’s trophy.

But a typically bullish Verstappen said: “If I am driving at the back nobody will be doing anything in terms of a reaction.

“It is normal when you are winning and they don’t like who is winning. This is something which is absolutely fine for me as long as I stand on the top step of the podium.

“That is the most important thing. I take the trophy home and they can go back to their houses and have a nice evening.”

Verstappen was jeered during the pre-race razzmatazz which involved American rapper LL Cool J acting as Master of Ceremonies and conducting an orchestra.

It is understood the pre-race show seen in Miami will only take place at certain events, possibly eight in all, this season.

George Russell called the spectacle “distracting” and Verstappen was also not a fan.

“Some people like to be more in the spotlight, and some people don’t,” said Verstappen. “Personally I don’t. So for me, what they did was not necessary.

“I prefer just to talk to my engineers, walk to my car, put the helmet on and drive. I understand the entertainment value, but I hope we don’t have this at every single race, because we have a very long season ahead of us, and we don’t need to enter like that every time.”

Fernando Alonso, who finished third behind Verstappen and Perez to claim his fourth podium this season, disagreed that the pre-race introductions should only be reserved for certain races.

The 41-year-old Spaniard said: “If we do it here, we have to do it everywhere because I don’t think the Miami fans are better than the Italian fans in Imola or in Spain or in Mexico or in Japan.”

However, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, whose arrival on the grid was greeted with huge cheers, said: “Formula One is trying new things and trying to improve the show and I am in full support of that.

“I grew up listening to LL Cool J, and LL Cool J was there. You look over and is there, too, and he is an incredible artist. I thought it was cool.”

Max Verstappen hailed his victory at the Miami Grand Prix as “simply f****** lovely” after he beat Sergio Perez and the boo brigade to extend his world championship lead.

Verstappen was jeered before and after the race, as he celebrated a triumph that moves him 14 points clear of team-mate Perez, who finished second.

Fernando Alonso was third for Aston Martin. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and sixth for Mercedes.

Verstappen divides opinion in the sport and he was targeted by the Hard Rock Stadium crowd as he was presented on the grid ahead of the 57-lap race by rapper LL Cool J.

But the boos did not faze the double world champion as he raced from ninth on the grid to top spot to claim his third win from five rounds.

“Simply f****** lovely,” said Verstappen on the radio before he was also jeered on the podium as he collected his winner’s trophy.

Verstappen added: “It was a good race. I stayed out of trouble in the beginning. I had a good battle with Checo and we kept it clean and that was the most important thing. A great win today.

“Yesterday was a setback in qualifying but today we kept it calm and clean and winning a race from ninth is always very satisfying.”

Verstappen, who started on a different strategy to team-mate and pole-sitter Perez, was up to second on lap 15. He stopped for tyres with a dozen laps to go and then cruised into the lead by out-braking Perez at the opening corner on lap 48.

Perez said: “I gave it my all. The first stint was poor and that compromised my race.

“Max was particularly good today so a well-deserved win for him. We need to analyse what happened today because I didn’t have the pace.”

Max Verstappen overcame the boo brigade and Sergio Perez to win the Miami Grand Prix and extend his world championship lead.

Verstappen was subjected to a chorus of jeers by the 90,000-strong crowd at the Hard Rock Stadium as the sport’s drivers were introduced by rapper LL Cool J for Sunday’s 57-lap race.

But the double world champion put his poor reception to one side by racing from ninth on the grid to pass Perez with nine laps remaining and take his third win from five rounds.

Verstappen increased his championship lead from six points to 14.

Fernando Alonso completed the podium places with George Russell fourth. Lewis Hamilton finished sixth after starting 13th.

Sunday’s race marked the first of three to be staged in the United States this season, with Austin’s grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas and a debut event on the Las Vegas strip to follow later in the year.

And the event here in the Sunshine State was sprinkled with stardust for a show-stopping pre-race grid.

Actor Vin Diesel, singer Shakira, influencer-boxer Jake Paul, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Roger Federer – with 50 tennis Grand Slam titles between them – watched on as conducted an orchestra and LL Cool J assumed his role as Master of Ceremonies. Only in America.

On came the 20 drivers and the biggest cheers were reserved for Hamilton, Alonso and Perez, backed by a large contingent of Mexican fans. But Verstappen, last on to the stage, was booed.

Verstappen, by now in the sanctuary of his flying Red Bull machine, had moved up to eighth at the end of lap one, as pole-sitter Perez held off Alonso on the charge to the opening corner.

Verstappen then blasted his way past Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen in his DRS-assisted Red Bull to take sixth at the start of lap four.

Further behind, Hamilton appeared in trouble after making light contact with Nico Hulkenberg at the first corner.

“I don’t know if we are going to last in this race,” he said, fearing his front wing was broken.

Up front, Verstappen was still on the move.

On lap eight he passed Russell under braking at Turn 17 for fifth place, which became fourth the next time round following a carbon-copy move on Pierre Gasly.

Verstappen sped past Carlos Sainz on lap 14 at Turn 11 and then Alonso on lap 15 to take second place with team-mate Perez 3.7 sec up the road.

In came Perez on lap 20 for fresh rubber with a 1.2 sec lead over Verstappen. The Dutchman, who started on the harder, more durable rubber stayed out.

Despite his earlier worries, Hamilton was able to continue but he was failing to make headway and on lap 32 he was ushered aside for team-mate Russell.

Hamilton, on a different strategy after starting seven places behind his team-mate, resisted at first before allowing his team-mate through.

“Thank you very much,” said Russell over the radio. “Very much appreciated.” Hamilton made his sole tyre stop on lap 37, dropping back to 13th.

Russell did not appear fazed in a machine team principal Toto Wolff described as “a nasty piece of work”, and on lap 39 he was up to fourth after fighting his way past Sainz.

“That is how we roll,” said the celebrating Briton.

Verstappen finally stopped for new tyres on lap 45 and he emerged from the pits just 1.2 sec behind Perez.

Verstappen was soon all over Perez’s Red Bull gearbox and he made his first move at Turn 17 only for his team-mate to defend the left hander.

But Perez’s defence made him vulnerable on the main straight with Verstappen jinking to his team-mate’s left and making the move stick at the first corner on lap 48.

Verstappen crossed the line 5.3 sec clear of Perez.

Hamilton, like Verstappen, started on the more durable hard rubber and the strategy also worked for the seven-time world champion as he made up a number of positions in the closing stages – including the scalp of Leclerc with two laps to run – to salvage sixth.

George Russell has told Max Verstappen he is ready to draw a line under their X-rated row at the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Verstappen called Russell a “d***head” following a heated confrontation after they collided on the opening lap of the sprint race.

Verstappen also labelled Russell a “Princess” in a subsequent interview with Dutch media.

But speaking ahead of this weekend’s race in Miami, Russell said: “I will continue racing the same way as I always would.

“A lot has been said about that coming together, but from my side it was very straightforward.

“I went for a move, I got the move done, and moved on. Obviously he was pretty upset about it, but that is racing and these things happen. We are all here to fight. That is what F1 is all about.”

Russell revealed he has not spoken to Verstappen since they clashed in Baku.

However, the British driver continued: “There is no air to be cleared. I will welcome, and say ‘hello’ to him if he passes by. I am sure we will shake hands when we bump into each other.

“For me, it is history now and it is behind us. My views are still the same. I respect him and think he is a great driver. Things are said in the heat of the moment, but we move on.”

Asked about his relationship with Russell, Verstappen sarcastically said: “It is terrible”, before adding: “No, it is absolutely fine.”

F1 is back in the Sunshine State for the second time, and the first of three races to be staged in the United States this year.

A debut event on the Las Vegas strip will take place in November, while Austin’s grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas has been a permanent fixture on the F1 schedule since 2012.

“It is a dream for us to be in Miami and in the United States,” said Lewis Hamilton.

“They have the Miami Heat and the Miami Dolphins, too.

“They are massive sporting fans here so to be in such an important city like Miami where sport is huge – and now Formula One is part of that – it is great to see.

“For such a huge country, it is amazing that we finally have three races here. The difficult thing with Formula One is that you usually visit a country once a year. But the growth has been huge and it is such a big market for the sport.”

Hamilton finished sixth in Azerbaijan last weekend and he is already 45 points behind championship leader Verstappen.

The 38-year-old’s contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the season but there are suggestions from both camps is that Hamilton will agree a new deal.

Hamilton’s former McLaren team-mate and 2009 world champion Jenson Button said this week that he cannot envisage his compatriot walking away from the sport.

“I just want to get back to the front,” continued seven-time world champion Hamilton.

“That is what I am working on – trying to get this team back to the front.”

Sergio Perez warned Max Verstappen he will fight to win the world championship after beating his Red Bull team-mate to victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mexican driver took advantage of an early safety car to pit for new tyres and leapfrog Verstappen before controlling the race to win for a second time this year.

Red Bull are the dominant force in Formula One and Perez’s Baku triumph was the team’s 14th win from their last 15 outings.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished third on Sunday, was 21 seconds behind. Lewis Hamilton, sixth for Mercedes, was an eye-watering 46 seconds down the road.

Such is the superiority of his Red Bull machine, Verstappen is still expected to cruise to his third title, but Perez’s victory here breathes fresh life into this year’s title battle.

Perez, who also won Saturday’s sprint race, is now just six points behind Verstappen in the standings after four rounds.

“It is a long year ahead, but I really believe I am in the fight,” said Perez, who dropped points last time out in Australia following a qualifying horror show.

“I wouldn’t say today’s race was my best ever, but it was just very good. I pushed from start to the end without mistakes. When you do that, you believe you can beat anyone so it is just about keeping it up throughout the season.

“I only regret the problems we had in Melbourne that made us lose a lot of points. Without that, I could have been closer in the championship.”

Perez was lauded by his race engineer, Hugh Bird, as the “King of the Streets” after he crossed the line 2.1 sec clear of Verstappen.

The 33-year-old’s victory was his second in Azerbaijan – no other driver has won in Baku more than once – while he has also taken the chequered flag at street venues in Jeddah in March, and Monaco and Singapore last year. Next Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix is also on a street course.

Verstappen would have expected to extend his title lead after blasting past pole-sitter Leclerc on the third lap. But his race fell apart when Nyck de Vries crashed out at the fourth corner.

Verstappen pulled in for new tyres but just moments later the safety car was deployed with De Vries’ broken AlphaTauri needing to be cleared.

With the field running at a controlled speed, Perez was able to stop for rubber and retain the lead.

Verstappen fell from first to third, later re-passing Leclerc, but never threatening to reel in his team-mate.

“I want to win this world championship as much as Max does but there is a lot of respect between us,” added Perez.

“We are very similar in the way we approach the sport so I do not believe our relationship will change.”

Verstappen added: “It is a very long season so it is all about consistency.

“Sergio has really been on it this year and performing well and that is great. He is feeling confident in the car.

“You need to acknowledge and appreciate when somebody has done a great job and that is what happened today. We will fight for the rest of the season.”

Like Verstappen, a pre-safety car change of tyres also cost Hamilton. The British driver dropped from fifth to 10th once the order had shuffled out.

He drove well to move up to sixth, pressing Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to the flag – at one stage calling on his Mercedes team to provide him with “more power” – but he was unable to find a way past. Hamilton is pinning his hopes on a Mercedes upgrade, expected at Imola on May 21.

“This result is all we can ask for right now,” said the seven-time world champion. “Hopefully the upgrades will put us in the fight. We are counting down the days and weeks until then.”

Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Aston Martin, while George Russell, called a “d***head” by Verstappen following their first-lap collision in Saturday’s shortened race, came home in eighth.

McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed two points after he crossed the line in ninth.

Charles Leclerc conceded Red Bull are in "another league" after Sergio Perez triumphed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.

Perez was the fastest in Saturday's sprint and managed to stave off the pursuit of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen the following day in Baku, the Spaniard claiming his second win of the season.

Leclerc finished in third and the Ferrari driver acknowledged Red Bull are way ahead at present.

"Red Bull are in another league when it comes to the race," he told Sky Sports. "A very good [qualifying] lap managed to put us in front but over 51 laps it was just not possible, they have so much [more] pace than us in race pace. They found something that we didn't yet.

"The feeling is a little bit better but when I see the gap, we don't really know how much we closed the gap. The Aston Martin was also really quick so we have some work to do."

Red Bull are the seventh team in F1 history to have won the first four races of a campaign, with the victories split evenly between Perez and Verstappen.

They have now surpassed Mercedes as the team with the most wins in Baku as the individual battle between team-mates Perez and Verstappen continues to play out.

World champion Verstappen pushed throughout the race but was unable to usurp Perez, who lauded his control when leading the charge.

"It really worked out today for us," Perez said on Sky Sports. "We managed to stay in the DRS train and keep the pressure on Max. 

"I think we had better degradation on that first stint. I think it was very close between us, we pushed to the maximum today, we both clipped the wall a few times.

"The way Max pushed me today was really hard but we managed to keep in control."

Verstappen had the lead after the third lap before clipping the wall on Turn 4, which allowed Perez to overtake, before the Dutchman pitted just before a safety car was deployed.

He labelled that decision to pit as "unlucky", before adding to Sky Sports: "I think the tyres were overheating a bit because of that, trying to follow. 

"Also, the balance, I was struggling to be really consistent, I was playing around with the tools a little bit. Once I got that sorted, I'd say the last 10 laps were actually quite good again, but just a little bit too late.

"A lot of things learnt again throughout the race, at the end of the day, a good team result."

Sergio Perez followed up his sprint race victory with a superb drive to triumph in Sunday's main event at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was marred by shambolic organisation on the final lap.

Perez was the quickest in Saturday's sprint and the Mexican held off Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to claim his second race win of the season.

However, the FIA and race organisers will have questions to answer after crew members and photographers were allowed onto the pit lane during the final lap, despite Esteban Ocon having not pitted.

The Alpine driver came in for his pit stop, but managed to slow down enough to avoid any incident.

Fortunately, there was no taking away from Perez's triumph, his second in Baku after 2021.

Leclerc held pole but two-time reigning Formula One champion Verstappen took the lead in the third lap, with Perez overtaking the Ferrari soon after.

Verstappen clipping the wall on Turn Four allowed Perez to close ground, and there was more bad news for the Dutchman when he pitted just before a safety car, which was brought out after Nyck De Vries spun off the track.

Perez took advantage by pitting during the safety car, and was back out in first place by the time racing resumed.

An investigation for a possible unsafe release yielded no penalty for Perez, who would not relinquish his lead and eventually won by over two seconds.

Behind him, Verstappen and Fernando Alonso tussled for the fastest lap, though it was George Russell who clinched it at the death after a late pit stop.

Leclerc, meanwhile, had to settle for third on a disappointing day for Ferrari.

Red Bull on the charge

Red Bull are the seventh team in F1 history to have won the first four races of a campaign, with the victories split evenly between Perez and Verstappen.

Indeed, Red Bull have now surpassed Mercedes as the team with the most wins in Baku.

Verstappen overtakes legendary Senna

One day short of the 29th anniversary of Ayrton Senna's death, Verstappen secured his 81st podium finish.

That is one more than the great Senna managed in his career, which was tragically cut short in 1994.

Charles Leclerc will start on pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for the third season in a row after an impressive qualifying run on Friday.

Ferrari's Leclerc surprisingly outpaced the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who will start second and third respectively in Baku.

The Monegasque driver kept up with Verstappen before putting in a time of one minute and 40.203 seconds to beat his opponent by 0.188s.

"I like city tracks in general," Leclerc told Sky Sports. "It's not only here but Singapore, Monaco, here, a track that I really enjoy. You can really play with the limits, more than on a normal track.

"The limit is a hard limit as it's the wall! You cannot overstep it, so it's about building up to be very close to the wall without ever touching it."

Friday's qualifying session determined the race order for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with another, standalone shorter qualifying session to take place on Saturday ahead of a 17-lap sprint event – the first of six this season.

However, Leclerc is in no doubt where his priorities lie, even though he admitted his Ferrari is unlikely to be able to compete across Sunday's 51 laps of the six-kilometre Baku City Circuit.

"It went well in the last three years, but we have another qualifying tomorrow, so it could be four poles in a row," Leclerc said. "But we have the race on Sunday, which is more important, but I believe we will struggle a bit more as I think Red Bull is still a step ahead."

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz will start in fourth on Sunday, with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in fifth and Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin sixth.

Hamilton's team-mate George Russell will start 11th after a surprise elimination in Q2 on Friday, while there were early crashes from Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) as a hectic start to qualifying began with red flags, both hitting the barrier on turn three.


1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:40.203
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.188
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.292
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.813
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.974
6. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +1.050
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.078
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.378
9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1.408
10. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1.408

Max Verstappen edged out Charles Leclerc to finish fastest in the sole practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Formula One bosses have changed the weekend format in Baku, with the introduction of two qualifying sessions – one to decide the order for Sunday’s grand prix, and the other determining the starting grid for Saturday’s sprint race, the first of six sprint events this season.

Practice has been slashed from three hours to just one, ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main event at 5pm local time (2pm UK) on Friday.

The reduction in practice is designed to create greater jeopardy with the teams unable to gather as much data as they would like.

And the one-hour running on Friday was suspended for 13 minutes after Pierre Gasly’s Alpine caught fire with the Frenchman leaping out of his smoky machine at Turn 12.

In an incident-packed session, Yuki Tsunoda limped back to the pits on three wheels after he banged the wall, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also brushed the armco at the tight and twisty street circuit on the Caspian Sea.

Double world champion Verstappen has won two of the opening three rounds to establish a 15-point lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

On Friday, the Dutch driver pipped Leclerc to top spot by just 0.037 seconds. Perez finished third, a tenth down on his Red Bull team-mate, while Sainz recovered from his brush with the barrier to take fourth.

Lando Norris provided some encouragement for McLaren to finish fifth, eight tenths down on Verstappen.

But Lewis Hamilton could manage only 11th for Mercedes, 1.5 sec back off the pace with team-mate George Russell also struggling, taking the chequered flag 17th of the 20 runners.

Elsewhere, Nyck de Vries finished sixth in his AlphaTauri ahead of the Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

Max Verstappen believes the approach of the leading drivers in Formula One will not change with the new sprint format, which debuts this weekend in Azerbaijan.

The new approach will see qualifying for Sunday's race take place on Friday, with Saturday seeing qualifying for the sprint followed by the short-form race itself.

Previously, qualifying would set the order for the sprint, which in turn would decide the line-up for the grid in Sunday's main race.

The idea is to encourage drivers to take more risks in the sprint, though Verstappen is not sure that will be the outcome.

"Maybe some people who are outside the points try to get a point. But once you are upfront, it's not making a massive difference," he told Sky Sports.

"I don't see it being a lot different for us than in the previous sprint weekends. There will be a little bit more chaos around because of the extra qualifying. This track is always quite chaotic, so this will make it a little bit more chaotic.

"From my side, I don't think it will change a lot. If you're first, second, third, you're quite happy in that position to just get the points, get it over with and focus on the race."

Verstappen has regularly been a vocal critic against changing the format of Formula One but admits he will have to cope with the new changes.

"You have to be ok with it. I love racing in general but I do feel like you don't have to touch anything that is great and I always thought that Sunday was great," he added.

"Of course, I understand selling more tickets on the Friday and Saturday, make every day worth fighting for, but when you're doing 24 or 25 race weekends, I think a good option would be to shorten it a bit anyway.

"Some people love racing, they will do it forever, but it also needs to be a healthy option as well. At one point, you start questioning that. Then when you add in these sprint weekends, it's even more busy."

While Verstappen made his concerns clear, McLaren's Lando Norris welcomed the new changes and believes the format is much better than before.

"There's still the budget cap, you don't want to damage the car, you don't want to do anything silly. Especially us, where we're wanting to improve the car as much as possible, the least amount of damage we cause, the better," he said.

"But I'm excited. I think it's a better format, I prefer it compared to what we had before. There's more room and more opportunities for everyone.

"I like the fact you have two qualifying. I love the format of practice, then qualifying on the Friday. The pressure is definitely higher, but it's enjoyable."

Ralf Schumacher has told Max Verstappen to either leave Formula 1 or accept the new Sprint Race weekend format, which will debut at the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 'Sprint Shootout' gets introduced this weekend and will set the grid for Saturday's Sprint Race, which means the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix is now determined by Friday's qualifying. 

It leaves just one free practice session in Baku with FP2 and 3 being replaced, and is the first of six Sprint Race weekends in 2023 after only hosting three in 2021 and 2022.

This comes after Verstappen issued a 'quit threat' if F1 continues to make race weekend changes, but Schumacher believes the championship will thrive either way. 

"The past, the present and the future have shown or will show that Formula 1 is much bigger than any individual," he told Sky Sports Germany.

"Bernie Ecclestone is also gone, and without him Formula 1 wouldn't exist - and now it’s more successful than ever.

"So Verstappen should either pack his things and leave, or just accept it as it is. I understand his attitude because there are a lot of risks.

"But still, he gets paid to do it. If he wants to go, then he has to go. Formula 1 will not perish, as much I love him."

Guenther Steiner has hailed the changes saying it is what fans want, and believes F1 could eventually keep adding the format to more race weekends. 

"I don't know if we will do it every race weekend," the Haas team principal told Reuters. "Maybe do a few more or maybe do half of the calendar - the F1 promoter will know what to do.

"At the moment, there is more demand for races [than slots available] so how can you get more races in, more competition, more racing if we cannot do more than 24 events? So just make the event double count."

Will Baku finally have a repeat winner?

In six previous races at Baku, there has been a different winner each time. Nico Rosberg won its inaugural Grand Prix in 2016, before Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez and defending winner Verstappen all stood on the top step.

With two of that six no longer in F1 and Bottas now in an Alfa Romeo, chances are only three of them are in with a shot of victory. However, given Red Bull have dominated the opening three races to this season, they will be odds-on favourite to win again on Sunday.

To many, the battle will be between Perez and Verstappen with the double world champion currently 15 points ahead of his team-mate in the standings. If Red Bull wins again, then that will extend Hamilton’s winless run to 27 - his worst in F1 - after Mercedes have struggled since the start of 2022.

However, Fernando Alonso has stood on the podium in each race this season. Therefore, should Red Bull encounter any problems then maybe the Aston Martin driver will extend Baku's record. 

Charles Leclerc faces worst ever start to F1 season

Charles Leclerc's retirement in Australia means he is the first Ferrari driver since Felipe Massa in 2009 to have two DNFs in the opening three races of a season. For the other round, Saudi Arabia, he only finished seventh which leaves Leclerc 10th in the championship on six points.

It is a stark contrast to this time 12 months ago, where the Ferrari driver was leading the championship by 34 points after winning two of the opening three races. Should he fail to score a point in Baku then that will make it Leclerc's worst start to an F1 season, despite driving for Alfa Romeo in his debut year.

Championship Standings


Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 69Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 54Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 45Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 38Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) 20


Red Bull 123Aston Martin 65Mercedes 56Ferrari 26McLaren 12 

Christian Horner has responded to George Russell saying Red Bull are "embarrassed to show their full potential" and enjoy a bigger pace gap than has so far appeared to be the case. 

Reigning champions Red Bull have dominated the 2023 Formula One season after claiming both pole and the race win in each of the opening three races, including one-twos in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

Red Bull have almost double the points of Aston Martin in second in the constructors' championship.

However, at the Australian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen dropped from first to third on lap one, allowing Russell to briefly lead before the Dutchman went on to win the race, while his team-mate Sergio Perez rose to fifth following a pit-lane start.

It prompted Mercedes driver Russell to tell the BBC's Chequered Flag podcast: "For sure, they're holding back.

"I think they almost are embarrassed to show their full potential. I think realistically they probably have seven-tenths [of a second] advantage over the rest of the field.

"I don’t know what the pace difference looks like at the moment, but Max has got no reason to be pushing it, nor [have] Red Bull.

"They've done a really great job, to be fair to them. We can't take that away, and we clearly have to up our game."

When Horner was told about the remarks, he made reference to Mercedes' past dominance of winning eight consecutive constructors' titles before Red Bull ended that run in 2022.

"Okay, that's very generous of him," Horner replied. "His team of all people would know too well about those kind of advantages."

Asked if Russell's comments were true, Horner explained both of his drivers were managing their pace in Melbourne given the intended one-stop strategy before the safety car and red flag dramas.

"There's always an element of managing what goes on in any race," he said. "Because it was a one-stop race and a very early one-stop race, of course there was an element of tyre management which was going on, which was what they were doing.

"[But] Checo wasn't hanging about; he wasn’t cruising around, holding back seven-tenths per lap because he didn't want to show it – the grid was certainly a little bit closer at this venue."

Back-to-back world champion Verstappen leads the drivers' standings by 15 points ahead of Perez, with the season's fourth round on April 30 in Azerbaijan.

Max Verstappen was thrilled to seal his first victory at the Australian Grand Prix and emerge unscathed after three red flags caused chaos in Melbourne.

Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to claim his second win from three races in 2023.

The two-time world champion extended his championship lead to 15 points over team-mate Sergio Perez, who recovered from a pit-lane start to finish fifth.

Red Bull have the fastest car on the track, but Verstappen was made to work hard for his latest victory, the team's first in Australia since Sebastian Vettel triumphed in 2011.

He dropped from pole to third as he was passed by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap, which he suggested was partly due to caution on his part.

Verstappen also made a mental note of what he felt were aggressive moves after earlier complaining on team radio that Hamilton had run him wide.

Three red flags and a frantic finish meant Verstappen was unable to coast to victory when his big lead evaporated for a standing restart, but he held off Hamilton.

"No, not straightforward!" he said after the race. "We had a very poor start. Lap one I was careful because I had a lot to lose and they [the Mercedes] had a lot to win.

"From my side, I just tried to avoid a contact [on the first lap]."

Asked about the battle with Hamilton, he said: "It's quite clear in the rules what you're allowed to do now on the outside, but clearly it's not followed.

"It's OK, we had good pace and we passed them anyway, but it's something for the next races to take into account.

"After that, the pace of the car was quick - you could see that straight away. We were always there, waiting for the DRS to open up to have the chance to pass. 

"But with these red flags, I don't know... the first one, maybe you can do it but the second one I don't really understand. So, it was a bit of a mess, but we survived everything and winning is the most important thing.

"It's great to win here - my first win here and it's been a while for the team as well since winning in Australia, so very happy."

Fernando Alonso looked relieved to have claimed a third straight podium after a "rollercoaster" race.

He thought he had lost his third place in the final moments when contact with Carlos Sainz at the second restart appeared to knock him out of contention.

But after immediately issuing a third red flag, the FIA handed Sainz a time penalty and Alonso was reprieved when it was ruled the order from the previous restart should be restored.

Asked if he had experienced a race like that before, the 41-year-old replied: "Probably not! It was a rollercoaster of emotions with many things going on at the beginning and then also at the end. 

"In the last half an hour it was difficult to understand what was going on.

"Mercedes were very fast. Lewis did an incredible job. I couldn't match or get close enough, but we'll take P3.

"The first red flag helped us because George and Carlos came in and we got those places for free. The second one probably didn't help us with the incident. But we got lucky.

"P3 and P4 is an amazing Sunday for the team. We have three third places now, let's get higher on the podium, let's go for a second place at least!"

The last occasions Alonso was on the podium for each of the first three races of a Formula One season were 2005 and 2006, the two years when he won the world championship.

Max Verstappen continued Red Bull's fine start to the Formula One season as he won his first Australian Grand Prix in a chaotic race on Sunday.

The double world champion did not have it all his own way after dropping from pole position to third as he was passed by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in the resurgent Mercedes on the opening lap.

There were three red flags, with Russell losing the lead amid the drama around the first and he was later forced to retire, with Verstappen overtaking Hamilton to go in front on lap 12.

Verstappen charged clear from there to claim a second win from three races. He finished ahead of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, though there was more drama and confusion before the final result was confirmed.

Sergio Perez started in the pit lane after opting to change his car under parc ferme regulations due to his issues in qualifying, but he was able to salvage a fifth-place finish.

Russell overtook Verstappen down the inside of the first corner and with the Dutchman on the back foot Hamilton forced his own way through.

Last year's winner Charles Leclerc was in the gravel after contact with Lance Stroll, ending the Ferrari driver's race and bringing out the safety car in a thrilling start.

The safety was car called out again on lap 7 after Alex Albon hit the wall, with leader Russell diving into the pits.

However, that move backfired when a red flag followed soon after, leaving Hamilton and Verstappen – who had not stopped – with an advantage and Russell down in seventh.

Russell promptly got back up for fourth after the restart, but it was not his day as he then lost power with the back of his car on fire.

At the front, Verstappen clearly had the most pace and easily reclaimed the lead by sweeping past Hamilton round the outside in a DRS-assisted move.

A Verstappen victory rarely looked in doubt from there until a late crash for Kevin Magnussen caused a second red flag.

In a dramatic restart, contact between Carlos Sainz and Alonso caused an immediate third red flag and looked to have ended the Aston Martin veteran's podium hopes.

A period of confusion then followed as the FIA determined what rules would be applied and Alonso was reprieved as it ordered the race to finish with the same order as existed before the restart, with Sainz receiving a time penalty.

Lewis Hamilton suspects Mercedes' sensational Saturday in Melbourne may not be achievable at other tracks and is still unsure if he and George Russell can fight to win the Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes drivers and officials had been pessimistic in their forecasts for the season prior to qualifying in this week's third race.

But Russell secured a place on the front row alongside Max Verstappen, with Hamilton qualifying third-fastest to put the Silver Arrows in a great position to attack Red Bull's world champion.

"I'm a little bit surprised; maybe they are also a little bit surprised," Verstappen said in Saturday's press conference. "But I guess it's a good thing."

It is certainly a good thing for Mercedes, although Hamilton is not convinced this means all their issues have gone away.

"I think it's perhaps track-specific," he said, "but I think ultimately there's no one in the team that's had their heads down, in terms of giving up.

"Everyone's been working incredibly hard to try to squeeze the most out of what we currently have."

Verstappen had not previously qualified on pole in Melbourne, where he is still waiting for his first win.

Hamilton has a joint-record eight poles at this event, winning twice, and added: "I think this gives everyone in the team a boost and a glimpse of hope and this will spur everyone on and will inspire everyone to continue to push.

"We know that if we can just bring a little bit of performance, we can close the gap to the front. Still, there are going to be places where the gap is a lot bigger."

Russell did not entirely concur, countering: "For sure, we maximised the job, no doubt about it, but we had a good qualifying last week in Jeddah.

"I didn't put my lap together in the last run in Jeddah and was only a tenth off P3.

"So no, I don't think it's necessarily track-specific. I do think we're making some improvement with the understanding of the car."

But Hamilton and Russell were in agreement that Red Bull, even with Sergio Perez encountering issues and failing to make it out of Q1, remain the team to beat.

Russell said: "I do still think Red Bull are a class ahead of everybody else.

"For sure Lewis and I got the most out of it today, [but] by the sounds of what Max is saying, there was probably still a little bit more in the locker.

"And we're talking that three-tenths is a little bit – normally, they're a second ahead; now, they're three-tenths ahead – that's still a huge amount in the world of F1."

If only for this weekend, though, can Mercedes challenge Red Bull for the top step of the podium? Hamilton still does not know.

"I haven't even done a long run," he explained. "So tomorrow, going into the race, will be the first time I do so.

"And I've not seen where we tally up compared to them. We have to expect they're going to be a quarter of a second, half a second, at least, quicker than us.

"But maybe in the tow, maybe we can just about hold on; maybe the fact that there's two of us and only one Red Bull, maybe with strategy, maybe we can apply some pressure to them. So, we'll see."

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