Max Verstappen picked up where he left off by posting the fastest time in opening practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who has won 10 of the 12 rounds so far and will match Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive victories if he triumphs again on Sunday, finished 0.278 seconds clear of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Lewis Hamilton took third spot for Mercedes, three tenths adrift of Verstappen, with Sergio Perez fourth in the other Red Bull.

Verstappen dominated the opening half of the Formula One season to establish a 125-point championship lead in his pursuit of a third straight world title.

On Thursday, Hamilton raised the prospect of the Dutchman winning all of the remaining 10 rounds, and on the evidence of the first running, he will head into the weekend in front of an expectant Zandvoort crowd as the clear favourite to continue his commanding streak.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion said his goal for the second half of the season is to finish runner-up in the drivers’ standings.

The 38-year-old is currently fourth, 41 points behind Perez, who occupies second spot, and he will be relatively pleased with his opening salvo. Mercedes team-mate George Russell finished 11th, the best part of a second down.

Haas announced ahead of this weekend’s race that Nico Hulkenberg will be retained for a second term with the American team.

But the veteran German crashed out of practice after losing control of his machine through the penultimate corner. With his Haas beached in the gravel, the running was suspended.

Over at Ferrari, Charles Leclerc was only 16th, three spots ahead of Robert Shwartzman, a junior driver for the Italian team who stood in for Carlos Sainz for first practice.

McLaren driver Lando Norris finished sixth, one place behind Williams’ Alex Albon.

Second practice gets under way at 4pm local time (3pm BST).

Max Verstappen overcame Oscar Piastri to win Formula One’s sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Pole-sitter Verstappen fell behind Piastri after the Australian moved from wet tyres to intermediate rubber a lap earlier before blasting back into the lead at the midway stage of a frantic rain-hit dash at Spa-Francorchamps.

Rookie Piastri finished runner-up with Pierre Gasly a surprise third for Alpine. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but was hit with a five-second penalty for colliding with Sergio Perez, dropping him to seventh.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were promoted to fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari with McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth. George Russell took the final point in eighth.

Perez was forced to retire from the race allowing Verstappen to extend his championship lead from 110 points to 118 ahead of tomorrow’s 44-lap Grand Prix.

Six minutes before the race was due to get under way, the FIA announced the start would be postponed following heavy rainfall in the area.

A 30-minute delay followed before a rainbow emerged over Spa-Francorchamps and the weather improved.

At 5:35pm local time, the Safety Car led Verstappen et al on five formation laps in an attempt to clear the spray and aid the drivers with visibility.

FIA race director Niels Wittich’s decision over when to enable the start of the race was heightened following the death of 18-year-old Dilano Van ‘t Hoff at a rain-hit Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA) race four weeks ago.

The safety car peeled in, paving the way for a rolling start and a shortened 11-lap dash to the chequered flag.

But, before a proper racing lap had even taken place, half of the 20-strong field came into the pits to change from the full wets to the intermediate tyre.

Among them was Piastri, Perez and Hamilton with Verstappen staying out on track.

Verstappen immediately knew he was on the wrong rubber, calling on his team to change him to the intermediate tyres.

In Verstappen came at the end of the opening lap, but by the time he emerged, Piastri had done enough to leapfrog him and lead a Formula One race for the first time in his career.

Gasly, Perez and Hamilton benefited from their early stops to move up the pecking order.

On lap three, the Safety Car was back out after Fernando Alonso crashed. The double world champion, who turned 42 on Saturday, lost control of his Aston Martin through the left-hander Turn 11, pirouetting through the gravel and nudging the barrier.

Piastri headed the field when the race restarted on lap six, but his defence lasted only a handful of corners.

Verstappen tracked Piastri through the fearsome Eau Rouge-Raidillon section and then blasted by on the Kemmel Straight.

Asked if it was a mistake not to stop for inters at the very start of the race, Verstappen said: “No, it was just a safer call.

“I could have come in first and be blocked by other cars in the pits. We lost one position but we knew we were quick and when we put the inter tyres on we were flying.”

Piastri, 22, said: “I feel very happy. We tried our best and led a few laps but we were no match for Max.

“I thought the safety car would play in my favour with less laps to try and hold him behind. I got a good restart but by the top of Eau Rouge he was on top of me already. I could not keep him behind on the straight.”

Further back in the battle for fourth, Hamilton attempted to muscle his way past Perez but the Mercedes man made contact with his Red Bull rival. Perez briefly remained ahead before Hamilton drove round the outside of the Mexican at La Source.

Perez sustained damage in the accident and fell down the field, sliding through the gravel and then being ordered by his Red Bull team to retire the car.

The stewards investigated the flashpoint and slapped Hamilton with a penalty, demoting him down the order.

Verstappen remained in control of the race, taking the chequered flag 6.6 sec clear of Piastri to rack up yet another win in a one-sided campaign.

Max Verstappen will start on pole position for Saturday’s sprint race after beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to top spot by just 0.011 seconds.

Verstappen qualified fastest here on Friday for Sunday’s Grand Prix, but he will line up in sixth after serving a grid penalty for a gearbox change.

But for the 15-lap dash in the Ardennes, the Red Bull driver begins from the front after edging out the impressive Piastri in wet-dry conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz finished third, just 0.025sec adrift of Verstappen, with Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc fourth.

Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who appeared to trip over one another in the closing moments, only seventh and 10th respectively for Mercedes.

“It was difficult, but we stayed calm,” said Verstappen. “The gap to second was not as big as yesterday, but there was no need to risk it all.

“My second sector was a bit careful – turns eight and nine were very slippery so I left a bit of time on the table – but I am still on pole and that is what counts.

“Let’s see if it rains in the afternoon. I will try to have a clean start and have good vision and that is very important when it is wet.”

The start of qualifying was delayed following heavy rainfall in the area, but the sun suddenly broke through allowing the action to get under way 35 minutes later than advertised.

The final running took place on an almost dry track and the times tumbled as grip improved and the clock ticked down.

Rookie Piastri, 22, looked to have done enough to take the spoils when he crossed the line fastest, only for Verstappen to steal his thunder

“There wasn’t much left in that lap,” said Piastri over the radio. “Probably 11 milliseconds.”

Verstappen is on course to gallop to his third world championship in as many years and the Dutch driver will be expected to extend his 110-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez later on Saturday, with the Mexican only eighth on the grid.

Eight points are awarded for the winner of the 15-lap dash, with a sliding scale down to to eighth place.

The result of Saturday’s sprint, which could take place in the wet with more rain forecast, has no bearing on Sunday’s 44-lap main event.

Lance Stroll’s gamble to switch from wet rubber to slicks with a couple minutes of Q2 remaining backfired as he crashed out.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the left-hand ninth corner, skidding through the gravel and into the tyre barrier.

The front of Stroll’s machine was heavily damaged in the accident and the running was suspended.

His crash meant team-mate Fernando Alonso, who turned 42 on Saturday, did not post a time, leaving him a disappointing 15th on the grid.

Saturday’s race is due to get under way at 5:05pm local time (4:05pm BST).

Max Verstappen vowed to kiss and make up with his race engineer following their X-rated row in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

Verstappen finished fastest in a wet-dry session at Spa-Francorchamps, but he will start Sunday’s 44-lap race from sixth following a gearbox penalty.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is promoted to pole position, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez second. Lewis Hamilton, on pole a week ago in Hungary, will line up in third.

Verstappen made it into Q3 – the final phase of qualifying – by the skin of his teeth and vented his anger at long-serving race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, known as GP, following the close-call.

“I should have just f****** pushed two laps in a row like I said,” said Verstappen, who sneaked through in 10th place.

“But you are through, Max,” replied Lambiase.

“I don’t give a f*** that we are P10, mate. It is just s*** execution,” came Verstappen’s fiery response.

Lambiase snapped back: “OK, and then when the track was two seconds quicker for your final lap and you didn’t have any energy left, how would that have gone down?”

A surly Lambiase added: “But you tell me what you want to do in Q3 and we’ll do it. Tyre sets, fuel, run plan.”

After returning to finish eighth tenths clear of Leclerc, Verstappen issued an apology.

“Sorry to GP for being such on the rant,” he said over the radio.

Lambiase replied: “Slowly getting used to it, Max.”

Speaking afterwards, Verstappen added: “It happens sometimes. Most of it is blocked off.

“We are mates. We can get quite emotional, quite vocal. We sort it out afterwards.”

Verstappen’s grid drop for exceeding the allocated number of four gearboxes will provide his rivals with forlorn hope they can end his seven-race winning streak.

However, the Dutchman, a winner of nine of the 11 rounds so far this season, started this race from 14th last year owing to engine penalties and still took the victory in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion faced a post-qualifying investigation from the stewards after he ran off the circuit at Eau Rouge before re-joining in front of team-mate George Russell in Q2.

Russell was forced to slow down to avoid making contact with the sister Mercedes. Race control noted the incident and confirmed they would investigate.

Hamilton finished nine tenths slower than Verstappen, with Russell even further back in eighth, 0.8sec adrift of his team-mate.

“It was definitely very hectic because it was consistently drying up,” said Hamilton after the running started on a wet track.

“It was difficult to see with the spray. I was head down, just maximining as much as I could.

“At the end, I was still a good chunk off Max. But I am really happy with the result I’ve got.”

Carlos Sainz qualified fifth for Ferrari, one spot ahead of Oscar Piastri, with Lando Norris seventh in the other McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo finished a commendable 13th on his F1 comeback but the Australian will line up from the penultimate spot on the grid.

Ricciardo temporarily hauled his AlphaTauri through to Q2 only to see his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

“F***, I am sorry,” said Ricciardo when informed of the chalked-off lap. “I just lost it through Turn 3. I am sorry.”

Spa-Francorchamps is hosting the sport’s third sprint event of the year with a shortened race on Saturday to come before Sunday’s main event – the concluding round ahead of the sport’s summer shutdown.

Max Verstappen took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix despite an X-rated radio row with his race engineer.

Verstappen was embroiled in a squabble with Gianpiero Lambiase after he only just made it through to Q3 during a wet-dry session at Spa-Francorchamps.

But the championship leader regained his composure at the business end of qualifying to demolish the opposition, finishing eight tenths clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with Sergio Perez third in the other Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth.

However, Verstappen will only start Sunday’s race from sixth position as he serves a five-place grid drop for exceeding his gearbox allocation.

Verstappen made it into the final phase by the skin of his teeth in 10th place and then vented his anger at his long-serving engineer.

Verstappen accused his team of “s*** execution”, claiming he should have pushed harder on an earlier lap after the field switched from wet to dry rubber.

“I don’t give a f*** that we are P10, mate”, he yelled over the radio.

Lambiase snapped back: “OK, and then when the track was two seconds quicker for your final lap and you didn’t have any energy left, how would that have gone down?”

A surly Lambiase added: “But you tell me what you want to do in Q3 and we’ll do it. Tyre sets, fuel, run plan.”

But after taking pole, Verstappen, 110 points clear at the standings and on a run of seven-consecutive wins in his all-conquering Red Bull machine, said over the radio: “Sorry to GP for being such on the rant.”

Lambiase replied: “Slowly getting used to it, Max.”

Hamilton secured pole a week ago in Hungary, but he is facing an investigation from the stewards after he ran off the circuit at Eau Rouge before re-joining in front of team-mate George Russell in Q2.

Russell was forced to slow down to avoid making contact with the sister Mercedes. Race control noted the incident before confirming they would investigate.

It was an underwhelming afternoon for the Silver Arrows with Hamilton nine tenths slower than Verstappen, and Russell ever further back in eighth, 0.8sec adrift of his team-mate. Lando Norris finished seventh, a spot behind Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified a commendable 13th on his return a week ago, but the Australia will line up from the penultimate spot on the grid on Sunday.

Ricciardo temporarily hauled his AlphaTauri through to Q2 only to see his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

“F***, I am sorry,” said Ricciardo when informed of the bad news. “I just lost it through Turn 3. I am sorry.”

Max Verstappen handed his rivals the slimmest of hopes that he could be beaten at Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix after he finished only 11th in practice.

The dominant Dutchman, who has won eight of the 10 rounds so far and six in succession to establish a 99-point lead in the standings, has mastered all conditions this season.

But Verstappen unusually ended the sole dry running here six tenths back from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with McLaren’s Lando Norris – fresh from his impressive second place at the British Grand Prix – 0.015 seconds adrift of the scarlet car.

Lewis Hamilton was 16th with Mercedes team-mate George Russell 20th and last on a topsy-turvy day at the Hungaroring.

Despite Verstappen being off the pace, times in practice must be treated with a degree of caution as different setup and fuel loads are trialled.

It is also worth noting that a number of the top teams will have held back fresh rubber following the reduction of tyre allocation from 13 sets to 11 here.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez took two wins from the opening four, but the Mexican has been on a torrid run since, and his bad form continued when he crashed out of first practice.

The opening one-hour running of the weekend was dry and barely a few minutes old when Perez – on his first lap – lost control of his Red Bull and ended up in the wall.

The Mexican put two wheels on the grass under braking for the fifth corner, sending him into a pirouette and into the tyre barrier.

Perez was unharmed in the accident but he sustained significant damage to the front of his machine. It also denied the rest of the field any dry running as the heavens opened with the red flags deployed to recover Perez’s wounded machine.

The 33-year-old is under increasing pressure at Red Bull following five-consecutive qualifying sessions in which he has failed to make it into Q3. On each of those occasions, Verstappen has scored pole position in the other Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback at Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri is also likely to be playing on Perez’s mind, with the Australian admitting he is daring to dream about the possibility of a return to the grid’s all-conquering team.

Perez was able to take part in the day’s concluding action but he locked up and flat-spotted his front-right tyre and could manage only 18th, 1.3 sec slower than Leclerc.

Ricciardo, back in the saddle in place of the sacked Nyck De Vries, has a dozen races to prove he still possesses the prowess which carried him to eight wins.

He finished 14th in his first outing since last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, seven tenths back and 10 places behind his new team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.

Max Verstappen delivered another crushing performance to win the British Grand Prix as Lando Norris held off Lewis Hamilton in a brilliant fight for second place.

A late safety car put Norris’ runner-up spot in doubt after McLaren elected to put the British driver on the harder, more durable tyre, rather than the speedier soft compound.

But Norris, 23, managed to keep Hamilton, 38, at bay in a tantalising battle between the two home favourites at a sold-out Silverstone.

Norris’ McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri finished fourth, one spot ahead of George Russell, with three British drivers finishing in the top five.

Verstappen’s sixth consecutive victory sees the Dutch driver move 99 points clear at the summit of the standings.

“We had a terrible start so we need to look into that,” said Verstappen. “Lando and McLaren were super-quick. It took a few laps to past them and then everything was okay.

“I am very happy that we won again and 11 wins in a row for the team is incredible but it was not straightforward today.”

McLaren have been desperately short of form this season but a major upgrade at the British team’s home race worked wonders.

Indeed, Norris briefly led Sunday’s 52-lap race after he gazumped pole-sitter Verstappen following a supreme start in his McLaren to cheers from the British grandstands.

It marked the first time a McLaren car has led the British Grand Prix since Hamilton led here for the Woking team in 2012.

However, Norris’ time at the top lasted only four-and-a-half laps after Verstappen, in his superior Red Bull machine, drew alongside the Briton on the Wellington Straight before making the move stick into Brooklands.

Piastri was running in third with Russell trying, but failing, to find a way past Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton started seventh but dropped to eighth at the end of the first lap before regaining the position when he nailed Fernando Alonso on lap seven.

A tedious race came alive on lap 33 when Kevin Magnussen spluttered to a halt in his Haas. Flames briefly engulfed the rear of his machine before turning to smoke.

With Magnussen’s Haas in a precarious position at the start of the Wellington Straight a full safety car was deployed and Hamilton, who had yet to pit, was the main beneficiary, turning a net seventh into third when the order shuffled out.

Verstappen and Hamilton bolted on the soft rubber, but Norris, despite pleading with his McLaren team to follow suit, was given the hard compound.

When the safety car peeled in at the end of lap 38, Norris’ mirrors were suddenly occupied with Hamilton’s black Mercedes.

Hamilton sensed his opportunity racing around the outside of Norris through Brooklands and then Luffield, only for the McLaren man to hold position.

A third chance arose for Hamilton on the run down Copse but Norris expertly defended the position, leaving Hamilton with nowhere to go.

Hamilton backed out and tried again on the following lap but Norris kept his elbows out and the elder Briton was unable to find a way past.

From there, Norris was able to keep Hamilton at arm’s length, crossing the line 2.9 sec clear of the Mercedes car.

“That McLaren is a rocket ship,” said Hamilton as he crossed the line.

Piastri finished fourth on a fine afternoon for McLaren, one place ahead of Russell, with Sergio Perez sixth after he started a lowly 15th.

Alonso took the flag in seventh with Alex Albon enhancing his reputation with a fine eighth for Williams.

Verstappen crossed the line 3.7 sec clear of Norris to maintain Red Bull’s unbeaten streak this season.

Max Verstappen is in the form of his career, but Williams team principal James Vowles is confident other teams are closing in on Red Bull.

Verstappen is well clear in the drivers' championship, having won seven races already in 2023. 

Red Bull, with their other driver Sergio Perez occupying second place, are also the runaway leaders in the constructors' championship.

Vowles, though, does think the gap is gradually beginning to close.

Asked how teams can stop the Verstappen-Red Bull juggernaut, he told Stats Perform: "It's a meritocracy. They've done the best job with the same finances available, not the same equipment, the same finances available as everyone else. 

"He's on fire at the moment. There's just every race where you think he might struggle. He still pulls one out of the bag and does well. 

"I think what you are seeing is people catching up. That's the slight difference. There is a closing of the gap relative to what happened before. It's just going to take time for that to fully kick in."

Before taking charge of Williams, Vowles was the motorsport strategy director at Mercedes, who have endured a difficult time since the start of the 2022 season.

"I think Mercedes lost a year's worth of development simply because the direction they went down was quite different to really the rest of the field," he said.

"And sometimes you have to believe in what you're doing at one point, which is what they've done now, you have to realise that is the wrong direction.

"But that year hasn't been undone. You can't just undo it in the space of one week.

"So what you'll see from this is that now we're going to slowly start, I'm sure, to learn what the package is and how to develop it because they are an incredible organisation and will get back to the front, but it's going to take them I think from here another six months, 12 months to be able to do that."

Asked if F1 was becoming too predictable, Vowles replied: "I think there always is a risk of that. That's like any sport, when you can predict the result, it's less interesting.

"The only thing is I'd go back and say, actually, Austria was one of the most interesting races we've had so far this year, so the gems are still there and this won't last forever.

"[Verstappen] will come back towards everyone else and it just takes a little bit more time than we're expecting. But he will do."

Lewis Hamilton's Formula One legacy "will live forever" says Logan Sargeant, who does not anticipate the seven-time world champion will bow out just yet.

After a disappointing 2022 season, Hamilton is once again well behind two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the F1 standings.

While Verstappen has seven race wins to his name already this year, Hamilton has zero, and has only managed three podium placings.

The Mercedes driver sits fourth in the drivers' championship, and there has been speculation that this year might be his last in F1.

Williams driver Sargeant, however, feels Hamilton will stay on, though the American is sure that legendary status has been secured for the Briton.

"I personally think he's going to stay," Sargeant told Stats Perform.

"I think he wants to keep going. I could be wrong.

"His legacy will live forever, he's one of the best ever do it, if not the best, and he's a driver I looked up to through my junior career.

"I'll always have a massive amount of respect for him. His legacy will live forever."

Sargeant, though, does not feel Hamilton or anyone else will be able to compete with Verstappen for this year's title.

He said: "This year, I don't think so. Maybe next year, but it seems like they [Red Bull] have got this year well under control.

"Max is obviously driving amazingly, so I don't think anyone's going to be able to beat them this year unless they have a problem."

Sargeant is experiencing his first season in F1, and conceded it is taking some getting used to.

"It's extremely difficult, as you can imagine, being against 19 of the other best drivers in the world," he said.

"It's so tight from eighth to 20th, and if you put one foot wrong, that can be the difference between getting top 10 or 20th, so that's the biggest challenge just making sure you're at your best every single day, and I feel like it's coming.

"I'm just getting more and more comfortable with it, so the goal is to eventually get to a point where I can extract everything that car has throughout a weekend. That's where I want to get to."

Max Verstappen produced another emphatic performance to complete a home win for Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The double world champion was made to work for his seventh victory from nine rounds so far after he passed Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on track.

But after manoeuvring himself ahead of both Ferrari drivers, Verstappen raced off into the distance to the delight of his 70,000-strong travelling army from Netherlands.

Leclerc crossed the line five seconds behind Verstappen in Spielberg, with Sergio Perez recovering from his lowly grid slot of 15th to finish third. The Mexican fought his way past Sainz with 10 laps remaining following a nip-and-tuck duel.

Sainz took fourth after he served five-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

The Spaniard was among six of the 20-strong field to be sanctioned by race director Niels Wittich, with Lewis Hamilton also punished.

Hamilton finished an underwhelming seventh, while Lando Norris ended the day in fifth to record his best result of a difficult season for his under-performing McLaren team. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished between Norris and Hamilton.

George Russell made up three places from his starting spot of 11th to finish eighth.

Verstappen heads Perez in the standings by 81 points – the equivalent of more than three victories – heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.

A day after taking the sprint race spoils, Verstappen was celebrating his fifth consecutive win on his unstoppable march to a hat-trick of world titles.

Verstappen fended off an aggressive Leclerc on the opening lap before he fell to third after the Ferrari drivers stopped for tyres under the Virtual Safety Car.

It ended Verstappen’s run of 249 consecutive laps at the head of the field. However, the Dutchman required just 11 laps before he was back in charge.

After he left the pits on lap 25, Verstappen moved ahead of Sainz a couple of laps later, and then fought his way past Leclerc on lap 35 of 71.

From there, the Dutchman cruised to the flag – even stopping for tyres on the penultimate lap in order to set the fastest lap and take a bonus point.

“We did not pit during the Virtual Safety Car,” said Verstappen. “We followed our strategy and that worked out well. It was a great day and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Asked about the prospect of taking his third straight title, Verstappen said: “I don’t like to think about that yet.

“I am enjoying the moment. We have done a good job all weekend and a lot of things went right for us. I am happy and now I will focus on Silverstone.”

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion endured a difficult day in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started fifth and leapfrogged Norris at the start of the race, but soon faced the wrath of the stewards for putting all four wheels of his Mercedes over the white line.

A black-and-white warning flag was served to Hamilton before he was hit with a five-second penalty on lap 17.

Sainz, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Logan Sargeant were also handed five-second penalties, while Yuki Tsunoda saw his initial five-second sanction upgraded to 10 for driving off the track.

Hamilton served his penalty at his second pit stop on lap 43, dropping him to eighth place. He moved up one spot when Gasly stopped for tyres but he failed to make any impression on Aston Martin’s Alonso.

The Briton was on the radio several times asking why other drivers had not been penalised.

Team principal Toto Wolff first came on with a word of encouragement for his superstar driver.

“They are all going to get penalties in front of you, Lewis.” he said.” Keep going.”

But following another frustrated radio message from Hamilton, Wolff was back on to his driver with a firmer message.

“The car is bad, we know,” said Wolff to the Briton: “Please drive it.”

Hamilton finished 39.1 seconds behind Verstappen and is no closer to ending his 18-month losing streak in Formula One.

Max Verstappen produced another emphatic performance to complete a home win for Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The double world champion was made to work for his seventh victory from nine rounds so far after he passed Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on track.

But after manoeuvring himself ahead of both Ferrari drivers, Verstappen raced off into the distance to the delight of his 70,000-strong travelling army from Netherlands.

Leclerc crossed the line five seconds behind Verstappen in Spielberg, with Sergio Perez recovering from his lowly grid slot of 15th to finish third. The Mexican fought his way past Sainz with 10 laps remaining following a nip-and-tuck duel.

Sainz took fourth after he served five-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

The Spaniard was among six of the 20-strong field to be sanctioned by race director Niels Wittich, with Lewis Hamilton also punished.

Hamilton finished an underwhelming seventh, while Lando Norris ended the day in fifth to record his best result of a difficult season for his under-performing McLaren team. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished between Norris and Hamilton.

George Russell made up three places from his starting spot of 11th to finish eighth.

Verstappen heads Perez in the standings by 81 points – the equivalent of more than three victories – heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.

A day after taking the sprint race spoils, Verstappen was celebrating his fifth consecutive win on his unstoppable march to a hat-trick of world titles.

Verstappen fended off an aggressive Leclerc on the opening lap before he fell to third after the Ferrari drivers stopped for tyres under the Virtual Safety Car.

It ended Verstappen’s run of 249 consecutive laps at the head of the field. However, the Dutchman required just 11 laps before he was back in charge.

After he left the pits on lap 25, Verstappen moved ahead of Sainz a couple of laps later, and then fought his way past Leclerc on lap 35 of 71.

From there, the Dutchman cruised to the flag – even stopping for tyres on the penultimate lap in order to set the fastest lap and take a bonus point.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion endured a difficult day in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started fifth and leapfrogged Norris at the start of the race, but soon faced the wrath of the stewards for putting all four wheels of his Mercedes over the white line.

A black-and-white warning flag was served to Hamilton before he was hit with a five-second penalty on lap 17.

Sainz, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Logan Sargeant were also handed five-second penalties, while Yuki Tsunoda saw his initial five-second sanction upgraded to 10 for driving off the track.

Hamilton served his penalty at his second pit stop on lap 43, dropping him to eighth place. He moved up one spot when Gasly stopped for tyres but he failed to make any impression on Aston Martin’s Alonso.

The Briton was on the radio several times asking why other drivers had not been penalised.

Team principal Toto Wolff first came on with a word of encouragement for his superstar driver.

“They are all going to get penalties in front of you, Lewis.” he said.” Keep going.”

But following another frustrated radio message from Hamilton, Wolff was back on to his driver with a firmer message.

“The car is bad, we know,” said Wolff to the Briton: “Please drive it.”

Hamilton finished 39.1 seconds behind Verstappen and is no closer to ending his 18-month losing streak in Formula One.

Max Verstappen said he was fortunate to avoid a high-speed shunt with Sergio Perez after accusing his Red Bull team-mate of forcing him off the road in Saturday’s sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen survived the early drama to win a chaotic 24-lap dash in damp conditions at Red Bull’s home race in Spielberg and extend his championship lead from 69 points to 70.

But despite racking up yet another victory on his probable gallop to a hat-trick of world championships, Verstappen expressed his disappointment with the conduct of Perez in the other Red Bull.

“The exit of Turn 1 was not really nice,” said Verstappen on his way back to the pits after he crossed the finish line 21 seconds clear of the Mexican.

“That could have been a big shunt so we need to have a chat about that because it was not OK.”

Verstappen was referencing the flashpoint between the Red Bull drivers which arrived after only a few hundred metres.

The Dutchman started from pole position, but he was unable to prevent a fast-starting Perez from muscling his way past on the run to the opening right hander.

Perez took the lead, but the Mexican then ran wide on the exit of the first bend allowing Verstappen the opportunity of a slingshot back past.

Verstappen drew alongside his team-mate, but he ran out of room, briefly dropping two wheels on the grass.

“He pushed me off, man,” yelled Verstappen over the radio. “What the f***.”

However, on the long drag to the third bend, Verstappen managed to maintain enough momentum to launch an aggressive move down the inside of Perez.

Verstappen, late on the brakes, ran deep into the right-hander, but he managed to make the move stick. And this time, it was Perez who felt aggrieved.

“What is wrong with Max, man?” he said. As Verstappen raced off into the distance, Perez then lost out to Nico Hulkenberg before eventually finding a way past the Haas driver.

The inquest started immediately after the flag dropped with Perez going over to Verstappen, while the world champion still had his crash helmet on.

The debrief continued into the weighing room as the team-mates spoke for a couple of minutes before revealing their verdicts.

“Max was angry that I went into Turn 2 but I did not see him,” said Perez.

“I had a very bad Turn 1 so I tried to protect [the lead] and once I realised he was there, I opened up the door and gave him the place back. It is all fine. We just spoke about it. The visibility was very bad out there.”

Verstappen was up next. “It was a hairy moment out of Turn 1,” he said. “When you get forced on to the grass it is very slippery but I managed to keep my car under control.”

Moments later, Verstappen headed to the official press conference for the top three finishers. Sitting alongside Perez, he moved to downplay the row.

“It might have compromised the result but it didn’t,” said Verstappen. “We don’t need to make this a big story.

“This is what happens sometimes. We talk about it. We clear it. And it is fine. That is how human beings work. Question, answer, solve it, done. You don’t need to write a whole article about it, I hope.”

Behind Verstappen and Perez, Carlos Sainz took third for Ferrari, while George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished eighth and 10th for Mercedes. Lando Norris started third and ended a disappointing ninth.

Hamilton fought back from 18th on the grid after he had three qualifying laps deleted for exceeding track limits.

Russell started 15th but managed to make up seven places and take the final point after his roll of the dice to move to slick tyres – the first driver to do so – with nine laps to run paid off.

Saturday’s result has no bearing on Sunday’s 71-lap Grand Prix, with Verstappen on pole as he bids to land his seventh victory from the nine rounds so far.

Max Verstappen must be considered among the greatest drivers in Formula One history, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said, following the Dutchman’s landmark win at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s emphatic lights-to-flag victory on Sunday was the 41st of his career, putting him level with triple world champion Ayrton Senna.

Only Lewis Hamilton (103 victories), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) have won more races than Verstappen, who is still only 25.

Verstappen, who started from pole in Montreal following a fine display in Saturday’s wet-dry-wet qualifying session, has triumphed at six of the opening eight rounds this year to open up a commanding 69-point championship lead. Fernando Alonso finished second for Aston Martin with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton third.

“What we are witnessing with Max is the emergence of another mega talent,” said Horner.

“You can start talking about him in the same sentence as the greats now after he matched Ayrton Senna.

“I thought the podium today was very apt actually, in terms of the last couple of decades of Formula One, with Max, Fernando and Lewis up there.

“Max just keeps delivering at such a high level. The race was fantastic but to take pole position in conditions that were continually changing, and his ability to adapt to whatever grip level he had, was Max at his best.”

Verstappen has won four consecutive races and 15 of the last 19 in F1. Red Bull also remain unbeaten this year, and there remains a distinct possibility that the team from Milton Keynes could make history by winning every race in a single campaign.

Hamilton recorded his second consecutive podium finish in his revamped Mercedes machine, but despite the Silver Arrows’ upturn in form, and with 14 rounds still remaining, the seven-time world champion believes Red Bull could complete a perfect campaign.

“I know what I am faced with and there is nothing I can do about Red Bull’s amazing performance,” said Hamilton.

“It is likely that they will win every race this year unless the Aston Martins and us can provide a lot more performance or if their car doesn’t finish.

“It is not a frustration. We have got work to do and I am happy to be back in the mix and I am just hoping that at some stage we are level so we can get back to some of the good races we had in 2021.”

Lewis Hamilton has vowed to continue in Formula One for as long as he can in order to challenge Max Verstappen for the world championship again.

Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix as the Red Bull star delivered another knockout display to claim his fifth win from seven rounds. George Russell completed the podium positions on a strong afternoon for Mercedes.

The seven-time world champion’s contract expires at the end of the year, but the 38-year-old revealed on Sunday night that he is meeting Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on Monday to thrash out a new deal.

 

The British driver is in the leanest spell of his life. Twenty-nine races have passed since he lost to Verstappen at the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, and the record-breaking driver has not won a race since.

 

But following his team’s revitalised performance at the Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton allowed his mind to wander to the prospect of a title rematch with Verstappen that both he, and the sport, so desperately craves.

“I want to keep going for as long as I can,” said Hamilton, sitting alongside Verstappen.

“But I want to be where he (Verstappen) is, or racing him at least, and I am super-focused on getting to that point. There is a long way to go, but there is time.”

Hamilton will be 39 in January but he remains fuelled by a desire to be crowned champion of the world for a record eighth time.

“My hunger has never shifted,” he added. “I am in a great place in my life, and I am really happy where I am in my life. I have got all the ducks in a row so I can focus.

“I have not signed anything yet, but I am meeting with Toto (on Monday) so hopefully we can get something done.

“We have had so many meetings. And this is another meeting. But the contract is always at the back of your mind, so once it is done then I can focus more on the future.”

Verstappen might have finished 24 seconds up the road, but the feeling in the Mercedes camp is that they might have turned the corner following a turbulent period for the grid’s once-dominant team.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s race, Hamilton said their revamped machine – which made its debut in Monaco a week ago – had not provided him with the step forward he wanted.

But this was Mercedes’ strongest display of the year. Hamilton breezed past Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to take second, while team-mate Russell waltzed his way through the field from his lowly starting slot of 12th.

“It is definitely the best the car has been for the past year and a half,” Hamilton added. “That is kudos to the amazing group of people back at the factory.

“It is super-encouraging, not only for me, but for everyone in the team. This is a big boost for everybody’s morale and we are going to take that energy on to developing the car.

“I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward and I am hoping by the end of the year we can challenge.

“Red Bull are so far ahead and Max will continue to win this year. That means they can start on their development for next year, if they have not already, and that is the danger.”

Red Bull have won all seven rounds this year, and 17 of the last 18 races contested, and their stranglehold on the sport shows few signs of easing.

A day on from crushing his opposition to take pole, Verstappen held off the advances off Sainz on the long run to the opening corner and from there, his 40th career victory – which takes him just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s career tally – never looked in doubt.

After Sergio Perez fought back from 11th to fourth, Verstappen’s title lead over his Red Bull team-mate now stands at 53 points, with a week off before the next round in Canada on June 18.

Max Verstappen recorded a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished second and third for Mercedes.

Verstappen led all 66 laps at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to record his fifth win from the opening seven rounds and extend his championship lead.

Hamilton started fourth but finished runner-up, with team-mate Russell completing the podium places on a strong afternoon for the Silver Arrows.

Sergio Perez secured fourth spot after moving ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz with a dozen laps remaining.

Verstappen’s title lead over his Red Bull team-mate now stands at 53 points, with a week off before the next round in Canada on June 18.

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