Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz wants a wider debate on the impact that designs of modern Formula One cars are having on driver health.

Constructors in the series have taken steps to counteract the impact of 'porpoising' (or bouncing of the car) brought about by new aerodynamic rules, including making suspensions stiffer.

The rule changes were brought in with the intention of increasing opportunities to overtake, but one of the impacts of that has been the extra 'porpoising'.

Sainz, who sits fifth in this season's driver standings, has been in Formula One since 2015 and says he can already feel the toll taken on his back and neck.

Asked prior to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix how the issue may be particularly prominent on the street-race of Monaco at the end of this month, Sainz said: "It's more than Monaco.

"How much toll should a driver pay for his back and his health in an F1 career with this kind of car philosophy?

"I think we need to open the debate more than anything.

"I think the regulations are great. They're doing exactly what we needed for racing. But do we need to run as stiff for our necks and back as we are having to run lately?

"I've done my usual checks on my back, neck tightness, and I see this year I'm tighter everywhere.

"I don't need expert advice to know that 10 years like this it's going to be tough, and you're going to need to work a lot in mobility, flexibility."

McLaren driver Lando Norris, a former team-mate of Sainz, offered suggestions to limit 'porpoising'.

"I would have thought you'd have much worse effects from crashing a car at 50 or 60G like some of us have done," Norris said.

"There are also many ways for them to stop porpoising. Like lifting your rear ride height 20mm."

Two of the world's most recognisable car brands – Audi and Porsche – have plans to join Formula One.

It is said that the two brands, who are the Volkswagen Group's biggest income generators, have had a keen interest for a while now and have been waiting for F1's engine regulations to move in a more eco-friendly direction.

These changes are reportedly set to come into effect in 2026, when it is expected that Porsche will form an alliance with Red Bull and compete under the team name of Red Bull-Porsche.

Audi, on the other hand, are seeking to buy out an existing team, and have had talks with Sauber, Williams, Aston Martin and McLaren.

Speaking at an event in Wolfsburg, where VW is based, company chief executive Herbert Diess said when it came down to it, entering F1 would simply generate more money than not entering.

"You just run out of arguments [against it]," he said.

Last year, Porsche Motorsport vice president Fritz Enzinger revealed that the company was again considering their future in the sport, as long as the engine requirements met a certain standard.

With F1's new engines to run on fully sustainable fuels – which was non-negotiable for the VW Group – it is now closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Max Verstappen felt Red Bull "were on it" at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and thoroughly deserved their one-two. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen started on pole after winning Saturday's sprint race and he took maximum points at Imola by winning and setting the fastest lap. 

He cut Charles Leclerc's championship lead from 45 points to 27. The Ferrari driver span out from third when trying to take the bonus point from Verstappen and ended up finishing sixth. 

That opened the door for Lando Norris to finish third, with Sergio Perez making it a first one-two for Red Bull since Malaysia in 2016. 

"It's always tough to achieve something like that but already yesterday and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend," said Verstappen. 

"Today, you never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think we did very well and this one-two is very deserved. 

"The start was very important but afterwards, judging the conditions and when to swap to the slick tyres, because in the lead you have to always dictate the pace, and it's always a bit more difficult initially, but everything was well managed." 

Perez defended brilliantly to keep Leclerc at bay after getting past him on the opening lap, though he was lucky DRS was not enabled until after he took a trip across the grass and gave the Ferrari a chance to close the gap.

"It was really intense! The fight since halfway through the race we were fighting, then it was all under control but then they start chasing us again with the stop and it was the fight again to warm up the tyres," said Perez. 

"The most important thing today is to not make mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there. To get a one-two in these conditions, I think it is a great result for the team. We've been so unlucky at the start. It's been so difficult for us. 

"I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today." 

Norris said: "It was an amazing race. An amazing weekend.  

"I'm happy, the team deserves it. From where we were in race one to now scoring a podium, top job by the team. It's just hard work [from the team]. A lot of time of effort back in the factory and here at Imola. 

"It was a mixture of tricky conditions, but we've been able to capitalise on that as well. But I love these conditions, so I always do quite well. Just a mixture of hard work and a great weekend and it all pays off." 

McLaren driver Lando Norris believes the struggles of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are reassuring for Formula One.

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

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

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has since acknowledged that instant solutions would not be found for their new W13 car 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height.

And Norris believes it is refreshing for the rest of the grid to see the usually dominant Mercedes well behind Ferrari, who hold a 40-point lead over Red Bull in the constructors' championship after two races.

"In a way it is nice to see that Mercedes don't always have success," Norris told The Daily Mail. "It shows that even when you have had that success, you can still get things wrong. It is easy to get things wrong.

"Much as I hate to say it, it is good to see Ferrari up there. And it is reassuring for other teams to know it is still possible. If it were just Mercedes and Red Bull again, it would be so predictable.

"With Lewis you are seeing the challenge of one of the best drivers competing in a car that is not the best. We will see a different side of Lewis, compared to the last decade.

"But I don't think you can say it is all about the car, rather than Lewis' ability. He has still been against very good drivers, such as Fernando [Alonso] in his first year, and then went on to achieve what everyone expected of him.

"I just don't believe in the last few years he has had quite the challenge that he could have had, or maybe that he had against [Nico] Rosberg. Perhaps we will see that against George [Russell, Hamilton's new team-mate].

"I don't think anything takes away the driver he is."

Norris has endured a similarly tough start to his season with McLaren, finishing almost a minute behind winner Max Verstappen in Jeddah, but he feels he made the right choice to join his new team.

"I see a lot of stories saying I have made the wrong decision," he added. "But that is not the case. I am happy. I have all the faith in the world that we can still achieve good things in the next few years and if I had to make the decision again, I would still do what I did.

"There were chances to go to other teams, but I am playing the long game."

The 22-year-old, who is 10th in the drivers' championship, will hope he can kick-start McLaren's 2022 campaign at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Two races into the 2022 Formula One season, a new era of regulations and while it is evident to see that Ferrari and Red Bull have started the strongest, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen seem to be relishing the duel.

It is currently one race apiece for Leclerc and Verstappen, but both the former's win in Bahrain and the latter's in Saudi Arabia have been characterised by hard but fair wheel-to-wheel racing.

Coming into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Ferrari's strength this season can be seen in the fact they have opened up a healthy 40-point buffer in the constructors' championship after only two races.

Leclerc and Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, with the Monegasque's respective first and second place finishes coupled with bonus points for the fastest lap in the opening two races.

Following a tightly contested race in Saudi Arabia, Leclerc and Verstappen were revelling in the opening battles for the championship.

"It wasn't enough today, but my God, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this."

Especially in comparison to how sour the relationship became between him and Lewis Hamilton as they fought for the title in 2021, Verstappen is also enjoying the hard but fair racing.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the world champion said after his Saudi win. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game."

 

Mercedes' lack of pace working against Hamilton  

Meanwhile, Mercedes have endured a difficult start to the 2022 season, claiming third and fourth thanks to Red Bull DNFs in Bahrain before a fifth and 10th place finish in Saudi Arabia, well off the pace at the front.

Their troubles with speed and managing downforce in relation to their heavy porpoising is difficult for any team, let alone one with expectations of drivers' and constructors' championships.

With that all in mind, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has taken eight pole positions at Albert Park, tied with two other drivers for the most ever in F1 at a single track – Michael Schumacher at Suzuka and Ayrton Senna at Imola are the other two, while Hamilton also holds eight at the Hungaroring.

 

No home race advantage for Aussies

McLaren's poor start to the season could only serve to compound matters for Daniel Ricciardo at his home race.

No Australian driver has ever won, taken pole position or reached the podium in 35 editions of the Australian GP.

Ricciardo (2016, 2018) and Mark Webber (2010) only managed to secure fastest laps and mere points finishes.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 45
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 33
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 25
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 22
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 16

Constructors

1. Ferrari 78
2. Mercedes 38
3. Red Bull 37
4. Alpine 16
5. Haas 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formula One team principals have explained how they were reassured of their safety in extensive talks following a missile attack near the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The attack on an oil depot prompted an explosion that delayed FP2 in Jeddah on Friday.

F1 confirmed later on Friday and again early on Saturday the race would be going ahead, having met with the teams and heard their concerns before Saudi government authorities and security agencies offered "full and detailed assurances that the event is secure".

Facing the media ahead of FP3, team principals elaborated on these discussions, with Haas chief Gunther Steiner revealing: "For me, the assurance is if the authorities have got their own families here and they feel safe, I can be safe as well.

"They explained very credibly what [system] is in place. The technical details I am not in a position to explain that, because I'm not qualified enough. But there is stuff in place, which protects us, obviously. I'm not trained in that one.

"The credible explanation of what they do, and that their families are here with them, that gives me the assurance that I'm safe and that my team is safe."

Aston Martin's Mike Krack added: "We had quite a few high ranked authorities yesterday, and they explained to us the situation, they explained it to us in a very credible way.

"This made all of the 10 of us that were in the room confident that they take their responsibility very seriously."

Andreas Seidl of McLaren said: "In the end, we need to trust F1, and the authorities here, put safety always first for every single member of the paddock here.

"I have full trust that this is happening."

Daniel Ricciardo qualified in 18th on Saturday as McLaren endured a tough start to the Bahrain Grand Prix, but the Australian vowed to "get on with it".

McLaren were fighting with Ferrari at the front of the Formula One midfield in 2021, yet the first weekend of the new season suggests the Scuderia have left their rivals behind.

Ferrari had Charles Leclerc on pole and Carlos Sainz in the top three, with all teams using their engines performing well in qualifying.

By contrast, Ricciardo failed to make Q2, and McLaren team-mate Lando Norris was little better in 13th.

A challenge in Sunday's race appears highly unlikely, but McLaren will continue to work to get their young campaign back on track as soon as possible.

"The only way we're going to move forward is if we put our eyes forward and get on with it," said Ricciardo, who missed the end of pre-season due to coronavirus. "And I think that's important as well for team morale.

"If we just sit and moan and cry... Of course, in qualifying, I'm not happy with 18th, but there's no good being upset about it and not doing anything.

"It's going to require action and effort from all of us, but I think that should motivate us to do better and want to do better. 

"I know we believe that we can be obviously a lot further up the grid, so it's fuel for the fire. It might be a slow burn for now, but that's all we can do to make things better."

Norris is certainly not expecting sudden improvement on Sunday, while he added a turnaround in time for next week's Saudi Arabian GP is also asking a lot.

"There are still a lot of positives – just sadly more negatives than positives," he said. "It's just about time and working on them. I think now we understand them more than ever; it's simply about putting them into action.

"But it's not an overnight job, it's not something that we're going to turn up [on Sunday] and be amazing, or turn up to Saudi and be amazing.

"It will take time, and [the team] are going to be working hard to try to make those improvements."

How does Formula One go about following up the epic 2021 season?

Well, until that stunning campaign stole the show, this year was long seen as the one to look forward to with the introduction of new regulations to encourage competitive racing right down the grid.

Lewis Hamilton might have expected a genuine challenge in 2022; instead, in the form of Max Verstappen, it arrived 12 months early.

Excitement for the coming campaign is therefore at an all-time high, with pre-season testing adding to the theory fans should expect the unexpected.

Forecasting the year ahead is tricky, but Stats Perform seeks to identify the key narratives to follow this season ahead of Sunday's 2022 opener in Bahrain.

Max vs Lewis again

For now at least, Verstappen and Hamilton will expect to be the title frontrunners, which should mean another classic campaign.

Verstappen had never even led the standings until winning last year's Monaco Grand Prix, the first of five consecutive Red Bull wins – including four for the Dutchman.

That sequence ended at Silverstone, where contact with Hamilton sent Verstappen into the wall and set the tone for the rest of a frantic season, in which the pair repeatedly went at one another, crashing at Monza.

A titanic back-and-forth deserved a better ending than to be decided by a contentious call from race director Michael Masi in Abu Dhabi.

Now, defending champion Verstappen can attempt to prove he is better than Hamilton regardless of that decision, while the Mercedes man seeks to show his class once again as he pursues a record eighth title.

The midfield challenge

The game-changing 2022 regulations sought to enforce "closer racing", meaning both Verstappen and Hamilton could come under threat rather than simply blowing away the competition.

Early signs are encouraging on that front, with the two title rivals name-checking Ferrari's superb pre-season showing in the past week.

A resurgent Scuderia represent an obvious danger to those two, but so too do McLaren, Ferrari's midfield neighbours in recent seasons.

Lando Norris had four podiums last season before tailing off to finish sixth in the drivers' championship – still two places ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who endured a tough first year with the team despite a famous win at Monza.

Having been aided by changes to the car for 2022, it is up to Ferrari and McLaren to close the gap considerably to Red Bull and Mercedes.

George a genuine threat?

Of course, Verstappen and Hamilton might typically expect their biggest challenges to come from those in the same cars.

However, Sergio Perez played the role of supporting Red Bull team-mate brilliantly in some key moments last year, while Valtteri Bottas continued to do his own thing without worrying Hamilton.

How a change in the Mercedes garage alters things remains to be seen. Bottas has been replaced by George Russell, who will hope to quickly make his mark.

Russell deputised for Hamilton for a single race the year before last and impressed, so it will be interesting to see if he now intends to push his legendary colleague all the way or will initially settle instead for helping his title bid.

Impact of refereeing reform

It is not only the cars that have had a makeover this year, with the officiating structure reorganised in the aftermath of the criticism aimed at Masi.

He is out as race director, with two men, Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, taking his place, while other changes include the introduction of a "virtual race control room" to "assist the race director in the decision-making process".

Whether these changes suitably appease the team principals, who grew increasingly furious with each controversy last year, remains to be seen.

All parties would agree they would rather see the championship decided on the track – but it is not always as straightforward as that.

Following an eventful, dramatic and – dare we say it – the best Formula One season to date, the 2022 campaign has plenty to live up to.

Lewis Hamilton is going in search of a record eighth world title at the second time of asking after missing out to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the final race in 2021.

Reigning champion Verstappen is himself seeking some personal history this coming campaign, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

Ahead of what will hopefully be an equally as gripping season this time around, Stats Perform picks out some of the key numbers.

 

Hamilton narrowly missed out on surpassing Michael Schumacher as F1's most successful driver, though he has not missed out on top spot in successive years since joining Mercedes in 2013.

Should he match his achievement from last year, Red Bull's Verstappen (25 years, two months) would surpass Fernandes Alonso (25y, 2m, 23 days) as the second-youngest multiple world champion, behind only Sebastian Vettel (24y, 3m).

Mercedes may have suffered disappointment last time out, but they still finished top of the constructors' standings for a record-extending eighth time in a row. They are one short of equalling Williams as the second-most successful team, though Ferrari (16) are still well out in front.

In terms of other team milestones, Bahrain will be the 250th GP Mercedes have competed in, while they are six fastest laps away from setting 100. McLaren, meanwhile, are seven podiums from reaching 500 in F1.

Joining Hamilton at Mercedes this season is compatriot George Russell, who along with McLaren's Lando Norris is aiming to become the first Briton other than Hamilton to win a race since Jenson Button in 2012.

Bottas is now at Alfa Romeo and is joined by Guanyu Zhou, who will be China's first ever representative on the grid, making them the 39th country to appear in F1. Indeed, it is the first time three Asian countries will be represented, with Alex Albon (Thailand) and Yuki Tsunoda (Japan) also featuring.

 

Now 14 years on from their most recent constructors' title, Ferrari will equal their worst-such streak – 15 years between 1984 and 1998 – if they again miss out this term.

Carlos Sainz is Ferrari's big hope and he has either matched or bettered his performance from the previous season – both in terms of points and position – over the past six years when racing for just one team.

While his title chances are slim at best, Fernando Alonso has the opportunity to become the driver with the biggest margin between F1 titles of all time, 16 years on from his most recent success. 

Twenty-two events are currently locked in the F1 calendar for this year, with Miami set to become the 77th different circuit used when it hosts its maiden GP in May. It will be the 11th different track used in the United States, which is the most of any country.

Sebastian Vettel will miss the opening race of the 2022 Formula One World Championship after the Aston Martin driver was ruled out of the Bahrain Grand Prix following a positive test for COVID-19.

The four-time world champion will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg for the first event of the season, marking his first F1 race since 2020 and coincidentally taking place at the same venue where he made his debut with Williams in 2010.

Vettel, who headed up Aston Martin's return to F1 last year, secured a second-place podium finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in his maiden season with the team.

But the former Red Bull driver, who dominated the drivers' championship across a four-year stretch between 2010 and 2013, struggled to maintain that form across the rest of the campaign.

Hulkenberg will race alongside Lance Stroll this weekend and will take control of the car from FP1 on Friday.

Elsewhere, McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo will be fit to feature after missing the last week of testing through coronavirus.

The Australian, however, has since returned a negative test and will feature for the team this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo has tested positive for COVID-19, in a blow to his preparations for the first grand prix of the Formula One season.

The team expect the 32-year-old Australian to be out of isolation in time to compete at the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the race scheduled for Sunday, March 20.

The news still comes at an unfortunate time for McLaren, who are looking to build upon their fourth-place finish in last year's constructors' championship.

Ricciardo's positive test was confirmed on Friday's second day of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

"McLaren Racing can confirm that after feeling unwell from Wednesday onwards in Bahrain, Daniel Ricciardo has now returned a positive PCR test for COVID-19," a team statement read.

"Daniel is therefore continuing to isolate in accordance with local regulations.

"Under these regulations Daniel will be released in time for next weekend's Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Daniel is already beginning to feel better, and we wish him well for a quick recovery.

"Following this, we can confirm that Lando Norris will remain in the MCL36 for the final day of the official pre-season test in Bahrain tomorrow."

Ricciardo said on Twitter that he was already "starting to feel better".

Lando Norris has agreed to extend his stay with McLaren through to 2025, the team announced on Wednesday.

It was confirmed by the British constructor back at the Monaco Grand Prix that an option to prolong Norris' stay for multiple years had been exercised.

An agreement has now been reached for the Briton to stay with McLaren for the next four seasons, starting in 2022.

"Teams are about people, and I love the people and feel at home at McLaren. I have grown up in this team and I'm part of this journey we're all on," Norris said via a McLaren statement.

"Last season was another great step, both in my career and the team's performance, and I see and feel all the work, investment, and commitment for the team to be in a position to challenge for wins and titles in the future. 

"This all gives me huge confidence looking forward, so it was a natural decision to extend our relationship for the next few years."

Norris has a relationship with McLaren dating back to 2017 and was reserve driver for two years before gaining a full seat in 2019.

There has been steady progression of the past three seasons, with Norris finishing 11th in his debut campaign, ninth in 2020 (which also yielded a first podium), and sixth in 2021 where he had four podium finishes and a first pole position.

Team principal Andreas Seidl added: "The opportunity to extend our relationship with Lando reflects not only our commitment but our belief and confidence in his talent. 

"It is also a strong sign of trust and commitment from Lando in us as a team and our journey to world championship contention. 

"Lando has shown impressive growth as a Formula One driver over the past four years and has been an instrumental part of the team's momentum and performance trajectory. 

"We are still on our journey to fight at the front and Lando is a key element of our plan, so to lock him into place, alongside Daniel and our senior leadership, gives us stability and continuity as we build towards our ultimate shared goal of world championships."

The new F1 season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix next month.

Lando Norris believes he can benefit from the heartbreak of dramatically missing out on victory at the Russian Grand Prix.

Norris was three laps away from claiming his maiden Formula One victory but was denied by rain in Sochi last Sunday.

He spun off the track after the decision was made that he would stay out on slicks, eventually finishing seventh as Lewis Hamilton claimed a 100th F1 win.

The McLaren driver was left devastated having come so close to his first win but says he will learn from the painful experience.

"It's not just something people say, it definitely is true [that tough experiences make you stronger],” Norris told F1.com.

"You do learn probably more from the hard moments. You always learn things. Even if you win a race, you can learn things.

"Definitely when you have to make these split-second decisions, when it's not an easy decision, and you need so many different factors involved, there is a lot of things you can learn.

"I feel like I have a long career in F1, it's nice in a way to get it out early, so that when these things arise in the future, or in my future years in F1, I’ll be able to react better."

The 21-year-old expressed his gratitude for the support he has received since the race in Russia.

"I got quite a few messages and not necessarily from drivers. Obviously everyone within McLaren and a lot of people even from different sports," he added.

"It was more of a time when people see it as an emotion-attached sport, rather than cars driving round in circles, as lot of people like to say.

"So I guess they saw the feelings we have as drivers, the passion we have for the sport, the desire to win. You want to do the best job you can for the team.

"I got a lot of messages from a lot of people which in some ways help. There were a lot of 'Your time will come!' But no matter what, they definitely helped."

Lewis Hamilton collected his 100th Formula One victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after pipping Lando Norris to top spot.

Norris, who secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, spun off the track with three laps to go as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and sneak into a late lead to secure his century of race victories, the first F1 driver to achieve such a haul.

McLaren, who collected their first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish, with Max Verstappen making important ground to finish second.

Verstappen, who led the championship going into the race, had started from the back of the grid after Red Bull had a new engine installed, but he magnificently recovered to make the podium and ensure Hamilton moves into just a two-point lead.

Carlos Sainz took the lead on the first corner, with Norris, George Russell and Lance Stroll in close company.

Daniel Ricciardo, who would eventually settle for fourth, was back in fifth as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso looked to make ground on the McLaren man who was the shock Monza winner.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was climbing slowly up the grid as he overtook Valtteri Bottas and then Charles Leclerc, moving ominously through the field.

Norris' pole position looked to be paying off when Alonso and Perez had to pit, giving the 21-year-old the lead with 16 laps to go.

He had Hamilton in close company four laps later, and it appeared to be a two-car battle as the Englishmen jostled for first place.

Hamilton took the lead 11 laps later and went on to win as Norris spun out, with Verstappen coasting to his podium placing after making the smart decision to put the intermediate tyres on early.


Mercedes magic

Mercedes made the early decision to put on the inters as their rain radar suggested the wet weather was going to come before the finale.

With others choosing to stick out there and get through it, Hamilton surged into a late lead as Norris' tyres failed him, while Bottas climbed up from 17th on the grid to finish fifth to prove the Mercedes team's decision was an excellent one.

McLaren mistake

A visibly upset Norris addressed the television cameras after the race in Sochi but stood by the decision to stay out there.

The Briton battled to pole position in the adverse conditions the previous day but, for as long as Norris remains without a race win, this will resemble a missed opportunity for him and for McLaren to collect back-to-back wins after their success in Monza.


IN THE POINTS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +53.271
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:02.475
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:05.607
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:07.533
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1:21.321
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:27.224
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1:28.955
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:30.076
10. George Russell (Williams) 1:40.551

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

WHAT'S NEXT?

There is another two-week gap until the next race, which is the rearranged Turkish Grand Prix.

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