Lewis Hamilton would choose Andrea Kimi Antonelli to take his Mercedes seat when he makes the move to Ferrari next year.

In February, Hamilton stunned the Formula One world by announcing he was exercising a break clause in his contract with the Silver Arrows and would join Ferrari from 2025. 

Several drivers have been linked with the upcoming vacancy at Mercedes, including world champion Max Verstappen, though he is thought likely to stay with Red Bull for next season.

Carlos Sainz – who will lose his Ferrari seat to Hamilton – has also been tipped as a potential candidate, but Hamilton thinks 17-year-old prodigy Antonelli deserves a chance.

"Carlos is a great driver, so wherever he goes I think he would be a positive for any team," Hamilton said of Sainz. 

"Honestly, I have no idea what Toto [Wolff]'s plans are, but for me, taking on a youngster, I would probably take on Kimi."

Antonelli has been part of Mercedes' junior team since 2019 and currently competes for Prema Racing in Formula Two, sitting sixth in the drivers' championship standings after four rounds of the 2024 season.

Speaking at Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, team principal Wolff hinted the teenager was under serious consideration for next year.

"I guess for the Italians it's super exciting to have Lewis Hamilton in red next year. We will get used to the outfits, but we have got to look at ourselves," he said.

"Maybe there is an option where we can shine more with an Italian in our car, so we're pushing back hard."

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has refused to rule out meeting with Max Verstappen to discuss a potential switch from Red Bull, though he says the Silver Arrows are also looking at other drivers.

Verstappen looks unlikely to be denied a fourth straight world championship after starting 2024 with four wins from six races, though he was beaten by Lando Norris at Sunday's Miami Grand Prix.

However, the Dutchman's future has become a subject of discussion amid a difficult period for Red Bull behind the scenes.

Team principal Christian Horner was accused and later cleared of engaging in controlling behaviour towards a female employee earlier this year, while chief technical officer Adrian Newey is stepping back from his role and will be free to join another team in early 2025.

While Verstappen's contract with Red Bull runs through 2028, reports have suggested he could follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton and exercise a break clause to push through a huge move.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz has also been linked with Mercedes after seeing the Scuderia promise his 2025 seat to Hamilton, and Wolff says the team have plenty of irons in the fire.

Asked if he was keen to meet with Verstappen, Wolff said: "There's always plenty of meetings. I can't really say about the second driver. I think we've talked about the possibilities. 

"I want to be fair to these guys and not make it look like we are playing chess with humans, because we are not doing that.

"I think we want to take our time, see where Max's thinking goes, and at the same time monitor the other drivers. Carlos was very strong in Miami again and that's why we are a little bit on observation mode at the moment."

Verstappen has said the strength of teams' cars after regulation changes are implemented in 2026 will inform any decision on his future, and Wolff says the Dutchman is right to bide his time. 

"I was him I wouldn't leave, at least for 2025, but he's the leading driver, he's the top guy at the moment and that's why it's for him to take those decisions," Wolff said.

"There may not be any decisions to take, maybe everything continues like it is, but that is then also guidance for us."

Lewis Hamilton was delighted to see his former team McLaren back on top as Lando Norris claimed his first Formula One victory at the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

Norris raced from fifth on the grid to beat Max Verstappen by seven seconds at the Miami International Autodrome, becoming just the second driver – after Ferrari's Carlos Sainz – to overcome the three-time world champion this year.

Norris' victory made him the 21st British driver to win an F1 race but the first since George Russell took the honours at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, while Russell's Mercedes team-mate Hamilton has not recorded a victory since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton won the first of his seven drivers' championships with McLaren in 2008, and he is pleased to see his former team challenging the dominance of Red Bull.

"I'm really happy for Lando," Hamilton told Sky Sports after the race. "I just told him he needs to stay tonight, he's got to change his flight home – he just won a race!

"It's a special moment to win your first Grand Prix. I started at McLaren and I'm really happy to see them back at the top. It's been a long time."

McLaren are third in the constructors' championship standings with 124 points through six races of the season, 63 behind Ferrari in second and 60 clear of fourth-placed Mercedes.

A gap of over 18 seconds separated the two Silver Arrows on Sunday as Russell finished eighth, two places behind Hamilton, and he was at a loss to explain his lack of pace.

"I don't think it caught us off guard. I just had no pace at all. It was just a lot worse than expected," Russell said.

"My race pace has been pretty strong this year but compared to Lewis I was nowhere. We need to check and see what happened and go from there.

"We lost even more points but as I said yesterday, we know where we are as a team. We're a long way from where we want to be."

Max Verstappen continued to be critical of his own performance despite taking pole position for the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who won the sprint earlier on Saturday and had on Friday claimed pole in qualifying for that event, recorded a best time of 1:27.241 round the track in the final qualification session for Sunday's race.

The reigning Formula One world champion will share the front row with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who like in the sprint, came second.

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz pipped Red Bull's Sergio Perez to third, while Lando Norris rounded out the top five.

Verstappen, though, was not particularly thrilled with his drive, continuing the trend after both qualifying on Friday and the sprint race.

He said: "We definitely improved the car a bit but I don’t know what it is but every single year we come here I find it extremely difficult to be very consistent with the car and tyre feeling over one lap. It’s super hard to make sure that Sector One feels good and Sector Three at the end of the lap to make that happen together is incredibly tough.

"Again today it was really about finding that balance, I think we did ok, it wasn't the most enjoyable lap out of my career especially with how slippery it is and you aren't very confident on the lap but we are on pole."

Leclerc said: "I felt so much on the limit. It was very close until Q3, where we started to push for the last one or two tenths. We started to lose the tyres in sector two and three, overheating them quite a bit. That's where we lost a little bit of time.

"However, the race is long and this morning we showed a good pace, so I hope tomorrow we can put Max under a bit more pressure."

Lewis Hamilton recovered from a 20-second penalty in the sprint race to qualify in seventh, one place behind Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen claimed victory in the sprint race ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen clinched pole for the sprint in Friday's qualifying session, and capitalised on that effort to finish ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on Saturday.

The Dutchman had to see off an early push from Leclerc, but ultimately had too much.

Sergio Perez, Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate, recovered from an early mistake to finish third.

Daniel Ricciardo took fourth, having fended off the challenge of both Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri.

It was a bad drive for Lewis Hamilton, who was penalised for speeding in the pit lane, dropping him from eighth down to 16th.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc riding for Ferrari will be "great to watch", according to Nico Rosberg, who expects a "tough battle" between two Formula One drivers on a similar level.

Mercedes and Hamilton will part ways after 12 seasons together as the seven-time world champion prepares to join Ferrari.

Leclerc got the nod ahead of current team-mate Carlos Sainz to remain with the Italian team, with the Ferrari driver ready to join forces with Hamilton in 2025.

"We're all looking forward to that dynamic," Rosberg, who partnered Hamilton at Mercedes from 2013 to 2016, told Sky Sports.

"Charles doesn't seem like someone who goes into conflict too much with his team-mate, so that will make it easier, maybe it won't be too extremely spicy."

Hamilton has failed to finish ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell in any of his first five 2024 grand prixs.

Yet Rosberg has no doubt over his quality, nor his soon-to-be partner Leclerc, who he ranks just behind Max Verstappen.

"Charles is probably the second-best qualifier out there after Max Verstappen, one could possibly say at the moment, so it will be a tough battle for both," Rosberg added.

"I think the level could be pretty similar, so it will be great to watch."

Ferrari's decision to move on from Sainz may come as somewhat of a surprise, given the team have featured on the podium at four of the five races this season.

Whereas Hamilton's switch comes after Mercedes failed to engineer a car capable of competing with the likes of Red Bull, though choosing Ferrari caught the eye.

"It came as a huge surprise," Rosberg said. "No one expected it. But If you look at the grand scheme of things, then why not?

"It's towards the end of his career. They are two legendary teams and I know Lewis has always been a big fan of Ferrari, so why not make that switch and have a different experience of driving in red once?

"At the moment, it seems in performance terms to be the right decision for him, which maybe he's made an amazing move like he did 12 years ago by moving from McLaren for Mercedes.

"McLaren was winning races and Mercedes was nowhere, and the moment he moved, McLaren went backwards and Mercedes started winning races. Maybe he can get the same timing done again."

Lando Norris fears Max Verstappen’s “boring” dominance of Formula One is forcing fans away.

Verstappen became the first driver this century to start the season with five consecutive pole positions after a crushing performance in qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, 26, saw off Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 0.322 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit to take top spot, after he earlier raced from fourth to first in the 19-lap sprint race.

Remarkably, since Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 world championship in Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull driver has won 37 of the 48 races staged, and he is firmly on course to wrap up his fourth title in as many seasons.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already said that Verstappen will not be caught – despite there being 20 races of this record-breaking 24-race season left.

And speaking ahead of the fifth round of the campaign in China, Norris, considered to be Verstappen’s best friend on the grid, said: “It is frustrating for people watching but it has always been like this.

“Now, we are seeing more dominance than ever, so it is never going to be the best to watch and the only exciting races have been the ones that Max is not in.”

Asked if he was concerned Verstappen’s stranglehold on the sport could be a turn-off for fans, Norris replied: “Of course it is going to be. Of course it is going be. There is no way you can say it won’t be.

“If you see the same driver winning every single time without a fight then of course it does start to become boring and that is obvious.

“You have got one of the best drivers ever in Formula One, in one of the most dominant cars and it is a combination that is deadly. If Max wasn’t there and you had two (Sergio) Perezs it wouldn’t be the case.”

Verstappen struggled for speed in the early stages of Saturday’s sprint race but he caught, and overtook, Lewis Hamilton on the ninth lap and then pulled out an eye-watering two seconds on the Mercedes driver in just one lap. He took the chequered flag 13 sec clear.

Fernando Alonso was the closest non-Red Bull finisher to Verstappen in qualifying but the Spaniard was almost half-a-second back.

Norris, 24, continued: “Am I surprised how far Red Bull is ahead? No. When you know how tricky it is to get it right, then it makes sense. They are just smart people.

“You hope teams plateau and we are starting to get there but at the same time to suddenly jump and catch them (Red Bull), it just doesn’t work like that.”

Mercedes, behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Norris’ McLaren in the constructors’ standings, are a team far removed from the one which dominated the sport.

Hamilton will start 18th in China on Sunday, with team-mate George Russell only eighth on the grid.

Norris, who qualified fourth, added: “If you look at how dominant Mercedes have been in the past, you would have expected more from them. I did, especially how much over the last few years they have said: ‘ah, now we have got it’, and they never seem to.

“We have had that, where we have hit another roadblock, so it is tricky. But they were almost more competitive last year than they are now and you just wouldn’t expect that from them. But it shows how complicated this sport can be.”

Lewis Hamilton insisted he is “mentally very strong” after his worst qualifying in nearly seven years which was labelled a “disaster” and “unnecessary” by former rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton will line up in 18th position for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after his troubled start to the new season took another desperate twist in Shanghai.

Earlier on Saturday, Hamilton rolled back the years to lead the sprint race for eight laps before he had to settle for second after he was overtaken by eventual winner Max Verstappen.

But four hours after a result Hamilton described as his “best in a long time”, the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his speediest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone, leaving only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams’ Logan Sargeant behind him on the grid.

An exasperated Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton’s fate was confirmed.

“Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Hamilton last suffered such a lowly grid spot when he crashed out of qualifying in Brazil in 2017.

“That is seriously painful,” said Rosberg, who endured a fractious relationship with Hamilton as they duelled for the title.

The German, who eventually beat Hamilton to the championship in 2016 before retiring only days later, added in commentary for Sky Sports: “It was really unnecessary to push the limit and as a seven-time world champion that is a mistake which should be avoidable.

“He broke three metres too late, and he had the brake balance too far forward. He lost at least four tenths which easily would have put him in Q2. That’s a disaster.”

Aside from his strong showing in Saturday’s 19-lap dash to the chequered flag – assisted by his impressive display in Friday’s rain-hit qualifying session – this has been Hamilton’s worst-ever start to a season.

The British driver, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, failed to finish inside the top six at the opening four rounds of the campaign. And his bleak result leaves him staring at another underwhelming race.

Addressing Rosberg’s remarks, Hamilton said: “It wasn’t one of my best qualifying laps. I don’t blame anything on the team.

“I’m very strong mentally. It’s not great, it’s not a mind-f*** at all. S*** happens, you know.

“Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. This car is on a knife edge so it can easily do what we did.”

Mercedes are desperately out of sorts and far removed from the all-conquering team which carried Hamilton to six of his seven record-equalling titles.

Russell will be the lead car when the lights go out for Sunday’s 57-lap race. He qualified only eighth.

Over at Red Bull, it was business as usual as Verstappen followed up his convincing sprint win with a fifth straight pole.

The Dutchman, who is on course to take his fourth championship in as many seasons, saw off team-mate Sergio Perez as Red Bull secured a front-row lockout. It also marked the team’s 100th pole in F1.

Verstappen finished 0.322 seconds clear of Perez, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third, half-a-second back.

Lando Norris, who dropped from pole to finish a disappointing sixth in the sprint race, qualified fourth, one position ahead of Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished sixth and seventh respectively for Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton’s troubled start to the new season took another desperate twist on Saturday after he qualified a lowly 18th for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton earlier in the day had led the sprint race in Shanghai for eight laps before he had to settle for runner-up after he was overtaken by eventual winner Max Verstappen.

But less than four hours after Hamilton’s drive to second place – a result he described as his “best in a long time” – the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his speediest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone, leaving only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams’ Logan Sargeant behind him on the grid.

An exasperated Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton’s fate was confirmed.

“Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton, 39, over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Aside from his strong showing in Saturday’s 19-lap dash to the chequered flag, this has been Hamilton’s worst-ever start to a season.

The British driver, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, failed to finish inside the top six at the opening four rounds of the campaign. And his bleak result in qualifying here leaves him staring at another underwhelming result.

Carlos Sainz, the man who is giving up his seat at Ferrari for Hamilton next year, brought out a red flag in Q2 after he lost control of his Ferrari.

The Spaniard dropped his rear wheels on to the gravel on the exit of the final corner, sending him backwards into the wall on the opposing side of the track.

Sainz broke his front wing but he was able to limp back to the pits.

Max Verstappen denied Lewis Hamilton the first sprint win of his career after passing his rival to win in China on Saturday.

Hamilton started second, and rolled back the years at the Shanghai International Circuit by beating pole-sitter Lando Norris off the line, and taking control of the 19-lap charge to the chequered flag.

But Verstappen, who started fourth, ended Hamilton’s dream of re-entering the winner’s enclosure for the first time in 867 days when he blasted past the Mercedes driver on the ninth lap.

Verstappen crossed the line 13 seconds clear of Hamilton with Sergio Perez taking third.

Hamilton joined Norris to form an all-British front-row in something of a topsy-turvy grid following yesterday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

The seven-time world champion was quicker away from his marks than Norris, and as they entered the first corner, he was fractionally ahead of his compatriot.

Hamilton hugged the inside line of the long, right-handed first bend, with Norris desperately trying to remain at least on level terms.

But off the racing line, Norris struggled for grip, and he slid off the track, dropping back down the field to seventh.

Hamilton, who has endured the worst-ever start to a season in his misfiring Mercedes machine, was back in the lead of an F1 race, with Fernando Alonso tucked in behind and Verstappen being forced to fend off Carlos Sainz.

“Why is my battery flat,” yelled Verstappen as he struggled to make any impression on Alonso ahead.

For a moment, it looked as though Hamilton could be in a position to take the victory – his first of any sort in F1 since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on December 5, 2021, only for Verstappen to sensationally unlock the speed in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

On the seventh lap, Verstappen passed Alonso at the penultimate corner and then set about closing the 1.8-second gap to Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was immediately on the radio. “This thing won’t turn in the low-speed corners,” he bemoaned, with Verstappen taking a second out of his lead in just one lap.

At the start of lap nine, Verstappen was crawling all over the back of Hamilton’s mirrors in scenes reminiscent of their championship battle for the ages back in 2021.

Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington came on the intercom to tell Hamilton that Verstappen was behind.

“Leave me to it, man,” snapped Hamilton. “I can see him.”

Verstappen moved into Hamilton’s tow on the 210mph drag to the last-but one corner before jinking to the right of the Mercedes and launching his Red Bull up the inside.

Hamilton was unable to afford any sort of resistance and Verstappen made the move stick. He then demonstrated the speed of his Red Bull by establishing a two-second lead in just one lap.

Further back, and Alonso, 43 this summer, was commendably keeping a gaggle of faster cars behind.

But his resistance ended on a fascinating 16th lap which saw him go wheel-to-wheel with the Ferrari of Sainz.

Alonso and Sainz even banged wheels through the seventh corner with Perez able to sneak ahead of the duelling duo. Charles Leclerc followed through, too, as Alonso lost three places in one lap before diving into the pits with a front-right puncture. He later retired the car.

Sainz then appeared to force team-mate Leclerc off the road as they battled for fourth position in the closing stages.

“What the f***,” yelled Leclerc who managed to pass his team-mate a few corners later to finished fourth. Sainz crossed the line in fifth with Norris sixth.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton said he was pleased with the result.

“This is the best result I have had in a long time so I am super happy,” he said.

“This is a huge step and a huge improvement. The rain helped yesterday. The race was tough and if I started further back I would have struggled to make progress.”

Lewis Hamilton will make his Ferrari debut in Australia after Formula One’s bosses announced next season’s record-equalling 24-round calendar.

Hamilton, 39, is set to realise a childhood dream when he swaps Mercedes for Ferrari in 2025, with the seven-time world champion’s opening race to take place in Melbourne on March 16.

It will mark the first time since 2019 that the F1 season has kicked off at Albert Park after the following year’s scheduled opener was cancelled at the last minute amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

The 2025 campaign is due to end in Abu Dhabi on December 7, with the British Grand Prix – starting the first of its new 10-year contract extension at Silverstone – on July 6.

Triple world champion Max Verstappen has been vocal in his criticism at the ever-expanding length of the F1 schedule.

But for next season, at least, there will be no new additions to the calendar.

The campaign has started in Bahrain for the past four seasons, but with Ramadan staged throughout March in 2025, the rounds in the Gulf kingdom, and in Saudi Arabia, will be pushed back to April.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “2025 will be a special year as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Formula One World Championship, and it’s that legacy and experience that allows us to deliver such a strong calendar.

“Once again, we’ll visit 24 incredible venues around the world, delivering top-class racing, hospitality, and entertainment, which will be enjoyed by millions of fans worldwide.

“I would also like to pay tribute to our F1 teams and drivers, the heroes of our sport, and our fans around the world for continuing to follow Formula One with such incredible enthusiasm.”

After four rounds of the current season, Verstappen holds a 13-point championship lead in his bid to secure four consecutive world titles. The next race takes place in Shanghai a week on Sunday.

Full 2025 F1 calendar

March 16 – Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne)
March 23 – Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai)
April 6 – Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
April 13 – Bahrain Grand Prix (Sakhir)
April 20 – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Jeddah)
May 4 – Miami Grand Prix (Miami)
May 18 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Imola)
May 25 – Monaco Grand Prix (Monte Carlo)
June 1 – Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)
June 15 – Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal)
June 29 – Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)
July 6 – British Grand Prix (Silverstone)
July 27 – Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps)
August 3 – Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring)
August 31 – Dutch Grand Prix (Zandvoort)
September 7 – Italian Grand Prix (Monza)
September 21 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Baku)
October 5 – Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay)
October 19 – United States Grand Prix (Austin)
October 26 – Mexico City Grand Prix (Mexico City)
November 9 – Brazilian Grand Prix (Interlagos)
November 22 – Las Vegas Grand Prix (Las Vegas)
November 30 – Qatar Grand Prix (Lusail)
December 7 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina)

Fernando Alonso will remain in Formula One beyond his 45th birthday after agreeing a new multi-season deal with Aston Martin.

Double world champion Alonso, who will be 43 in July, had been linked with Mercedes and Red Bull – as replacements for Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen respectively.

But Aston Martin announced on Thursday that Alonso, whose current deal had been due to expire at the end of the year, has agreed new terms to remain with them until at least the end of 2026.

Both Mercedes, searching for a replacement for the Ferrari-bound Hamilton, and Red Bull – with Verstappen said to be unsettled at the scandal-hit Red Bull team – had been tracking Alonso’s next move.

And Alonso admitted: “I did speak with other people. It is normal when you enter negotiations that you need to balance the market and listen to everybody else.

“I will not be specific as to which team I spoke with because this is not important. When teams are searching for a driver, they touch base with everyone just to know their position. They always want to know everything and for me it was the same.

“Maybe more time was needed (by them), while with Aston Martin there was a clear desire to work together so that is why it was very easy to stay. I felt the most wanted by them. All the other conversations were just light, and never came to any conclusions.

“I will not wait to see if there is something happening and I can jump in. I will dictate my destiny, whether that is for good or for bad.”

Alonso will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix, and his new deal is set to make him comfortably the oldest F1 driver of the modern era.

Michael Schumacher was 43 when he retired for a second time in 2012, while Kimi Raikkonen was a year younger when he walked away from the sport in 2021.

“I love driving too much that I cannot stop at the moment,” added Alonso. “I breathe Formula One, I live Formula One, and I train and eat to drive Formula One cars.

“The moment hasn’t arrived that I need to change my lifestyle. I will not be happy sitting at home and watching Formula One races because I still feel I should be there.

“If one day I feel I am not motivated, or I am not in good shape, or I am not fast and sharp, I will be the first one to raise my hand and we will find a solution with Aston Martin.

“But I don’t see that coming for the next few years. Japan (on Sunday) was one of my best races ever, and that happened five days ago. Lewis will also be 40 in January, so at least I will not be the only one next year who is over 40.”

Alonso took the last of his two world titles in 2006, and has not won a race in more than a decade.

But the former Ferrari and McLaren man is still considered as one of the brightest stars of the F1 field.

Last year, in his first season at Aston Martin, he helped to transform the British team from also-rans to frontrunners. He took eight podiums and finished fourth in the championship.

Although Aston Martin have not been able to maintain that form, there is hope that the next major regulation change in 2026, which will see them partner with Honda – the Japanese manufacturer that has powered Red Bull to its recent successes – will allow Alonso to compete at the sharp end of the grid once more.

Alonso continued: “We have achieved so many highs here in such a short space of time. It is probably unprecedented in Formula One.

“This is only the beginning of the journey, so it could not be the end for me and Aston Martin.”

Lando Norris has dismissed suggestions from dominant Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez that they could struggle for pace in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen took pole position to continue his run of locking out the first spot on the grid so far this season, while Perez was just 0.066 seconds slower to secure his place on the front row.

Norris emerged from a pack of cars all running very similar times to take the place as best of the rest for McLaren on another Saturday where it was Red Bull who shone.

Despite a 27th qualifying one-two for the Red Bull team, both drivers were quick to point out they are not as happy with their longer race pace.

Having run with their race set-up in the final practice session ahead of qualifying, Verstappen complained: “So far, I haven’t been happy with my long runs. The pace wasn’t what I would have liked, so there’s a bit of a question mark going into tomorrow.

“Our race pace is still not too bad, but it’s not how I have been feeling in some of the races this year, last year, as comfortable, let’s say it like that.”

Perez, meanwhile, echoed the views of his team-mate: “Let’s see what we are able to do tomorrow,” he said.

“I don’t think we are looking great at the moment in our long run pace, but we’ve done some changes and hopefully that will translate into our race pace.”

However, Norris did not seem to buy the suggestions that Red Bull may have any sort of Sunday struggles.

“Obviously last year I was side by side with Max into turn one. So hopefully trying to redo that,” he said of his plans for the race.

“But it’s tricky. They’re quick. They complained about their race pace, but I don’t think they’ve had a bad race in the last four or five years, so I think they’re going to be good tomorrow.

“Of course we’ve got a lot of pressure from behind so we have to keep an eye on the mirrors. But at the same time I want to go forward and I think we have pace to stay where we are, so that’s my goal.

“That will be our target for tomorrow. But I think realistically, we’re still too far away to challenge them. They’re too quick for us. Yes, we are quicker in qualifying, but in the race, normally, they always pull away a bit more.

“So, I think we’ll be realistic. I’m always realistic when I say it. So I think our competition is with the guys behind and at the same time, I’ll do my best to push forward.”

Carlos Sainz won in Australia last time out and will start Sunday’s race fourth for Ferrari, with the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso fifth.

Oscar Piastri was sixth-fastest in the second McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are down in seventh and ninth respectively – with Mercedes later fined 5,000 euros for an unsafe pit-lane release of Russell.

Charles Leclerc is sandwiched between the pair, with home favourite Yuki Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.

Tsunoda scraped into the final session, eliminating RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo at the end of Q2 to the roar of the Suzuka crowd.

Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon also failed to make it through and will start 12-15th, respectively.

Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu were knocked out in Q1.

Lewis Hamilton may have only managed to qualify seventh for the Japanese Grand Prix but he insists his Mercedes has not felt better in three years.

The seven-time world champion will start from the fourth row at Suzuka, with team-mate George Russell in ninth.

While from the outside that would suggest Mercedes once again struggled with an underperforming car – like much of the past two years – Hamilton was in good spirits following Saturday’s qualifying.

Having lamented the gap to pole-sitter Max Verstappen over the team radio during the session, he had a more positive outlook in the aftermath.

“The car has been much nicer to drive this weekend… this is the nicest it has felt in three years,” he said.

“I think we did a really good job over the last week, just the analysis we’ve done at the factory to get the car into a sweet spot.

“This weekend it’s much more in the sweet spot and so I hope that continues in the following races. Then we’ve just got to add performance.

“I think we’ve got the car into a much nicer working window and so it’s been really enjoyable driving, it’s just the guys are just a little bit faster.”

Hamilton has amassed just eight points from the opening three races of the 2024 campaign and retired last time out in Australia.

The early signs are Mercedes face another year of chasing the fastest cars rather than challenging for victories – but the Briont, who will race for Ferrari from next year – feels things are starting to look up.

Asked if he believes Mercedes are now heading in the right direction, Hamilton replied: “I personally believe so.

“We were a second or just over a second off last year to the Red Bull and seven tenths is now better,” he added.

“I think what it’s giving us is I know exactly where the car is not strong enough, I can feel it in the car, and I know now to be tell them to ‘push in this particular area’. But I’m hoping the race will be stronger tomorrow.”

Mercedes were hit with a Euros5,000 (£4,290) fine for an unsafe pit lane release of Russell at the start of qualifying.

Russell will start the race from his lowest grid slot this season but he believes it will be a close battle with the cars in and around him.

“I think it’s just so tight out there between ourselves McLaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin,” he said.

“If you nail your lap you are up at the front of that pack, and if you don’t you will be at the back of that pack, we knew that this circuit was going to be a slight challenge for us. We know our limitation in the high-speed corners.”

Max Verstappen set the pace in final practice ahead of qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion retired last time out in Australia but he was once again top of the timesheets at Suzuka.

His time of one minute 29.563 was unmatched, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez getting closest to the championship leader but still having to settle for a gap of 0.269 seconds.

Mercedes lost both cars at the previous race but looked in good shape here as George Russell went third fastest with Lewis Hamilton next in line.

There was plenty of running in the hour-long session after both of Friday’s practices were affected – one by a red flag and the other by rain.

Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest with Lando Norris’ McLaren sixth and Australia’s race winner Carlos Sainz seventh for Ferrari.

His team-mate Charles Leclerc was down in 10th and was left fuming with his garage after the mistimed his final run on the track, cutting short his chances of improving.

Both Williams drivers were able to run after Logan Sargeant’s car was fixed following a big shunt on Friday – although the American was down in 19th place.

Page 1 of 36
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.