Lewis Hamilton rebuffed suggestions the 2023 season will be his final year in Formula One and is adamant he will be at Mercedes next season.

The seven-time champion is in the final year of his contract with the team, who are expected to be off the pace of rivals Red Bull in the hunt for the championship.

Speculation that Hamilton will walk away from the sport has persisted ever since a controversial conclusion to the 2021 season, when Max Verstappen pipped him to the title in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton returned to the grid for 2022, although Mercedes struggled and lost their constructors' championship crown to Red Bull, and is set for a 17th season in F1 in 2023.

The Brit is not set for a swansong, as he hit back at claims from former F1 drivers Jenson Button and Damon Hill that he will retire following the campaign.

"It is ultimately people creating rumours without facts, and it is never helpful. You would have thought that they [Hill and Button] would both know me by now," he told reporters ahead of the opening race of the season in Bahrain.

"I have been with Mercedes since I was 13, and last year we had a difficult year, but I am still here, and whether or not we have a difficult year this year, I will still be here.

"I am a fighter, and we fight as a team. I love the challenge of finding solutions and I still believe I am able to put the car in places that perhaps others are not able to. I love that challenge.

"Of course, I wish we started the season with a great car, but it is the journey that really counts."

Negotiations over a new contract for Hamilton are continuing, with the 38-year-old confident an agreement will be reached.

"There is no hold-up with our contract. I have always been very, very relaxed and I don't feel like I have to get it done right this second. I am in a very fortunate position," he added.

"It will get done when we are ready. I have a great relationship with Toto and with Mercedes and we fully support each other.

"I am really excited about the future together and really proud of the work we are doing, on and off the track and the potential of new things that we can do moving forward.

"We will get there, unless something catastrophic happens between me and Toto [team principal Wolff] and we get in the [boxing] ring, but other than that we are good."

Formula One returns this weekend with Red Bull clearly the team to beat after a dominant 2022 season.

Max Verstappen won his second straight drivers' championship but in far more comfortable fashion than the previous year when the most dramatic of finales saw Lewis Hamilton pipped.

And unlike in 2021, it was a double celebration for Red Bull as the team also took the constructors' title after a run of Mercedes triumphs.

But Red Bull's commanding campaign did not start as strongly as it finished, and hope of a repeat will encourage the chasing pack at this week's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both forced to retire at this event a year ago, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc controlled proceedings with pole position, the fastest lap and a race win.

Unfortunately for the Scuderia, it was not a sign of things to come.

Verstappen was back on the top step of the podium at the next race and soon disappeared into the distance.

That initial result was nothing out of the ordinary as Red Bull have only once won the first race in the calendar, back in 2011 when they took the first two.

Those slow starts clearly do not hamper Red Bull across the rest of the season, although they will hope to avoid a similar early setback this time and have both Verstappen and Perez off to a fast start.

Charles the chief threat

If Red Bull are to be beaten again this week, last year's victor Leclerc appears the man most likely to profit. In the past six races in Bahrain, he is the only man to secure pole twice. A third would make this his favourite event.

Meanwhile, podiums for both Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz would make Ferrari the first team to tally 800 in F1.

But Leclerc has been guarded on the merits of his SF-23 car, telling F1's Beyond the Grid podcast: "Sometimes I've had a car that feels good, and until you see the lap time, you're like, 'okay, this feels pretty good'. And then you have a very bad surprise watching the lap time. Sometimes it is the other way."

All eyes on Lewis

The driver of most interest this weekend might be the man who finished the season sixth last year. Lewis Hamilton vanished from contention, and while Mercedes' issues were the key factor, he also trailed new team-mate George Russell.

At the very least, Hamilton will expect to fight back and beat Russell this year.

Only in Abu Dhabi (10 points) and Great Britain (zero points) has Russell won fewer points than his 12 in four editions of the Bahrain GP, so the opportunity is there for Hamilton to forge an early lead.

Lewis Hamilton will be eager to put pressure on Mercedes team-mate George Russell and the rest of the grid as soon as the 2023 Formula One season begins.

That is the view of Hamilton's former team-mate Jenson Button after a 2022 campaign where Mercedes surprisingly finished third in the constructors' championship, 244 points behind winners Red Bull.

Hamilton was sixth in the drivers' standings, two places and 35 points behind Russell in the latter's first season with the team.

Russell recorded the only Mercedes win of the season in the penultimate race in Sao Paulo, though Hamilton also produced a strong finish that included a run of three consecutive second-place berths.

After a rare campaign where the seven-time world champion finished behind his team-mate in the championship and went the whole campaign without a race win, Button is expecting a fast start.

"I think he'll start this year flat out," former world champion Button told Sky Sports about Hamilton.

"He's going to be on it from the word go.

"I look forward to seeing that - it's going to put a lot of pressure on George Russell, but I think it's a good pairing and I look forward to that fight.

"Mercedes have given him a winning car for so many years.

"Last year they obviously didn't, but the car did win a race, so you'd say at the end of the year, they were strong.

"And I think Lewis was on it. His performances were very consistent through mid to end of season, very, very quick."


The new season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5.

Ahead of the campaign at the team's car launch last week, Hamilton, 38, insisted he expects to sign a new deal, with his current contract due to expire at the end of the season.

Team boss Toto Wolff reiterated that confidence, but Button warned that situation could change if Mercedes produce a car that is uncompetitive once more.

Button added: "It's something we all go through at some point in our career and it's a reason a lot of people retire – because they're not in a winning car any more.

"That's why I left. You can deal with the pressure you put yourself under and the calendar if you're in a winning car. 

"When you're not, it's like, 'you know what, I've had enough, I want to get out'."

Lewis Hamilton could be Formula One's equivalent of Tom Brady by racing into his 40s, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, endured a disappointing 2022 campaign in which he failed to win a race during a season for the first time in his career.

At 38-years-old, Hamilton's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2023 season, but Wolff feels Hamilton could view the longevity of NFL star Brady as inspiration to continue racing beyond that deal.

Brady retired at the age of 45 this month, bringing an end to a stunning career that saw him win seven Super Bowl championships, with three of those coming after he turned 39.

Wolff believes Hamilton can follow Brady's example, telling reporters: "His age, 38, plays no role for this next contract.

"If you look at how well top athletes have pushed the boundaries - I'm thinking about Tom Brady, still throwing the ball at age 44, 45 - the age plays no role."

Wolff is confident Hamilton will pen a new deal soon, explaining: "In terms of the contractual situation, we have always found good solutions and for the other side, Mercedes are the place he wants to be.

"These things have never been contentious. Nothing is dragging on. The alignment is there. This will be a journey that will continue."

Hamilton echoed his principal's confidence on a fresh deal, and added his decision would not hinge on whether Mercedes can provide a car capable of competing against the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari in the new season.

"I am planning to stay a little bit longer," Hamilton said. "I don't feel like I need [the team] to prove [anything] to me. We have proved time and time again over the years that we have strength in depth. You don't lose that ability.

"We are continuing to try and improve our processes, there is the best harmony in the team I have seen these years.

"We have a real fresh group of engineers in the team. It is an exciting time and I don't plan on being anywhere else."

Hamilton also vowed to continue to be vocal on key issues in the face of the FIA's update to its International Sporting Code, in which Formula One drivers will be required to obtain prior written permission to make "political statements".

Hamilton has previously competed in a rainbow pride helmet in races in the Middle East, while he also wore a T-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix protesting against the death of American Breonna Taylor.

He says he will continue to make a stand on political issues despite the FIA's rule change, stating: "Nothing will stop me from speaking on the things I am passionate about.

"The sport has a responsibility to speak out and create awareness on important topics, particularly as we are travelling to different places. So nothing changes.

"It would be silly to say I would want to get penalty points for speaking out on things but I am still going to be speaking my mind."

Mercedes have revealed the new W14 car tasked with getting them back to the top of Formula One in the 2023 season, with Lewis Hamilton insisting it shows they "mean business".

The design is a return to a predominantly black car, with Mercedes using minimal paint in an effort to reduce weight.

Mercedes surprisingly finished third in the constructors' championship last season, 244 points behind winners Red Bull.

"We've redesigned, optimised, and innovated so many parts of the car and that is impressive," Hamilton said. "And I love the new livery. It says: 'we mean business'."

Hamilton finished the season sixth in the drivers' championship, behind team-mate George Russell (fourth), but the seven-time world champion sounded confident about the new car giving him a chance of challenging again this year.

"I love being part of a team that is working towards a common goal," he said. "I always believe I can get better. I always love that challenge, the physical and mental element, having to deep dive and extract more performance from yourself and the people around you.

"The car is always changing, there's always new tools, and I love that. I'm planning to stay here a little bit longer."

Team boss Toto Wolff is also confident Mercedes can challenge Red Bull and Ferrari again, though admitted they are "playing catch-up."

"Our hopes and expectations are always to be capable of fighting for a world championship," Wolff said. "However, our competitors were very strong last year, and we are playing catch-up.

"Racing at the front requires resilience, teamwork, and determination. We face up to every challenge, we put the team first, and we will leave no stone unturned in the chase for every millisecond.

"This year, we are going all in to get back in front."

Wolff also admitted faults with last season's car, which led to focus on how the weight could be reduced to maximise performance.

"We were overweight last year," Wolff added. "This year we have tried to figure out where we can squeeze out every single gram. So now, history repeats itself."

The new season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5.

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen expects Lewis Hamilton to challenge him for the title next year "if he has the car to do it".

Hamilton, a seven-time drivers' championship winner, was blighted by car issues with Mercedes last season as he failed to win a race for the first time in his career.

Red Bull star Verstappen tallied a record-breaking 15 wins to finish 146 points ahead of closest rival Charles Leclerc in a dominant title-winning 2022 campaign.

But the Dutchman does not envisage a third straight F1 crown coming with such relative ease in 2023.

"He's been one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport, so for sure if he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again," Verstappen told Sky Sports of Hamilton.

He added: "But that's the same for George [Russell], it's the same for Charles, it's the same for Lando [Norris] – if you give them the car that's capable of winning the championship, they can.

"But it's also about when you have the car then the pressure comes you cannot afford big mistakes.

"That's a bit of a different pressure you have but I'm confident once these guys get onto a roll like that it is all possible, they all have talent to do so."

Red Bull cruised to the constructors' championship last year, winning the title for the first time since 2013.

However, the team have been hit with wind tunnel testing restrictions and CFD limitations after they were judged to have breached financial regulations.

The full impact of those punishments is unclear but a reduction in time allowed in the wind tunnel could lead Red Bull to fall behind their rivals in aerodynamic developments.

"You always try to go for it, but I don't know if we're going to be good enough," Verstappen added.

"Of course as a team we believe we are, we are very motivated, we come off the back of a very strong year and we are working flat out to try and achieve that."

Ford will return to F1 this year for the first time since 2004 and partner with Red Bull from 2026.

Verstappen cannot wait for the partnership after seeing success in a collaboration with Honda, having also witnessed first-hand the struggles with the Renault combination.

"I signed twice without actually fully knowing what was coming in terms of engines, and people said maybe that's a crazy thing to do," he continued.

"I believed in the project and I believed that everyone involved would make the right decisions for the team.

"The first one they made going with Honda, I think that worked out really well and now for the future this is the next step – Ford in 2026 – and I believe in it.

"If we all believe in it, I'm sure we can create something really cool."

Williams have named James Vowles as their team principal for the 2023 Formula One campaign, prising him from his role as Mercedes' strategy director.

Williams finished bottom of the constructors' championship standings in 2022, the fourth time they have done so in the last five seasons.

That led Jost Capito to step down as team principal after two years at the helm, and Vowles will replace him on February 20 after being released from his contract with Mercedes.

Vowles has been with Mercedes since the team's 2010 inception, helping them win eight consecutive constructors' titles between 2014 and 2021 before they were usurped by Red Bull last year.

"I cannot wait to start with Williams Racing," Vowles told the team's website. "It's an honour to join a team with such an incredibly rich heritage.

"The team is an icon of our sport, one I greatly respect, and I am very much looking forward to the challenge.

"Williams Racing have placed their faith and trust in me, and I will do the same in return. The team has tremendous potential, and our journey together starts in a matter of weeks."

Williams' 2023 car will be launched on February 6, with newcomer Logan Sargeant set to partner Alex Albon in the upcoming campaign.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who previously worked at Williams, backed Vowles to make a success of his new role.

Wolff said: "While we are naturally sad to be saying goodbye to such a capable member of the team, I have no doubts whatsoever that he has all the necessary skills to become a fantastic team principal in Formula One.

"We wish him every success and are delighted that he will take this next step in his career with Williams, a strong technical partner of ours and one that has a place close to my own heart."

Mick Schumacher's move to Mercedes in a third-driver role is a "win-win situation", former Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher believes.

The younger Schumacher, son of racing great Michael Schumacher and nephew of Ralf, was left without a seat on the Formula One grid for 2023 following Haas' decision not to hand him a fresh deal – instead opting to bring in Nico Hulkenberg.

Schumacher then brought an end to his four-year allegiance with Ferrari, where he was a member of the young driver academy, which freed him up to join Mercedes for the 2023 campaign.

He will serve as an understudy to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell next year, stepping up into a racing role should either of the pair be unable to feature, and Ralf feels it is the perfect fit.

"I think it's a win-win situation for both sides," he told Sky Sports in Germany.

"One, for the team they have a great driver, if they need a replacement short term, if one of the drivers for some reason cannot drive. And the next is of course that he is now in the team where he can learn a lot, first of all through a new structure, a big structure.

"For me, I think it's a great opportunity. Because he now has an experienced team, with two experienced team-mates, and above all, for a change, a team that is happy that he is there."

A return to the grid in a full racing capacity is still the aim for Mick Schumacher and, with Audi competing as a works team from 2025, Ralf expects the German manufacturer to be interested in his nephew's services.

 "He has the opportunity to develop further. He deserves and belongs a chance - actually of driving a car - but at least as a replacement for test drivers and as a third drive," he added.

"I think that's a great thing, but I could also imagine that Audi [could be interested] since there aren't really any German drivers on the market.

"But that's still a long way off from that point of view. I think where it is now it's in perfect hands and the rest will tell. The nice thing is that from the age of 24 I think he will have a great chance again, no matter where."

George Russell has faith Mercedes will be much more competitive next season, believing they "just got it wrong" this year.

The Silver Arrows had won eight consecutive constructors' championships heading into 2022, also taking the drivers' title in seven of those seasons – including six for Lewis Hamilton.

But Russell's move to Mercedes coincided with a dismal year for their car, unable to match the pace of Max Verstappen's Red Bull.

Mercedes were third in the constructors' championship, with Russell fourth in the driver standings and Hamilton down in sixth.

That is not a theme Russell expects to continue into 2023, however, confident Mercedes are still capable of producing a title-winning car.

"They haven't forgotten how to build a fast race car," Russell told BBC Radio Norfolk. "We just got it wrong this year.

"We got the philosophy wrong. We went down a route which turned out to be the wrong route.

"Sometimes it takes you a long time to dig yourself out of that hole. Now I feel we've dug ourselves out of that hole and we're building on top of that.

"We are a step behind Red Bull and Ferrari and we've got a lot of catching up to do – but we're definitely going to be in a much stronger position from race one next year than we were this year."

Russell ended his wait for a first career win at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in the penultimate race of the year, but he is hungry for more.

"When you join a team like Mercedes, you're expecting victories," he said. "I felt ready to fight for race wins and championships this year, but you've just got to manage your expectations.

"You've got to change those sights slightly, and it's been really intriguing for me this year, seeing how the team deal with this situation.

"I'm here for the long haul, and even though I wanted victories and [to be] fighting for that championship in 2022, as a team these struggles are going to set us up for the coming years.

"I hope I look back in 10 years' time and say the 2022 season was a positive one in the journey."

Mick Schumacher has joined Mercedes to become the Formula One team's reserve driver.

The son of seven-time F1 world champion Michael, Schumacher lost his 2023 seat with Haas to Nico Hulkenberg after finishing 16th in the 2022 driver standings.

Mercedes have recruited the 23-year-old to be the back-up for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Schumacher's legendary father spent three years with the Brackley-based team during his illustrious F1 career.

Daniel Ricciardo had been linked with the position, but Red Bull confirmed he was returning to the team as their third driver having left for Renault at the end of the 2018 season.

Nyck de Vries, who was Mercedes' reserve driver last season, will drive full-time for AlphaTauri in 2023.

Schumacher said: "I am thrilled to be part of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team as their reserve driver for 2023.

"I am committed to give it my all to contribute to their performance in this very competitive and professional environment.

"I take this as a new start, and I am just excited and grateful to Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal and CEO] and everybody involved for putting their trust in me.

"F1 is such a fascinating world, and you never stop learning, so I look forward to absorbing more knowledge and putting in all my efforts for the benefit of the Mercedes team."

Wolff said: "Mick is a talented young driver and we’re delighted to have him join the Team.

"He is a hard worker, has a calm and methodical approach and is still hungry to learn and improve as a driver. These are all important qualities.

"We also know that with two years of experience racing in Formula One under his belt, he will be ready to step into the car at short notice to replace either Lewis or George, should that need arise."

Lewis Hamilton described the 2022 season as a "team-building exercise" for Mercedes, having failed to finish the final race of the season.

The seven-time world champion a difficult campaign this year, having struggled to compete for race victories and Mercedes finding themselves way off the pace of the likes of Red Bull, who waltzed to victory in both championships.

In Abu Dhabi, an initially strong start from Hamilton saw him leapfrog Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to fourth but he encountered issues after bouncing over a curb off track.

Hamilton was eventually forced to retire with power failure in an end that summed up the difficulties he encountered throughout the year, though he hopes the team can take lessons from their woes into 2023.

"Ultimately, we started with a car that we didn't want and we finished with a car that we didn't want," he told Sky Sports.

"We were stuck with it, we kept working away to improve it but the fundamental issues have been there all the way to the end, as you saw this weekend.

"It's been more of a team-building exercise this year and I'm very proud of the team. I'm very grateful for everybody who has continued to push.

"We have these next couple of weeks where we will be back at the factory, we'll get to see everybody. While we won't be celebrating a championship, we'll be celebrating them still for their hard work and efforts.

"I hope that the struggles this year really provide us with the tools and the strength to fight for many more championships moving forward."

A DNF in Abu Dhabi ensured Hamilton would finish a Formula One season without a race win for the first time in his career.

Max Verstappen claimed a record third straight victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc edged Sergio Perez for second at Formula One's season-ending event.

The Red Bull pair dominated the headlines in Sao Paulo last Sunday after Verstappen refused to allow Perez to overtake to aid his battle with Leclerc in the drivers' championship.

Verstappen became the first driver to win three consecutive races at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, but the Brazil decision came back to haunt Red Bull as Leclerc held off Perez to claim second.

That saw the Ferrari driver beat Perez to second in the drivers' championship, while Lewis Hamilton ended the 2022 season without victory for the first time in his career after late Mercedes car failure and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel signed off with a point.

Sao Paulo winner George Russell suffered a five-second penalty after an unsafe release in the pits, before Fernando Alonso retired on lap 28 due to problems with his Alpine car.

Red Bull decided to pit Perez on lap 34, handing second to Leclerc, before the Mexican eventually battled past Hamilton to move into third with 11 laps remaining.

Mechanical issues for Hamilton saw the Mercedes star forced to withdraw on lap 56, while Ferrari opted to keep Leclerc on the same hard tyres with a one-stop strategy throughout.

That decision proved rewarding as Leclerc held off Perez to finish behind 15-race winner Verstappen as Ferrari secured second in both the drivers' and constructors' championship behind Red Bull.

Hamilton claims unwanted record

Hamilton experienced a season to forget as he and Mercedes battled with car issues – no more so than on Sunday – and underwhelming performances against the dominant Red Bull.

The seven-time world champion boasts the most wins in history at Abu Dhabi (five) but was unable to draw on that experience as he finished without a win or pole position this season amid a frustrating campaign.

Vettel bows out

Four-time F1 champion Vettel announced in July he would retire at the end of the 2022 season, with the last event in Abu Dhabi acting as his final swansong.

The German, who was heard questioning his team's strategy on radio, could only manage 10th in his final outing but ended with the most points in history for Aston Martin (80) after his 299th career race.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +8.771 seconds
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +10.093s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +24.892s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +35.888s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +56.234s
7. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +57.2402
8. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:16.931s
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:23.268s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1:23.898s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 454
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 308
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 305
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 275
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 246

Constructors

1. Red Bull 759
2. Ferrari 554
3. Mercedes 515
4. Alpine 173
5. McLaren 159

Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to a final race in the Mercedes W13 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, admitting it is a car he never wants to drive again.

Having fought Max Verstappen all the way for the title last year, only losing in controversial circumstances in the final moments of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton has not been a threat in 2022 as the Red Bull star waltzed to a second consecutive championship.

Instead, Hamilton was battling with 'porpoising' issues early in the campaign and, after some respite from the issue following the mid-season break, he saw those problems emerge again in Saturday's qualifying session.

Mercedes' campaign has been a frustrating one for Hamilton, and he is eager to bring his spell at the wheel of this particular car to a close.

"We definitely weren't expecting to see such a big gap, but we are losing 0.6secs on the straight," Hamilton told the BBC.

"Kind of reminiscent of some of the previous races before, like Austin. And bouncing is back, so that's not been easy.

"I am looking forward to the end of Tuesday, which is the last time I have to drive this thing. I don't ever plan to drive this one again. It won't be one of the ones I request to have in my contract.

"We have some downforce. We just need a much more efficient car and everybody in the team knows exactly what are the problems and where we have gone wrong, so I'm pretty confident they are not going to build the next car with any of those characteristics."

A disappointing showing in qualifying leaves Hamilton fifth on the grid for Sunday's race, ahead of team-mate George Russell. It makes the experienced Briton highly likely to finish the 2022 season without a race win – which would be the first time in his career he has gone without.

Team principal Toto Wolff has insisted the lack of a win is not something that has been in the mind of Hamilton.

"He says that the one victory a year isn't really a record that bothers him," Wolff said. "If I'm trying to put myself in his shoes, where I was before Brazil, it didn't particularly bother me whether we would win a race this season, because all our eyes are already on next year.

"But having won one, it felt pretty good. At least nobody could say you didn't win a race."

Russell got that win last week, with Hamilton taking second place.

Looking at setting up seven-time champion Hamilton for a title tilt in 2023, and banishing this season's winless run, Wolff said: "I don't think this particular record is an important one for him, but we need to provide him with a car next year in which he can fight for victories and championships. That's most important and he knows that."

Hamilton heads into next season, his last contracted campaign with Mercedes, level with Michael Schumacher for the most career world titles in Formula One.

Sunday's Abu Dhabi race sees the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez on the front row, followed by the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, with the Mercedes cars occupying row three.

Lewis Hamilton is "not concerned" about racing against Max Verstappen in future despite the two clashing in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.

After a red flag on the opening lap in Sao Paulo, the restart saw the two familiar foes make contact heading into the second corner, forcing both off the track.

The incident dropped Hamilton from second to eighth, while Verstappen required a new front wing.

The world champion was handed a five-second time penalty for his part in the crash, which was reminiscent of a number of battles between the pair in their thrilling title battle last season.

Verstappen blamed his rival after the race, which Hamilton's team-mate George Russell went on to win while the seven-time world champion followed up in second to earn a Mercedes one-two.

"It cost him the race win and it gave me five seconds," Verstappen told Sky Sports. "It wouldn't have mattered anything for my race.

"I thought we could race quite well together but clearly the intention was not there to race."

Hamilton responded in the post-race press conference, saying: "I am not concerned.

"I think it's natural when you have the success and the numbers on your chest that you become a bit of a target.

"But it's okay, it's nothing that I've not dealt with before."

The clash with Hamilton was not Verstappen's sole controversy from the race, after he refused to hand sixth place to Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who called Verstappen's decision "disappointing" with the Mexican battling Charles Leclerc for second place in the drivers' championship.

George Russell was lauded by team-mate Lewis Hamilton after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, with the first-time Formula One race winner left "speechless" by his success.

Having won Saturday's sprint race, Russell led from the start in an eventful race on Sunday, coming out on top after two restarts following safety cars at the Interlagos Circuit. 

Russell had to fend off Hamilton – who had earlier clashed with Max Verstappen but come away largely unscathed and unpunished – after the second safety car, but there was no bad blood between the Mercedes duo at the end.

"What an amazing feeling," said Russell after sealing Mercedes' first win of the season. "Just a huge thank you to the whole team for making this possible. 

"It has been an emotional rollercoaster this season. This was a tough race, I felt in control.

"Lewis was super-fast and when I saw the Safety Car, I thought this is going to be a really difficult end, he put me under so much pressure.

"I am speechless. On the in lap, all of these memories start flooding back, starting with my mum and dad at go-karting and going through to all of the support I have had from the rest of my family, my girlfriend, my trainer, my manager.

"The list is endless. I can't thank them all enough, I am super proud."

Hamilton said: "A huge congratulations to George. What an amazing drive he did today.

"He did an amazing qualifying yesterday, so he truly deserves it. To my team, so proud of everyone back at the factory and here. This is an incredible result. 

"We’ve worked so hard through this year to get a 1-2 and to get a win, and so this is hugely deserved by everybody so a huge thank you."

On his collision with old rival Verstappen, who received a five-second time penalty, Hamilton added: "What can I say, you know how it is with Max."

The harmony in the Mercedes camp was not replicated in the other teams. 

While Red Bull's Sergio Perez was left infuriated by Verstappen, who refused to hand sixth place back to the Mexican after failing to overtake Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc also wanted Ferrari to concede Carlos Sainz's place on the podium to boost his chances of finishing second in the world championship.

Leclerc will now head into the final race in Abu Dhabi on level points with Perez.

"I think we can be happy with that," said Sainz. "It is a shame that Mercedes are so quick but congratulations to George."

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