Max Verstappen recovered from a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to prevail and ensure he will start Sunday's race in first.

The Tifosi at Imola are hoping for a weekend-long celebration amid Ferrari's resurgence, led by Charles Leclerc, in 2022.

He was on course to give them something to cheer in the sprint, getting past pole-sitter Verstappen and, for most of the 21 laps, looking set to claim the maximum eight points.

But Leclerc's front right tyre grained in the final laps as Verstappen closed quickly in an impressive Red Bull, the reigning world champion retaking the lead on the penultimate lap to claim victory.

Leclerc extended his championship lead to 40 points as Mercedes' George Russell finished outside the eight points places on another dismal day for the Silver Arrows, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz moved into second in the drivers' standing as he took fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

An abundance of wheelspin at the start saw Verstappen surrender top spot to Leclerc and he was not close to the Ferrari at a safety car restart following a collision between Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

But, as Leclerc's right front faded, Verstappen struck a blow for Red Bull as he got himself within a second at the DRS zone on the start-finish straight and swept around the outside of the Ferrari into the Tamburello chicane.

Perez got himself up from seventh to third while Sainz improved from 10th to fourth after his crash in qualifying, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo claiming fifth and sixth.

The final points places went to Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Haas' Kevin Magnussen, with Russell and Lewis Hamilton non-factors who will start 11th and 14th respectively.

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton said "each weekend is a rescue" after Mercedes' dismal start to the Formula One season continued with a disappointing qualifying session ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished 13th during an incident-strewn, weather-affected afternoon at Imola on Friday, missing out on Q1.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell, meanwhile, will be in 11th for Saturday's sprint race, which Max Verstappen will start at the front of the grid.

It is the first time Mercedes have had both cars fail to progress from Q2 since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

They were unfortunate, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz crashing as rain started to fall to end the session prematurely, though it seemed unlikely the Silver Arrows would have made it into Q3 regardless.

Mercedes sit second in the constructors' standings after the opening three races of the season but are 39 points adrift of leaders Ferrari, whose championship-leading Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row on Saturday.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are just 10 points behind Mercedes, and Hamilton lamented a difficult day on the track.

"It wasn't a great session," the seven-time world champion told Sky Sports. "Came here with optimism and everyone is working hard at the factory, but it is disappointing.

"I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things we should have done, but we didn't. We will work as hard as we can to move up in the sprint race.

"We will just keep working. It is what it is. Each weekend is a rescue."

Reigning champion Verstappen, meanwhile, secured his first pole position of the season, albeit he needs to maintain that in the sprint race to start at the front on Sunday.

He said: "It was tricky out there with the dry/rain. It was very slippery. It was hectic, a long qualifying but of course in the end happy to be here. It is an amazing track and it really punishes you if you make a mistake.

"I am really pleased with pole. It will be different weather at the weekend but a good start.

"Our first three races didn't go to plan, but we will try to have a good weekend here."

Lando Norris spun into the barriers to end Q3 – and the session as a whole – early, but the McLaren driver will start in third place on Saturday.

"I am happy I am top three which is quite a surprise for us," Norris said. "There was a chance at least for us to go forwards even more. The car was feeling good and I was feeling confident. A shame it ended like that, but I am happy.

Leclerc, meanwhile, rued making an error in Q3 as he had to settle for second.

"It was very tricky, especially on the slicks. There were quite a lot of wet patches, and it was all about putting the laps in and waiting for Q3 to put it together," Leclerc explained. "It is frustrating because when it counts in Q3 I made the wrong choice."

Lewis Hamilton is excited to be a part of Martin Broughton's consortium looking to purchase Chelsea.

Hamilton, 37, has earned nearly $500million in his Formula 1 career, and is teaming up with a number of wealthy businessmen and women – including Serena Williams – as one of three remaining bids for the club.

Hamilton and Williams will reportedly be chipping in $10m each in the offer, after plenty of discussion between the two sporting legends, as well as personal phone calls from Broughton.

Speaking to the media ahead of this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy, Hamilton was overjoyed at the prospect of being involved with football at the highest level, and said his allegiance to Arsenal is no hindrance.

"I’ve been a football fan since I was a kid," he said. "I played since I was a kid, from four to 17 in teams every year.

"I played every year through childhood and went to numerous games, when I was young. I used to play football as a kid around the corner and I really wanted to fit in. I was the only kid of colour there.

"All the kids supported someone different, and I switched between these teams, and when I’d get home my sister would hit me, saying you have to support Arsenal. At five, six years old I supported Arsenal, but my uncle Terry is a big Blues fan, so I’ve been to so many games to watch Chelsea and Arsenal play. 

"Ultimately, [I’m] a sporting fan and Chelsea are one of the biggest clubs in the world. When I heard about this I thought, ‘Wow – what a great opportunity to be a part of'."

Hamilton went on to discuss his role in Williams' decision, confirming the two had discussed it together.

"We did speak about it, we were constantly in touch," he said. "She asked me my thoughts, and I told her I’ll be a part of it, and she decided to join.

"We were contacted and Sir Martin spoke to me on the phone, explaining his and his team’s goals if they were to win the bid – which was incredibly exciting, and very much aligned with my values. 

"When I was younger I was trying to actually play for a team – I tried out for Stevenage – but I ended up following racing. I could have only ever dreamed of being a part of the team, so that’s for me the most exciting thing."

Carlos Sainz has penned a contract extension with Ferrari to take the Formula One driver through the end of the 2024 season.

The Spaniard, who originally joined the Italian outfit for the 2021 season and finished fifth in last year's world drivers' championship with a best finish of second at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Following a bright start to the new campaign, he has now been handed a renewed deal to take him through the next two years.

"I am very happy to have renewed my contract with Scuderia Ferrari," Sainz said upon confirmation of his extension on Thursday. "I have always said that there is no better Formula 1 team to race for.

"After over a year with them, I can confirm that putting on this race suit and representing this team is unique and incomparable. 

"My first season at Maranello was solid and constructive, with the whole group progressing together. The result of all that work has been clear to see so far season."

In his first season at the team, Sainz posted four podium finishes – double what he had achieved across the six seasons prior in F1.

Back-to-back finishes on the steps across the first two races of the new campaign, before a retirement in Australia, means he sits third in the drivers' standings so far this term.

He is still chasing a maiden win, however, and sits seventh on the all-time list for most races without a victory in the sport, with 144 under his belt.

"I feel strengthened by this renewed show of confidence in me and now I can’t wait to get in the car, to do my best for Ferrari and to give its fans plenty to cheer about," Sainz added.

"The F1-75 is proving to be a front-runner, which can allow me to chase my goals on track, starting with taking my first Formula 1 win."

Sainz will hope to make it three podium finishes in four races when he heads to Imola this weekend for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc will always receive huge support in Italy as long as he turns out in the red of Ferrari, but this week at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix might just be extra special.

Leclerc leads the Formula One drivers' championship after a stunning start to the new season, winning in Bahrain and Australia either side of a second-placed finish in Saudi Arabia.

The Monegasque is a massive 34 points clear of nearest challenger George Russell, but there are added points on offer this weekend with the return of the sprint race.

Leclerc should not be daunted, though, for this is a potentially record-breaking start to the year.

Having recorded the fastest lap at each of the first three grands prix, Leclerc could become the first ever driver to achieve four in a row from the start of an F1 season.

Kimi Raikkonen in 2008, then of Ferrari, was the last driver to set four fastest laps in four races at any stage of the year.

On this form, perhaps Leclerc will simply see the sprint race as something else he can conquer. Australia saw his first career Grand Slam, following up pole position with the fastest lap and a victory while leading from start to finish. Each of his four wins to date have come from pole.

Ferrari will be looking to move ahead of Williams for wins at Imola, with their joint-record eight so far contributing to a team-high 27 in Italy.

If Leclerc does not take the top step of the podium, the Scuderia will hope Carlos Sainz can get back on track, having retired in Melbourne following a team-record 24 consecutive finishes to start his Ferrari career.

Hamilton's time to shine?

At odds with Leclerc's joy, this has been a year to forget so far for perennial contender Lewis Hamilton, back in fifth with a single podium and no wins to his name.

But the sprint race is where he comes to life, having last year made up six places across the three Saturday events – level with Esteban Ocon for the most of any driver.

And even with Mercedes badly lacking the pace that put them on pole in the past two races at Imola, Hamilton has continued to show his class behind the wheel this year.

Only Yuki Tsunoda (six) has made up more places over the first laps of races this season than Hamilton's four.

Should he somehow manage to get a fastest lap out of his ailing Silver Arrow, Hamilton would become the first driver to have three in a row at Imola since Michael Schumacher between 2003 and 2005.

Frustration for Max

Defending champion Max Verstappen won at Imola in 2021 but could be forgiven for arriving in Italy in a downbeat mood having failed to finish two of three races so far this year, retiring in Australia.

With Sergio Perez also failing to finish once, Red Bull have had three such disappointing performances through three grands prix, having only had six cars fail to see the checkered flag in 22 races last season.

Should they finally get their act together, Red Bull could also make history with a fastest lap. They remain tied with Lotus on 76 for the most ever in F1.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 71
2. George Russell (Mercedes) 37
3. Carlo Sainz (Ferrari) 33
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 30
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 28

Constructors

1. Ferrari 104
2. Mercedes 65
3. Red Bull 55
4. McLaren 24
5. Alpine 22

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes the team's Renault power unit is within 10 brake horsepower of the best on the grid.

A strong start to the 2022 Formula One season has seen Alpine score points in each of the first three races.

Esteban Ocon has finished in the points in every race, though Fernando Alonso has failed to do so in each of the last two events, suffering misfortune in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

After struggling with engine performance last season, the team at Renault's Viry-Chatillon powertrain division concentrated on delivering a major upgrade for 2022.

Szafnauer has been impressed with the work they have done, the strength of this year's engine carrying extra significance because of a development freeze in place until the end of 2025.

"We think we've made a step on the power unit," Szafnauer said. "And we're within probably 10bhp of the best, and somewhere in the middle.

"I think Viry have done a brilliant job. And it's up to us now to keep developing the car.

"So that [the development freeze] allows us to work closer with our power unit team to make some improvements that we might be able to make with architecture changes on the chassis.

"Some other things that are still free to us. But also to now focus with what we have to improve on the chassis for the future."

Alonso was forced to retire in Saudi Arabia after a water pump failure led his engine to overheat, with Alpine unable to save that unit.

He was on a lap that may have put him in contention for pole in Melbourne, only for an oil pressure drop to force his engine to shut down in Q3.

The two-time world champion was last among the 17 drivers to finish the race, having seen several strategy calls backfire.

"It was O-ring on an oil seal," said Szafnauer of Alonso's qualifying failure. "The O-ring fretted, the oil leaked out.

"We have a fail-safe mode to try to save the engine, so when you see a drop in oil pressure, the fail-safe mode kicked in. And that's what happened. So the fix was an O-ring change."

F1 returns to action in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend at Imola, where Ocon and Alonso finished ninth and 10th respectively last year.

Formula Woman Driver, Sara Misir, is slated to compete at Radical Invasion 2022 on Easter Monday as local Motor sporting action returns to Dover Raceway in St. Ann. 

Dubbed ‘Radical Invasion,’ the meet is slated to get underway at 9 am and will feature some 80 racers competing throughout the day across their various classes. 

Misir will participate in the Modified Production 3 category. 

“We haven’t had local racing at Dover in over two years, so I’m just looking forward to the great atmosphere and seeing local fans again. I’ve missed the racing community, the vendors and just the overall vibe of being at Dover. I look forward to setting a new personal best on the track and having a great race day,” she said. 

Misir, who now races with the Formula Women’s team in the GT Cup Championships in the UK, recently emerged as one of four drivers to compete in the series after recording the second-fastest time from a pool of over 75 drivers. 

The RJRGLEANER Sports Foundation Awards recently recognized Misir as a 2021 motorsports athlete of the year. 

Artem Severiukhin has apologised for any offence caused after the teenage karting driver gave an apparent Nazi salute on the podium on Sunday, which led to the termination of his racing contract.

Despite labelling himself a "fool", Severiukhin has denied deliberately making the gesture, insisting "there was no support of Nazism or racism" intended by his action.

The teenager, who was representing Italy, rather than the country of his birth, due to sanctions placed on Russian athletes following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, made the gesture and laughed as he stood on the podium in Portimao during the FIA Karting European Championship.   

Widely shared footage of the incident led to the FIA launching an investigation into Severiukhin's "unacceptable conduct", before Ward Racing, the 15-year-old's team, announced on Monday that he would no longer race with them.

"My name is Artem Severiukhin, and I want to apologise to everyone for what happened yesterday," Severiukhin said in a video message.

"Standing on the podium, I made a gesture that many perceived to be a Nazi salute. It is not true, I have never supported Nazis.

"I consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity.

"I know I am a fool and I'm ready to be punished, but please believe that there was no intention in my actions. 

"There was no support of Nazism or racism, there was no desire to offend spectators."

The teenager's Swedish-owned team had earlier said they were "deeply in shame" over Severiukhin's actions, which they condemned in the "strongest possible terms", also criticising Russia's invasion of Ukraine and stating that that Severiukhin's gesture did not represent the values of the team.

A 15-year-old Russian karting driver's contract will be terminated by his team after he appeared to make a Nazi salute as he stood on the podium on Sunday.

Artem Severiukhin won his race in the first round of the FIA Karting European Championship at the Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve.

The teenager, representing Italy rather than his country of birth due to sanctions imposed on Russian athletes following the invasion of Ukraine, made the gesture and laughed as he was on the podium in Portimao.

An investigation has been launched by the FIA following what the governing body described as "unacceptable conduct."

Ward Racing, Severiukhin's team, on Monday stated that the youngster will no longer drive for them.

The Privately owned Swedish team said they were "deeply in shame" over Severiukhin's actions, which they condemned in the "strongest possible terms."

Ward Racing also condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that Severiukhin's action did not represent the views and values of the team.

Lewis Hamilton remains staunch in his stance against the FIA's jewellery ban, with the seven-time world champion insisting "you should be able to be who you are".

New race director Niels Wittich, who replaced Michael Masi at the start of the season, informed Formula One drivers that the ruling on accessories would be reinforced before the Australian Grand Prix.

Wittich suggested "body piercing or metal neck chains" were forbidden, with checks to be undertaken before races, but Hamilton still competed on Sunday with piercings in both ears and a nose stud.

The 37-year-old could, in theory, be penalised both financially and in terms of points for breaking the sporting code, with F1's race director insisting the rules were to prevent injury for the driver.

However, Hamilton – who finished fourth in Melbourne, one place behind Mercedes team-mate George Russell – does not intend on removing his jewellery.

"I don't have any plans on removing them," he said. "I feel they are personal things. You should be able to be who you are. There's stuff that I can't move.

"I literally can't take these out [gesturing to piercings on his right ear]. They're literally welded on so I'd have to get them chopped off or something. So they'll be staying.

"It's been the rule forever. Since I've been here it's been the rule, so there's nothing new. I'm just going to come with more jewellery next week."

The jewellery ban has been in place since 2004, but Wittich made a special effort to stress the rule was back into strong consideration in his pre-race notes in Melbourne.

While Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff praised the work of the new race director thus far, he questioned whether Wittich needed to pick a problem with what he sees as a minute issue.

"How he has run the first few races has been respectful, solid and he hasn't put a single foot wrong," Wolff said, as reported by PA Media.

"But is that [jewellery ban] a battle he needs to have at this stage? However, if it turns out to be the biggest unfortunate misstep of a race director, I would take it a thousand times over."

Record crowds at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix might have been welcome to organisers, but drivers on the Formula One grid have expressed concern on where it currently sits on the calendar.

Before a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Albert Park circuit traditionally hosted the first race of the season, since the Australian GP's move to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.

With pre-season testing in Bahrain leading into the season-opener at the Sakhir circuit for the 2021 and 2022 season, however, Melbourne's traditional status has been rendered impractical.

While the crowds underlined the appetite for F1 in the region, the drivers were cool on the Australian GP's scheduling as a standalone week, before the series continues in Italy.

"It works well at the moment because we are doing the winter testing in Bahrain, it makes sense to stay there," Red Bull's Sergio Perez said. "Just coming to Australia for a single race is quite painful for everyone.

"We all want to come here, but there are ways we can improve and in fairness to F1, Australia hasn't been on the calendar for the last [two] years. I'm sure that going forward they can have a look at it."

While Mercedes' George Russell said the previous scheduling at Albert Park was "cool", the back-to-back arrangement with Bahrain requires a rethink for Australia.

"I think Melbourne here as the season opener was really cool because everybody came up here early and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation," he said.

"But I think having Melbourne in between races, especially as a stand-alone is too tough for the teams and everybody."

Before the Australian GP moved to Melbourne, Adelaide traditionally held the final race of the Formula One calendar, circumventing these logistical issues.

If Bahrain was to retain the opening of the season, Russell believes pairing Melbourne with other Asian races is a possible solution.

"If it is geographically correct…we are happy for it to be at any point of the season," he said. "We obviously race very far east with Japan and Singapore, China obviously not this year, but it is on the calendar from next year onwards.

"I just think there is a better compromise to be had. I know there is a huge amount of limitations involved."

Enea Bastianini toasted his Grand Prix of the Americas victory by treating himself to some burgers and said he is hungry to keep hold of top spot in the championship.

The Gresini rider passed Ducati's Jack Miller with five laps remaining at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas to record his second win in four races this season.

Bastianini finished 2.058 seconds ahead of closest challenger Alex Rins, who also overtook third-placed Miller, as the Italian added to his maiden MotoGP triumph in Qatar.

"It's a fantastic day," Bastianini said. "Miller had fantastic pace in the first part of the race, then I felt like I had to push, I accelerated like crazy and I won.

"Winning here in America is fantastic. Now we eat some burgers!"

Bastianini leads the riders' standings with four of the 21 races completed, sitting five points better off than Suzuki Ecstar rider Rins and 11 clear of Aleix Espargaro of Aprilia.

And the 24-year-old is beginning to believe that an unpredictable 2022, in which 10 riders have finished on the podium over the first four races, could be a memorable one.

"It's possible," Bastianini said when asked if he can retain top spot. "This is better than the Qatar win because we know we are consistent and every race we are on the front.

"We will see if we can repeat this result in the future. In European races I think the gap will be closer again."

Bastianini is just the third winner in the nine-year history of the race, with Marc Marquez having prevailed on seven previous occasions and Rins once, in 2019.

Marquez recovered from a poor start on Sunday to climb from 17th to sixth, while Joan Mir and Francesco Bagnaia rounded out the top five.

While Marquez climbed the standings late on, Miller fell from first to third in a race that he led for 15 of the 20 laps.

Rather than feeling too downbeat, though, the Australian simply congratulated Bastianini and Rins for finishing stronger.

"I have mixed feelings," he said. "I had a fantastic race. Enea passed me but I didn't make any mistakes.

"This championship is so long, anything can happen. It's wide open."

Enea Bastianini recorded his second victory of the 2022 MotoGP campaign, beating Alex Rins and Jack Miller to win the Grand Prix of the Americas in Houston, Texas.

The Italian became the first rider to rack up two victories this term after starting fifth on the grid, overtaking Miller with five laps to go in a fiercely competitive race.

The 24-year-old, who claimed his first MotoGP win in Qatar's curtain-raising race last month, made a strong start to fight his way into contention early on, entering second spot with nine laps to go.

Bastianini then passed Miller and pulled clear of the Australian, who dropped into third as Alex Rins clinched a second consecutive podium finish, keeping him second in the drivers' championship standings.

The Gresini rider ended the race 2.058 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, maintaining his lead at the top of the early-season riders' standings.

Elsewhere, Jorge Martin made a solid start from pole position, but suffered a poor end to the race in which he dropped to fourth with eight laps to go, and to eighth by the time he saw the chequered flag.

Marc Marquez suffered a horrendous start in Texas, dropping as low as 17th in the early stages, but recovered somewhat to finish sixth, while Joan Mir and Francesco Bagnaia rounded out the top five.

World champion Fabio Quartararo, meanwhile, finished in seventh as he struggles to match his terrific early-season form from 2021, and Aleix Espargaro could only manage a 13th-placed finish, one week after his sensational maiden victory in Argentina.

TOP 10

1. Enea Bastianini (Gresini)
2. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +2.058
3. Jack Miller (Ducati) +2.312
4. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +3.975
5. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +6.045
6. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +6.617
7. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +6.760
8. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +8.441
9. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +12.375
10. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +12.642

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Riders

1. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 61
2. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 56
3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 50
4. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar)) 46
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 44

Teams

1. Suzuki Ecstar 102
2. Red Bull KTM 70
3. Aprilia 69
4. Gresini 61
5. Pramac Racing 59

George Russell said the Formula One championship will be decided by results rather than pace after clinching his first podium finish for Mercedes at the Australian Grand Prix.

Russell finished third in Melbourne, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton coming home fourth as the team responded to a disappointing result in Saudi Arabia, where Russell and Hamilton came fifth and 10th respectively. 

Mercedes, who are bidding for a ninth consecutive constructors' championship, have struggled for pace early in the new campaign, but profited from Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz both failing to finish as they picked up valuable points at Albert Park. 

Having earned 65 points in the opening weeks of the season, second-placed Mercedes trail Ferrari by 39 points in the constructors' standings, and Russell highlighted the importance of being able to capitalise on others' mistakes in order to grab vital points.

The 24-year-old also, however, stressed the need for Mercedes to make improvements after team-mate Lewis Hamilton again spoke out regarding problems with the team's W13 car.

"It doesn't matter how fast the car is, if you don't make it to the end then you are not there to pick up the pieces," Russell said.

"We were probably the fifth-fastest team behind McLaren and Alpine yet here we are in third place.

"It is a championship based on results not pace.

"But we know if we want to keep that position, we need to find more performance in the car."

Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes must "leave no stone unturned" in their quest for improvements after he battled to a fourth-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion has endured a frustrating start to the 2022 campaign, sitting fifth in the drivers' championship standings and repeatedly speaking out on problems with the team's W13 car.

Hamilton batlled to fourth in the third Grand Prix of the season after starting fifth on the grid, with team-mate George Russell claiming his first podium finish for Mercedes in third as Ferrari's Charles Leclerc stormed to victory.

After describing Mercedes' car as "spiteful" in the aftermath of qualifying in Melbourne, Hamilton stressed the need for the team to make improvements in "every single area" if they are to compete with early-season pace-setters Ferrari.

"I will be on Zoom calls with our bosses, really trying to rally them up," he said.

"We have got some improvements that we need to make, and we need everyone's support in doing so.

"It is about making sure we leave no stone unturned, that the hunger is there, and we are maximising every moment.

"I will be chasing the people in the wind tunnel, the aerodynamic guys, and just looking at every single area.

"There is performance to be gained and we need it now, not in two or three races. I have got to keep that encouragement and energy high."

Mercedes are bidding for a ninth consecutive constructors' championship, but trail Ferrari by 39 points in the 2022 standings after three races.

While calling for improvements across the board and noting that the gap to Ferrari is "pretty big", Hamilton stressed the need for the team to remain upbeat and highlighted that there are many races to come.

"I prefer to stay optimistic," he added. "There are 20 races to go. 

"I am really hoping we can get in the fight, but with every bit of improvement we make so will Red Bull and Ferrari. 

"It is not going to be easy. The gap is pretty big right now, but there is a long way to go."

Russell, meanwhile, is second in the drivers' standings after following up his fourth and fifth-place finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia with an impressive showing at Albert Park, and Hamilton was keen to praise the 24-year-old for his performances since making the switch from Williams.

"It is incredible," Hamilton said of the start Russell has made to his Mercedes career.

"He has been so solid. He is really grafting away and is doing an amazing job."

The next date in the Formula One calendar will see Hamilton bid for a repeat of his 2020 triumph at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, after he finished second to Max Verstappen at Imola last year.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.