Max Verstappen insists he fully deserved his Formula One world championship triumph and does not believe the achievement has been overshadowed by the ongoing controversy around the title-deciding race.

The 24-year-old clinched his first title by pipping seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The FIA last month announced a "detailed analysis" of the contentious ending has started, with the result of the inquiry to be released before this season's first race in Bahrain on March 20.

Regardless of the verdict reached by the sport's governing body, Verstappen does not believe the controversy detracts from his triumph.

"[The FIA] can't do anything," Verstappen told The Guardian.

Asked if he felt his maiden title triumph has been overshadowed somewhat, the Dutchman replied: "Not at all. I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it. 

"I have been really unlucky as well. People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided way earlier."

Verstappen was graciously congratulated by Hamilton following his title-clinching victory in Abu Dhabi, bringing down the curtain on an eventful season that saw both drivers take it in turns to lead the standings.

A low point in the campaign for Verstappen came at the British Grand Prix in July when clashing with Hamilton on the first lap as the home favourite tried to force his way down the inside at Copse Corner.

Verstappen smashed the barriers at 180mph and therefore did not finish the race, with Hamilton finishing first and wildly celebrating his win while his title rival was being examined in hospital.

However, the Red Bull driver did not use that as extra motivation for the second half of the season.

"I don't think we work like that," he said. "It's disrespectful what happened there but we looked at what we could have done better. 

"Once we came back from the break as a team we really did a good job because we won races in the second half of the season we shouldn't have won."

While talk still rumbles on regarding the end of the 2021 season, the new campaign is now just over a month away and Verstappen has a target on his back as defending champion.

"That little pressure in the back of your mind, of having to win a world championship or trying to win it, has gone," he said. 

"It's already happened. I've done it. So when it's tough or you're having bad luck you probably will deal with it easier than normal."

Lewis Hamilton has hinted he may return to Formula One this season in a cryptic post on his social media accounts.

The seven-time world champion's future in the sport is uncertain after he was denied a record-breaking eighth title by Max Verstappen at the end of last season.

Hamilton looked set to surpass Michael Schumacher heading into the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, only for Verstappen to controversially snatch glory in the closing moments.

It is unknown whether the Mercedes driver will return in 2022, with former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone stating his belief that he would retire.

Meanwhile, brother Nicolas confirmed that Hamilton was taking a break from social media – on which he had been quiet having not posted since December 11 – while relaxing with family in the ski slopes.

But the 37-year-old has broken his silence. Addressing his 33.8 million followers across Twitter and Instagram, Hamilton posted: "I've been gone. Now I'm back!"

Should he return, Hamilton is set to partner George Russell at Mercedes in his latest quest for an eighth world title.

Tom Brady has been confirmed as one of the nominees for Sportsman of the Year at the 2022 Laureus World Sports Awards, less than 24 hours after announcing his retirement from the NFL.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner is nominated along with tennis star Novak Djokovic, Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge, swimmer Caeleb Dressel and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only man on the list who was also nominated for last year's award, which was won by Rafael Nadal.

Ash Barty, who recently won the Australian Open in front of a raucous home crowd, is among the nominees for Sportswoman of the Year, along with sprinters Allyson Felix and Elaine Thompson-Herah, swimmers Katie Ledecky and Emma McKeon, and Ballon d'Or and FIFA Best award winner Alexia Putellas.

Last year's award was won by tennis star Naomi Osaka.

Tennis is also represented well in the nominees for Breakthrough of the Year, with US Open champions Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu making the shortlist, along with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, footballer Pedri, swimmer Ariarne Titmus and triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.

The Team of the Year award will be contested by three football teams in the Argentina and Italy men's national sides and Barcelona Women, as well as NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Gymnast Simone Biles has been nominated for Comeback of the Year, while para-cyclist Dame Sarah Storey is on the shortlist for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

The nominees were selected by a panel of 1300 sports journalists, and the winners will be announced in April following a vote by the 71 Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy.

Full list of nominees

Sportsman of the Year: Tom Brady (American football), Novak Djokovic (tennis), Caeleb Dressel (swimming), Eliud Kipchoge (athletics), Robert Lewandowski (football), Max Verstappen (motor racing)

Sportswoman of the Year: Ash Barty (tennis), Allyson Felix, (athletics), Katie Ledecky (swimming), Emma McKeon (swimming), Alexia Putellas (football), Elaine Thompson-Herah (athletics)

Breakthrough of the Year: Neeraj Chopra (athletics), Daniil Medvedev (tennis), Pedri (football), Emma Raducanu (tennis), Yulimar Rojas (athletics), Ariarne Titmus (swimming)

Team of the Year: Argentina men's national football team, Barcelona Women's football team, Italy men's national football team, Milwaukee Bucks (basketball)

Comeback of the Year: Simone Biles (gymnastics), Sky Brown (skateboarding), Mark Cavendish (cycling), Tom Daley (diving), Marc Marquez (motor cycling), Annemiek van Vleuten (cycling)

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Diede De Groot (wheelchair tennis), Marcel Hug (wheelchair athletics), Shingo Kunieda (wheelchair tennis), Jetze Plat (para cycling / para triathlon), Susana Rodríguez (para triathlon), Sarah Storey (para cycling)

World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Italo Ferreira (surfing), Alberto Gines (climbing), Yuto Horigome (skateboarding), Carissa Moore (surfing), Momiji Nishiya (skateboarding), Bethany Shriever (BMX)

Sport for Good Award: Ich will da rauf! (climbing), Juca Pe Cagna (multisport), Kick 4 Life (football), Lost Boyz Inc. (baseball), Monkey Magic (climbing)

The Singapore Grand Prix will be on the Formula One calendar until at least 2028 after a seven-year contract extension to stage the race was agreed.

There was no racing at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the past two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the 2022 race is set to go ahead on October 2.

F1 on Thursday announced that a deal has been agreed with Singapore GP Pte Ltd (SGP) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) for the event to remain on the calendar for at least another seven seasons.

"I am delighted that Formula One will continue to race in Singapore for another seven years," said F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali.

"The Marina Bay Street Circuit hosted the first night race in F1 history in 2008, and Singapore has continued to thrill fans, teams, and drivers ever since. Singapore holds a special place on the F1 calendar, and this extension is part of our long-term commitment to continue to grow the sport in Asia.

"The plans that are in place to reduce the carbon footprint of the event are impressive and align with our plans to be Net Zero Carbon as a sport by 2030 and I look forward to continuing our successful relationship with Singapore GP and the Singapore Tourism Board as Formula One returns to this incredible city."

Singapore GP's chairman Mr Ong Beng Seng said: "We are very pleased that the night race will continue for seven more years.

"After more than a decade of celebrating this spectacular event on the racing calendar, we are looking forward to building on its success and working with Formula One as well as its partners to take the night race to greater heights. We are delighted that this marquee event will demonstrate how Singapore is open for business.

"We look forward to welcoming both local and overseas fans and visitors to the Marina Bay Street Circuit once again."

Mercedes hope they will be prepared for the 2022 Formula One season, in which technical director James Allison is forecasting "a terribly painful year" for teams who get their car "really badly wrong". 

F1 is belatedly introducing its game-changing new regulations in the coming year, shaking up the sport after an epic 2021 season. 

The 2022 car has been designed with the aim to end the dominance of any one team and ensure closer racing. 

Mercedes, whose Lewis Hamilton was agonisingly pipped to the title by Max Verstappen in the previous campaign, will expect to again be at the forefront of a title tussle, but Allison recognises some outfits will be caught unaware. 

The price for making mistakes this year is a significant one, he believes. 

"Everyone in our team, and everyone in every other team, will have done our level best to try to find a design and an approach that will be a happy match to this new regulation set," Allison said in a video posted by Mercedes. 

"And we'll all get to find out together at the start of this season, in the races that unfold from there, exactly how that shakes out. 

"I would imagine, given that the cars are so new and so different, that one or two cars on the grid will have got it really badly wrong. And they will have a terribly painful year. 

"I would imagine that all of us to some degree will have left things on the table that we just didn't anticipate. And we will look at other cars and think, 'Oh, why didn't we think of that?' 

"Then we'll be scrambling around to try to get that idea onto our car as fast as possible, so that we can claw our way, from whatever position we land in that first race, forwards. Or, if we're lucky enough to be in front, to keep the attacking wolves behind us. 

"It's going to be quite a rush and definitely something that's going to keep us all from having too much sleep for the whole of the season." 

George Russell is joining Hamilton at Mercedes this year, replacing Valtteri Bottas after impressing with Williams. 

A "detailed analysis" of the controversial ending to last month's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has started, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has confirmed.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season-ending grand prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal. However, the team eventually decide not to proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and the FIA.

On Thursday, the FIA released a statement via Twitter outlining the next steps in their analysis of the situation, saying: "Following the decision of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 15 December 2021, the FIA administration, under the leadership Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has started the detailed analysis of the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"The FIA President launched a consultation with all F1 teams on various issues, including this one.

"On January 19, an item on the agenda of the Sporting Advisory Committee will be dedicated to the use of the Safety Car. The following stage will be a shared discussion with all F1 drivers.

"The outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March."

There has been recent speculation since the end of the season that Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome, and reports suggest that the Briton is waiting to see the outcome of an inquiry.

MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will switch to four-wheel racing to drive for Team WRT in the GT World Championship.

Rossi ended his incredible MotoGP career last November, finishing 10th in his final race at the Valencia Grand Prix.

The Italian icon, a seven-time world champion in the premier class, hung up his gloves at the age of 42.

But Rossi has agreed to take on a new racing challenge, having tested with Team WRT in Valencia last month.

He will be an official Audi sport driver, taking part in a 10-round competition striving to win the Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup.

Rossi said: "I am delighted to join Team WRT for a full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS programme.

"Everybody knows that I have always been a great car racing fan and that I have always been interested in racing on four wheels once my MotoGP career would come to an end.

"Now I am completely available to devote myself to a car racing programme at a high level and with the right professional approach.

"Team WRT is the perfect fit I was looking for and I am anxious to start this new adventure in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS with them."

Lewis Hamilton is relaxing at the ski slopes and doing "fine" after losing out to Max Verstappen in the battle for the Formula One title, his brother Nicolas has said.

Seven-time champion Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten in a controversial finish to the second-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly denied victory in the race and the championship when Dutchman Verstappen passed him on the last lap.

The crushing blow has led to speculation Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone last week cast doubt on whether Hamilton would return to the sport in 2022, when he is due to partner George Russell for Mercedes.

Since being denied another title, Hamilton has gone quiet on social media and stopped following the select few Instagram accounts that he previously watched.

But Nicolas Hamilton says his superstar brother is merely unwinding with family, saying on livestreaming service Twitch: "Lewis is fine. I think he's just having a bit of a social media break which I don't blame him for.

"Social media can be a very toxic place. But he's cool though. He's fine. Yeah, he's all right. He's watching the kids ski at the moment."

Hamilton also missed out in the F1 team principals' driver of the year vote, coming in second to champion Verstappen.

The result of a poll of team chiefs was revealed on the official F1 website on Monday, with Red Bull star Verstappen top of that particular podium too.

With principals appraising drivers based on the race system, where first place earns 25 points and 10th takes only one, Verstappen scored a total of 213 points, with Hamilton scoring 192 in second place.


Team principals' driver of the year result: 1. Max Verstappen 213, 2. Lewis Hamilton 192, 3. Lando Norris 110, 4. Carlos Sainz 85, 5. Charles Leclerc 70, 6. Fernando Alonso 69, 7. Pierre Gasly 64, 8. George Russell 44, 9. Valtteri Bottas 43, 10. Esteban Ocon 41.

Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton could be poised to retire from Formula One after the heartache of losing the world championship in Abu Dhabi.

Long-time F1 supremo Ecclestone, who left his role as chief executive in January 2017, said he had spoken to Hamilton's father, Anthony, since the British driver was pipped to title glory by Max Verstappen.

Although he gained no direct insight into the seven-time world champion's future plans from that call, Ecclestone told Swiss newspaper Blick he thinks Hamilton may have made his mind up to quit.

"I don't know it, but I don't think he's coming back," Ecclestone said. "His disappointment is too great. And you can somehow understand it. Now it would be the time, with seven world championship titles like Michael Schumacher, to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur."

He said of his telephone call with Hamilton's father: "I immediately felt that he wouldn't answer a question about his son's future. So we only talked about business."

Mercedes superstar Hamilton, who turns 37 in January, was struck by deep disappointment when he was denied a record-breaking eighth F1 title in controversial fashion at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Verstappen, on new tyres, passed race leader Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed when Nicholas Latifi crashed. Hamilton and Verstappen had been tied on points coming into the race, making it a straight shoot-out for the championship.

The decision-making from race director Michael Masi that allowed for one lap of racing in such circumstances came in for criticism, particularly from the Mercedes team, but appeals to race stewards failed to change the result.

Hamilton's Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has since said he hopes the man whose F1 career began in 2007 will not quit the sport after this setback.

The former McLaren star is due to partner George Russell next season, with the campaign scheduled to begin in Bahrain in March.

Hamilton is the only driver to achieve both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins, and Wolff said he "would very much hope" that his star driver would be back for more in the new year.

Speaking last week, after Mercedes decided against taking an appeal to the courts, Wolff said: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Ecclestone suggested Hamilton "could only lose" if he returns to the cockpit in 2022, and the 91-year-old has been impressed by the rise of Verstappen.

"With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years," Ecclestone said.

Jamaica’s sports minister Olivia Grange has lauded Sara Misir, who created history recently by becoming the first Jamaican to compete in the Formula Woman Competition.

Mick Schumacher could follow his legendary father's footsteps and turn out for Ferrari in Formula One next season after agreeing a part-time role as their reserve driver.

Schumacher, 22, represented Haas in his debut F1 season this year and will do so again in 2022.

But the former Formula Two and Formula Three champion, whose father Michael won seven F1 titles, remains part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

The Scuderia, where Michael earned five of his championships in consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2004, confirmed on Wednesday the remainder of their 2022 line-up alongside front-line drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Antonio Giovinazzi remains Ferrari's reserve option, but he will be absent for 11 races due to his involvement in Formula E.

Should a back-up be required in any of the remaining grands prix, Schumacher would instead step in, with Haas turning to Pietro Fittipaldi, their own reserve.

Both Schumacher and Haas ended 2021 without a point, with his best finish 12th in Hungary, but Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto still sees a bright future for the son of a true great.

"He's a Ferrari driver, we should not forget that," Binotto said. "He has been part of our Ferrari Driver Academy.

"The reason we have the Ferrari Driver Academy is to identify the next Ferrari driver for the future.

"Being part of it, if you are doing well, no doubt you may have opportunities. He's had already one season in F1, which is important.

"Mick through the season did well; he improved himself not only in terms of consistency but as well in terms of speed.

"If you look at the last races, he was a lot closer to the cars ahead, and Haas didn't develop the car at all. The fact he was closer proved he had a good improvement on the speed itself."

Nicholas Latifi has revealed the "hate and abuse" sent to him on social media following his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Williams driver Latifi skidded into the barriers late in the final race of the Formula One season on December 12, resulting in the safety car being called onto the track.

Latifi had been tussling with Mick Schumacher for 15th place, but the incident had huge repercussions at the front of the race.

Lewis Hamilton held a healthy lead over Max Verstappen at the time and looked all set to claim a record eighth world title.

Yet with the gap closed after Latifi's crash, the FIA contentiously allowed several lapped cars to overtake the safety car, meaning Hamilton and Verstappen had a one-lap sprint for the championship, with the Red Bull driver, who was on fresher tyres, coming out on top.

It will go down as one of the most memorable, and controversial, moments in F1 history, but Latifi has now confirmed he received abuse, including death threats, for his incidental part.

In a statement published on his official website, Latifi said: "I've purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race.

"A lot has been made of the situation that came about after my retirement in Abu Dhabi. I've received thousands of messages to my social media accounts – publicly and via DMs. Most have been supportive, but there's been a lot of hate and abuse, too.

"This isn't some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people. Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out.

"Going back to the race weekend, as soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media. The fact that I felt it would be best if I deleted Instagram and Twitter on my phone for a few days says all we need to know about how cruel the online world can be.

"The ensuing hate, abuse, and threats on social media were not really a surprise to me as it's just the stark reality of the world we live in right now. I'm no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sportsperson who competes on the world stage knows they're under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.

"But as we've seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called 'fans' of the sport. What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.

"Thankfully, I'm comfortable enough in my own skin, and I've been in this world long enough that I can do a pretty good job of just letting any negativity wash over me. 

"To all the fans and people that did have my back during this whole situation, I want to say a huge thank you. I've seen and read a lot of your messages and they are much appreciated. It's nice to know I have so many people supporting me."

Mercedes initially appealed against the result of the race, but subsequently withdrew their complaints.

Alex Zanardi has been allowed to return home after spending almost 18 months in hospital since suffering life-threatening injuries in a handbike accident.

The ex-Formula One driver has undergone multiple operations since his bike collided with a truck in June 2020.

Four-time Paralympic gold medallist Zanardi, who lost both legs after a CART motor racing accident in September 2001, has received specialist care for his latest trauma at a facility in Padua, Italy.

However, his wife, Daniela, revealed the 55-year-old is back at home.

She told the BMW Motorsport website: "An important step was that Alex was able to leave hospital a few weeks ago and is back at home with us now.

"We had to wait very long for this and are very happy that it was possible now, even if there are still temporary stays in special clinics planned for the future to carry out special rehabilitation measures on site."

She added: "The recovery continues to be a long process. The rehabilitation programme led by doctors, physiotherapists, neuropsychologists and speech therapists has enabled steady progress.

"Of course, setbacks are there and can still occur. Sometimes you also have to make two steps back in order to make one step forward. But Alex proves again and again that he is a real fighter.

"You still can't predict how his recovery will further develop. It is still a long and challenging way that Alex tackles with a lot of fighting spirit.

"It is a big help for him and us that we receive so much support on this way, not only from the doctors and therapists that intensively work with him. Our friends are always there for us.

"This includes the BMW Group family which we can always count on and that is firmly at our side also in this difficult time.

"We are very grateful to everyone for that and for so much more because these strong ties give us additional energy. This also goes for the continued sympathy we receive from racing drivers, fans and acquaintances from all over the world.

"We would like to express a big 'Grazie' to all who send their good thoughts and power to Alex."

Max Verstappen says he sees no reason why Lewis Hamilton would walk away from Formula One after the Dutchman controversially dethroned him in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton looked destined to win a record eighth F1 title as he dominated the decisive season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, having made a great start to pass pole-sitter Verstappen.

There was a dramatic late twist, though, as the safety car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed and Red Bull called Verstappen in for fresh tyres in one final throw of the dice.

Race director Michael Masi then made a contentious call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass the safety car and allow one lap of racing, opening the door for the Dutchman to snatch his maiden title.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the outcome, which was dismissed, and then lodged an intention to appeal against the stewards' decision, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton was disillusioned after being "robbed" of victory and the Brit will never get over what happened in Abu Dhabi, stating that there were no guarantees the 36-year-old would be back to try to regain the title next year.

Yet Verstappen would be surprised if Hamilton decides to call time on his incredible career.

He said: "I can understand the first few days after a race like that you're not happy.

"But you should also understand this is racing and these things can happen. He should just look back at what he has achieved already.

"That should give him a lot of comfort, and it should also be that drive to keep on going because he is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and for sure he can do that next year, so I don't see any reason to give up just now."

Verstappen added: "I don't feel sorry [for Hamilton] but I can understand that it can be very painful. But at the end of the day, he also won a championship like that."

Charles Leclerc has returned from the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with coronavirus, Ferrari have announced.

Leclerc came 10th in the contentious 2021 finale to end a disappointing campaign seventh in the drivers' standings.

Only 19 drivers competed in the race at the Yas Marina Circuit after Nikita Mazepin contracted COVID-19.

And Leclerc has followed in returning a positive test after heading home.

"Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver @Charles_Leclerc has tested positive for COVID-19," Ferrari said in a short statement on Twitter.

"In accordance with protocols required by FIA and the team, Charles was tested on his return from Abu Dhabi.

"He is currently feeling fine, with mild symptoms and will self-isolate at home."

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