Jody Scheckter does not believe Lewis Hamilton's recent struggles will impact his Formula 1 legacy, insisting he will be remembered alongside Michael Schumacher as an all-time great.

Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record of seven drivers' championship titles in 2020, but he has failed to surpass the German icon's tally due to the dominance of Max Verstappen.

Having captured the title in controversial circumstances in 2021 and defended it last year, Verstappen has now won 10 successive races to close in on a third championship, which he could seal as early as the Japanese Grand Prix later this month.

Hamilton, meanwhile, sits fourth in the drivers' standings amid another difficult campaign, which has been plagued by suggestions he could soon walk away from the sport.

However, Hamilton opted to extend his F1 career until at least 2025 by penning a new contract with Mercedes last week, and Scheckter is pleased to see him still enjoying his time on the grid.

"I retired at 30 years old. He wants to carry on," the 1979 world champion told Stats Perform. "That's such a personal decision. He's got to do what he wants to do, if he's enjoying it.

"He's doing a good job, too. I thought [team-mate George] Russell would be quicker. But you know, Lewis is quick, he's doing a good job.

"If he gets a team-mate that beats him all the time… it's going to come, there's no question about it, it will come sooner or later. But people will still remember.

"You can't win that many world championships and not be recognised as an all-time great. 

"Some people get off at the wrong time, they carry on and want to hold onto it until they lose that, and people forget some of the other stuff that happened before."

Asked how Hamilton's achievements compare to those of Schumacher, the former Ferrari driver added: "I put them all in the same category. You know, there's the car there. 

"I think Lewis was a cleaner driver than Schumacher. In his tactics and stuff, he was more like a gentleman on the track than Schumacher was, so I commend him for that."

Sitting above Hamilton in the 2023 standings is his former McLaren team-mate and long-term rival Fernando Alonso, with the 42-year-old enjoying something of a renaissance with Aston Martin.

Alonso has racked up seven podium finishes in 2023 after finishing ninth in the drivers' championship while representing Alpine last year, and though Scheckter has not always been the Spaniard's biggest fan, he respects his longevity.

Reflecting on his own decision to retire in 1980, just one year after being crowned world champion, Scheckter said: "Some people say they enjoy it. I used to say if I'm enjoying it, I'm not trying hard enough.

"But if you're enjoying it, you're going to carry on longer and longer, you know? Maybe I pushed too hard to try and do it, so it's just a personal thing.

"Fernando's obviously very good. I didn't like some of the stuff he did earlier in his career, I didn't like it very much at all, actually. 

"But he's good, he's aggressive. I don't think he's as good as some of the press think he is, but he's doing a good job. Now, he's doing a really great job."

George Russell was confirmed as Lewis Hamilton’s new team-mate at Mercedes on this day in 2021.

The much-anticipated announcement came after Valtteri Bottas sealed a move to Alfa Romeo for 2022.

English driver Russell, then 23, earned the switch to the Silver Arrows after three impressive campaigns with Williams.

Commenting on his blockbuster transfer, Russell said: “It’s a special day for me personally and professionally.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands.

“But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve.

“I want to do my new team-mates proud. Of course, one of those new team-mates is in my opinion the greatest driver of all time.

“I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.”

In a message posted on Instagram, seven-time world champion Hamilton said: “I want to take a moment to welcome George Russell to the team.

“I remember meeting him when he was young, dreaming of one day being a Formula One driver. I’d only just reached my own dream of becoming an F1 driver, so I know what this day means and how it will feel for him.

“He is a great example to all the kids out there that dreams do come true when you chase them wholeheartedly.

“Through hard work he has rightly earned his spot on our team. I look forward to seeing him grow as a driver with this great team and working with him to raise Mercedes higher. See you next year.”

In his first season with Mercedes, Russell landed his maiden victory at the penultimate round in Brazil. He also outscored Hamilton.

Ahead of last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Mercedes announced Russell, 25, will continue to partner Hamilton, 38, at Mercedes until at least the end of 2025.

Damon Hill has described Toto Wolff’s dismissal of Max Verstappen’s record winning streak as “churlish” and “ungracious”.

Red Bull’s Verstappen became the first driver in Formula One’s 73-year history to win 10 consecutive races following his triumph at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

But moments after Verstappen drove into the record books, Mercedes team principal Wolff called the Dutchman’s unprecedented run of victories “completely irrelevant”. He added that the record was only “for Wikipedia, and nobody reads that anyway”.

Responding to Wolff’s unflattering appraisal, 1996 world champion Hill said: “It sounded a bit churlish and not very gracious.

“It’s unlike Toto because he’s usually very sporting. But he is hurting a bit now. They know what it is like to be dominant and they didn’t even get on the podium in Monza.

“They seem to be a bit stymied and can’t seem to work out what to do. But who can? It seems like everywhere we go, Red Bull has got the upper hand.”

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton crossed the line a distant fifth and sixth respectively for Mercedes at Monza’s Cathedral of Speed.

Hamilton, who was hit with a five-second penalty for colliding with Australian rookie Oscar Piastri, finished 42 sec behind Verstappen.

The seven-time world champion, who last week committed to a new two-year deal with Mercedes, worth £100million, has now gone 37 races without a victory.

For Verstappen, now a victor at 12 of the 14 rounds so far, he has not lost a race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30, 127 days ago. There is an outside chance he could wrap up a hat-trick of titles in Japan on September 24 with six rounds still to race.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team also remain on course to make history by going the year unbeaten.

Speaking on Sky Sports News, Hill, 62, continued: “Max has achieved something no-one else has ever done.

“Red Bull have won 14 races this year and it is an incredible record, but you can’t just put it down to the car.

“This guy is special. Throughout Max’s career, from the moment he arrived in F1, he has done things no-one has done before and he continues to polish off this season.”

Lewis Hamilton apologised to Oscar Piastri after he admitted he was “totally at fault” for his collision with the McLaren rookie in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was hit with a five-second penalty for the coming together at the Variante della Roggia as the two drivers duelled for eighth on lap 41 of 51 in Monza.

Hamilton improved to sixth and was able to pull out a seven-second margin on Williams’ Alex Albon to ensure the sanction had no impact on his result.

However, Piastri, 22, suffered front-wing damage and was forced to stop for repairs, dropping him out of the points. “He just turned across me under braking,” said Piastri on the radio.

Hamilton, who was also hit with two penalty points on his driver’s licence, doubling his total to four, went over to Piastri to concede his error at the chequered flag.

“It was totally my fault,” said Hamilton, 38. “It actually wasn’t intentional. I went and apologised to him straight afterwards.

“I got up alongside him and just misjudged the gap I had to the right and clipped him. It could happen at any time.

“I knew shortly afterwards it must have been my fault and I wanted to make sure he knew it wasn’t intentional. That’s what gentleman do.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had no complaints with the stewards’ verdict and praised his superstar driver for taking accountability.

“That was Lewis’ mistake,” said Wolff. “I think a five-second penalty for that is what the menu says. These things happen, you know. It’s hard racing and we’ve seen a few of these. It’s justifiable.

“Lewis is very sportsmanlike on these things. And he is the only one that I see out there admitting things that he did wrong.

“We just had a chat and he said ‘I didn’t see him on the right and that is on me.’ And I think that kind of sportsmanship is what you need to admire with him. Pretty much everyone else is complaining and moaning to try to avoid getting a penalty.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called Max Verstappen’s drive into the Formula One record books at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix “completely irrelevant”.

Verstappen went behind enemy lines in Ferrari’s backyard to fight his way past Carlos Sainz’s scarlet car and become the first driver in the sport’s 73-year history to win 10 consecutive races.

The Dutchman, now a victor at 12 of the 14 rounds so far, bettered the record he had shared with Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen has not lost a race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30, 126 days ago.

Sergio Perez finished runner-up as Red Bull – who remain unbeaten this season – claimed a one-two finish, with pole-sitter Sainz third ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and sixth for Mercedes.

Hamilton’s Mercedes machinery carried him to six world championships in seven seasons, but the British driver was never able to win more than five successive races. The best Michael Schumacher, so dominant in his Ferrari at the turn of the century, could manage was seven.

Yet, despite Verstappen’s historic streak, Wolff found it difficult to express praise for Red Bull’s star man.

“For me, these kinds of records are completely irrelevant,” he said. “They were irrelevant in our good days in Mercedes.

“I don’t know how many races we won in a row. I didn’t even know that there was a count of how many wins in a row, so if you are asking me to comment on the achievement it is difficult, because it never played a role in my own life until I heard about it yesterday.

“The result itself shows a great driver in a great car, who are competing on an extremely high level.”

Wolff’s lacklustre appraisal came after Hamilton devalued the strength of Verstappen’s team-mates in an interview on Italian television on Thursday. Verstappen responded in the Dutch media by suggesting Hamilton was “jealous” of his current success.

Hamilton was then asked about Verstappen’s record-breaking run after Sunday’s 51-lap race.

“I had strong team-mates,” he replied. “Valtteri (Bottas) was quick a lot of times. I don’t care about statistics in general. Good for him.”

Since he claimed his maiden title at the controversial season-ending Abu Dhabi race in 2021 – denying Hamilton a record eighth championship – Verstappen has won 27 of the 36 races staged. In his last 25 appearances, Verstappen has failed to win just four times.

“What Max is doing is breaking records and driving at an unbelievable level,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

“I don’t think there is anybody in the world at the moment that can beat Max Verstappen in this car, that’s for sure.

“You have to recognise and applaud what Max is doing. It is very special to achieve what he has achieved and we shouldn’t detract from that in any way.

“In sport it is very rare that something like this happens and it is a golden moment for him and certainly a golden moment for the team.”

Verstappen was made to wait 14 laps and a handful of corners before he assumed the lead of Sunday’s race at the Variante della Roggia. From there, he never looked back to seal another crushing win and move 145 points clear in the standings.

There remains an outside chance he could be crowned champion of the world for a third time as early as the Japanese Grand Prix in three weeks with half-a-dozen rounds still remaining.

“I never would have believed that it was possible,” said Verstappen after his record triumph. “But we had to work for it today and that definitely made it a lot more fun.”

Max Verstappen drove his way into the Formula One history books by taking his 10th-consecutive victory at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Verstappen sat behind Carlos Sainz for 14 of the 51 laps at Monza’s Temple of Speed before fighting his way past the Ferrari pole-sitter at the second chicane.

From there, the commanding Dutchman never looked back to better the mark he shared with Sebastian Vettel and become the first driver in Formula One to reach double figures for straight victories.

Sergio Perez finished second in the other Red Bull, while Sainz held off team-mate Charles Leclerc in a tantalising late battle between the Ferrari drivers to take the final spot on the podium.

George Russell finished fifth with Lewis Hamilton, who served a five-second penalty for colliding with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, sixth.

“That is history,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to his superstar driver. “Unbelievable.”

Verstappen’s 12th win from the 14 rounds so far moves him 145 points clear in the championship.

Unbeaten since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30, there remains an outside chance the 25-year-old could be crowned champion of the world for a third time as early as the Japanese Grand Prix in three weeks with half-a-dozen rounds still remaining.

Sainz lit up Ferrari’s home track by taking pole position and kept the dream alive of a victory in front of the Italian team’s 80,000-strong crowd by holding off Verstappen on the 500-metre drag to the opening Variante del Rettifilo.

Verstappen was the filling in a Ferrari sandwich with Leclerc maintaining third spot ahead of Mercedes’ Russell and Perez. Hamilton started eighth but dropped one position on the first lap.

Such has been the superiority of Verstappen’s Red Bull machine this year, Sainz was expected to be easy prey for the all-conquering Dutchman.

But to Verstappen’s surprise, Sainz was not prepared to make life easy for the double world champion.

On lap six, Verstappen was handed his first opportunity, drawing alongside Sainz on the 220mph run to the first chicane, only for the Spaniard to slam the door in his face.

“That was naughty,” said Verstappen. Three laps later, Verstappen was back on the intercom. “They have a lot of top speed, for f*** sake,” he said.

Further back and Russell’s mirrors were occupied by the other Red Bull of Perez. Asked to manage his rubber, the Englishman replied: “I don’t know if you can see, but I have got a car right up my a***.”

Up front and Verstappen sensed another chance to take the lead on lap 15.

A defensive Sainz locked up at the Variante del Rettifilo, handing Verstappen the exit speed on the 200mph charge to the Variante della Roggia.

The Red Bull and Ferrari machines were separated by mere centimetres as they went toe-to-toe into the second chicane before Verstappen, benefiting from the inside line, emerged in the lead.

Remarkably, Sainz’s 14 laps in the lead was the highest in any event this season by a non-Red Bull driver. The team from Milton Keynes could yet become the first team to go an entire campaign unbeaten with eight races to run.

On lap 16, Perez moved up to fourth with Russell – struggling for top-line speed in his Mercedes – unable to keep the Red Bull behind.

With Verstappen cruising imperiously to victory, Perez moved up third after seeing off Leclerc.

The Mexican set about passing Sainz, and, after a number of failed attempts, he finally blasted past the Ferrari with five laps remaining to ensure a one-two for Red Bull.

After emerging from his tyre stop in 10th, Hamilton moved ahead of Fernando Alonso before banging wheels with Piastri in the battle for eighth.

Hamilton was hit with a penalty for the incident at the Variante della Roggia as Piastri pitted for a new front wing.

“He just turned across me under braking,” bemoaned the Australian rookie.

Undeterred by his sanction, Hamilton then raced ahead of Lando Norris before moving past Alex Albon’s Williams to take sixth, finishing 7.4 seconds clear to ensure his penalty had no impact on his result.

Albon finished seventh ahead of Norris, with Alonso ninth.

Carlos Sainz said he had goosebumps after sending Monza wild by putting his Ferrari on pole position for the Italian Grand Prix.

The Spanish driver saw off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just 0.013 seconds to huge roars at the sun-cooked Temple of Speed, with Charles Leclerc third in the other scarlet car.

George Russell took fourth for Mercedes with team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who this week signed a two-year contract extension, only eighth.

Verstappen has swept all before him this year – winning 11 of the 13 rounds so far – and, despite being pipped to top spot in qualifying, he will still be the favourite to land a record 10th straight win in Sunday’s 53-lap race.

But Saturday belonged to Sainz and the tifosi celebrated their man’s pole like a victory. Ferrari flags were hoisted into the air as Sainz, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday, hoisted his right arm from the cockpit.

“It is difficult to put into words to describe how I feel,” said Sainz after taking just the fourth pole of his life and his first in Monza.

“I have had goosebumps since I crossed the finish line. Watching the crowd and getting out of the car and seeing this is incredible.

“Everywhere we go, it is just noise, support and encouragement, and it is the best feeling you can have as an athlete.

“I have been feeling comfortable with the car, I cannot fault it, and I honestly put in one my best laps in Q3 to take pole. And tomorrow I am going to give it everything for that first place and see if we can battle Max.”

Verstappen has been an unstoppable force this season and he will make history if he goes behind enemy lines and betters the record he shares with Sebastian Vettel by reaching double figures for consecutive triumphs.

But the Dutchman, who took the chequered flag here last year, might be wary of a curious streak in Monza. Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo, who won here in 2019, 2020 and 2021, did not finish on their next visits.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also bidding to become the first team to go through a season unbeaten. McLaren came the closest to achieving a perfect campaign. The British outfit failed to win on just one occasion in 1988. The venue was Monza and the winner that afternoon was Gerhard Berger – in a Ferrari.

“Honestly, I don’t believe in statistics too much and this kind of curse,” added Sainz.

“On Sunday, the winner is the one who deserves it the most and is quicker and I am just going to try to be that one.”

Over at Mercedes, Hamilton snuck into Q3 after bemoaning a lack of grip and suggesting he had been impeded by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

He ultimately qualified eighth, half-a-second behind Sainz and two tenths adrift of team-mate Russell.

When, erroneously, he was told he had qualified one place lower, the 38-year-old replied: “I thought I was P8? It is s*** either way.

“I was just struggling. Our car is hard to optimise. There is nothing easy about this car.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz saw off Max Verstappen by just 0.013 seconds to take pole position for the Italian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard outgunned Red Bull’s Verstappen to the delight of the Ferrari faithful with Charles Leclerc third in the other scarlet car.

George Russell finished fourth with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton only eighth on an underwhelming afternoon for the seven-time world champion.

Verstappen, who is bidding to become the first driver in history to win 10 consecutive races, trailed the Ferrari duo heading into the final runs at Monza’s sun-cooked Temple of Speed.

But the double world champion appeared to have delivered the goods when he usurped both men with his last lap after he had made a rare mistake in his first run by kicking up gravel on the exit of Variante Della Roggia.

However, Sainz, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday and has been speedy all weekend here, sent the tifosi wild by pipping Verstappen in the closing seconds. Leclerc finished third, just 0.067 sec back in a nip-and-tuck qualifying session.

Both Ferrari men faced an investigation by the stewards after they were alleged to have driven too slowly on their warm-up laps in Q1.

The rule was updated on Saturday morning to avoid congestion and the possibility of accidents owing to the traffic.

But the stewards confirmed in the moments after Sainz’s pole that neither the Spaniard nor Leclerc would face further action.

Hamilton endured a difficult day, 48 hours after signing a new deal to extend his stay on the grid for another two years.

The seven-time world champion is on a run of 35 races without a victory and he does not appear any closer to ending his barren streak.

The Briton managed to haul his Mercedes into Q3 after he complained he was lacking grip, before suggesting he had been impeded by Red Bull’s Perez.

But he failed to make an impression at the very sharp end of the grid in Q3 after he qualified half-a-second behind Sainz and two tenths adrift of team-mate Russell.

Sergio Perez took fifth, while London-born Alex Albon, one of the standout performers of the season so far, impressed again.

While rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant was knocked out of Q2 in 15th, Albon not only progressed to the final phase but also saw off both McLarens, Hamilton and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso as he outperformed his modest Williams machinery to qualify sixth.

Oscar Piastri qualified seventh, two spots ahead of team-mate Lando Norris with Alonso 10th.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz beat Max Verstappen to top spot in final practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Sainz’s lap in the closing moments of the one-hour running in Monza drew a huge roar from the tifosi, providing the Ferrari faithful with hope a scarlet car might secure pole position at the team’s home event.

Sainz, who was also quickest in Friday’s second running, saw off Verstappen by 0.086 seconds. Lewis Hamilton finished third for Mercedes.

Charles Leclerc made a mistake on his speediest lap and had to settle for fourth, half-a-second slower than team-mate Sainz.

Verstappen is bidding to become the first driver to win 10 consecutive races, but Ferrari appear to have a car capable of denying the Dutchman pole.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion will be pleased to be back at the sharp end of the pack after he finished 17th in practice on Friday.

However, the British driver was still 0.541 seconds back from Sainz, with team-mate George Russell sixth. Fernando Alonso finished fifth for Aston Martin, with Sergio Perez 10th and McLaren’s Lando Norris 17th.

Qualifying for the 14th round of the season takes place at 4pm (3pm BST).

Lewis Hamilton finished only 17th in practice for the Italian Grand Prix as Sergio Perez crashed out.

Carlos Sainz provided Ferrari’s home fans with reason for cheer by posting the fastest time at the Italian team’s home track in Monza.

The Spaniard, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday, edged out McLaren’s Lando Norris by 0.019 seconds with championship leader Max Verstappen in fifth place, two tenths back.

But seven-time world champion Hamilton, who signed a new £50million-a-year contract with Mercedes earlier this week, ended up only 17th of the 19 drivers who set a time after bemoaning the lack of straight-line speed.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell finished ninth, 0.821sec slower than Sainz.

While Verstappen has romped to 11 wins from 13 this season – and could become the first driver in history to seal 10 consecutive victories on Sunday – his team-mate Perez has endured a turbulent campaign.

And the Mexican faced more misery here after he lost control of his Red Bull machine through the high-speed Parabolica.

Perez ran on to the gravel on the exit of the corner leading into the main straight and skidded across the sandtrap before nudging the wall.

Perez was able to limp back to the pits but team principal Christian Horner was left grimacing on the Red Bull pit wall.

Before his spin, Perez had displayed encouraging pace – finishing third, 0.185 behind Sainz – and unusually ahead of Verstappen.

Verstappen, 138 points clear in the world standings on his unstoppable march towards a hat-trick of titles, ended the opening running at the top of the time charts. But his best effort in the day’s concluding running was scuppered by traffic.

The 25-year-old wanted to go for another timed lap, only for his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to tell him “it isn’t qualifying”.

The Dutch driver was also fined 500 euros (£428) for breaking the 50mph pit-lane speed limit by 3mph.

However, given his crushing dominance this year, he will head into the remainder of the weekend as the favourite to land another win and better the record he shares with Sebastian Vettel.

McLaren have bounced back from a poor start to the year following an upgrade at June’s Austrian Grand Prix. Behind Norris in second place, Oscar Piastri finished fourth.

Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc, who won here to the delight of the Tifosi in 2019, was sixth, one place ahead of the ever-impressive Alex Albon in his Williams, with Fernando Alonso eighth for Aston Martin.

Alonso’s team-mate Lance Stroll failed to set a lap after he broke down with a fuel system failure in the opening moments.

Max Verstappen put down an early marker in his bid to win 10 consecutive races by setting the fastest time in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

The double world champion edged out Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz by 0.046 seconds in Monza with Sergio Perez third in the other Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc finished fourth for Ferrari at the Italian team’s home event, one place ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton ended the opening running of the weekend in eighth.

Verstappen has dominated Formula One this season – winning 11 of the 13 rounds so far – and will make history on Sunday if he racks up another victory.

The Red Bull driver – already 138 points clear in his pursuit of a third world championship – is level with Sebastian Vettel on nine wins and, on the evidence of practice, is poised to land yet another win and set a new record.

Hamilton ended his long-running contract saga in the build-up to this weekend’s race by putting pen to paper on a new £50million-a-year deal.

But the seven-time world champion ended first practice six tenths back from Verstappen and a tenth adrift of team-mate Russell.

Ferrari have endured a poor season, but showed early promise in front of their fanatical supporters at the Temple of Speed with Sainz and Leclerc second and fourth respectively.

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso, who finished runner-up to Verstappen at last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, took sixth for Aston Martin, one place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Second practice gets under way at 5pm local time (4pm BST).

Max Verstappen has hit back at criticism of his dominance and set the target of remaining unbeaten for the final nine races of the season.

The all-conquering Dutchman will become the first driver in history to win 10 consecutive races if he takes the chequered flag at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen has been in imperious form this year, winning 11 of the 13 rounds staged as he closes in on a hat-trick of World Championships.

With a lead of 183 points heading into this weekend’s race in Monza there is a chance he could even close out the title with six rounds still remaining at the Japanese Grand Prix on September 24.

However, Verstappen’s emphatic streak has led to suggestions that the sport has become boring.

But responding to the accusations in an interview with the PA news agency, Verstappen, 25, said: “They cannot appreciate dominance or just people executing their jobs.

“It is nothing really new in Formula One, and I cannot do much with those kind of comments. Does it bother me? No. It would probably be worse if they were talking about other stuff. I am enjoying what I am doing and I hope I can do it for a while.

“I don’t want it to stop. We have another good opportunity this weekend. I believe I can win every single race.”

Verstappen’s victory on his home track in Zandvoort – which drew him level with Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine straight wins – was among the very best of the 46 of his career so far.

At one stage, he was lapping four seconds faster than Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, and two seconds quicker than anybody else.

His virtuoso display in the inclement conditions prompted double world champion Fernando Alonso to say Verstappen’s achievements are being underestimated.

“It is not about getting the recognition because I know how hard it is to do,” said Verstappen.

“If it was very easy, more drivers would have won nine in a row, and more teams would have done it, and that is not the case.

“It hasn’t been straightforward either. In Zandvoort especially, a lot of things could have gone wrong, and in the end we still handled that really well.

“I never thought I would get to nine. I remember watching Seb do it, and I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, that is extremely difficult’, and now I am here and it is amazing.”

Verstappen will share the grid with long-time rival Lewis Hamilton for at least another two seasons after the British driver signed a new £50million-a-year deal to remain with Mercedes.

The contract extension will take Hamilton beyond his 40th birthday, and provides the possibility of a championship rematch with Verstappen if Mercedes can somehow close the gap to Red Bull.

Hamilton, who was denied an eighth world title after race director Michael Masi failed to follow the correct rules in Abu Dhabi in 2021, alluded to “unfinished business” after signing his latest deal.

Twenty months on from F1’s most contentious race, does Verstappen – who, on new tyres, had to pass Hamilton on the final lap to take the title – feel his maiden championship triumph was tainted?

“It was not like it was given to me,” he said. “I still had to do it.

“People always have short memories and they can forget a lot of stuff very quickly.

“It was a great year, and we had a lot of great battles with two teams going at it and that was amazing for Formula One.

“But you will always have a winner, and you will always have a loser. That is how this sport works, and I was also ready to lose.
“It was a 50-50 chance and it fell my way. But in the future I could be in a situation where it doesn’t fall my way and that is how life goes.

“I don’t really care a lot about other people’s opinions. I only care about people that are very close to me so whatever people say or write, I am like ‘whatever’.

“I grew up my whole life wanting to be a Formula One driver and I will do everything it takes to try and be successful at it.

“I make my choices and my decisions and that is why I am very relaxed about these things. I go home, I switch off from Formula One, and I am happy with my career. And when I come back to the race weekends I do my thing, and that is it.”

Lewis Hamilton said he has “unfinished business” after signing a new £100million contract to extend his Formula One career beyond his 40th birthday.

After months of negotiations, the seven-time world champion finally concluded a new two-year deal – understood to be worth £50m-a-season, a salary hike of £10m – at last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.

The announcement ends speculation surrounding the seven-time world champion’s future with his current deal up for renewal at the end of the season.

Hamilton’s extension – which draws him level with Max Verstappen as the grid’s highest earner – will take him to a month shy of his 41st birthday. It will also allow him to continue his pursuit of a record eighth crown.

Hamilton will still be partnered by George Russell after Mercedes also confirmed they 25-year-old’s stay for at least another two years.

“I have had such an incredible journey with Mercedes, and we still have unfinished business,” said Hamilton ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

“We want to get back to the top, and back to fighting for world championships. We are in this together.

“We have a lot of work to do, but there is nowhere else I would rather be. You are all stuck with me for a little bit longer.”

Hamilton has won a record 103 races, and was carried to six of his seven championships by Mercedes, but he has not tasted victory since the controversial Abu Dhabi decider of 2021 – a losing run of 36 races.

Hamilton is fourth in the championship, an eye-watering 183 points behind Verstappen, with Mercedes unable to challenge the Dutchman’s all-conquering team.

Verstappen has won 11 of the 13 rounds so far – with Red Bull unbeaten this season.

But Hamilton added: “It is not about revenge or redemption. Abu Dhabi is in the past and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“In life, you have ups and downs, and last year everyone was questioning whether they wanted to continue. But that thought quickly went away, and you put your mind and energy into being the best you can be.

“I truly believe we can win more world championships and more races together and that’s where all my energy is going.

“I’m not thinking that it’s going to take another four years to get to where we need to be. I’m aware that it does take time.

“But I’m so hopeful the decisions we are taking will put us in that target zone. In my heart I truly believe if it’s not next year it will be the year after that we can challenge.”

Hamilton, who made his F1 debut in 2007 aged 22, once scoffed at the idea of racing into his forties.

But after signing up for his 18th and 19th seasons, he revealed the careers of NFL star Tom Brady, who retired at the age of 45, and Fernando Alonso, who turned 42 last month, is proof he can continue to compete at the highest level.

“I definitely didn’t think I would get to the age that I am and feel the way I do, physically and mentally, and still love what I’m doing as much as I do,” he added. “That’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.

“I look at people like Tom Brady, who has been such an incredible athlete, and has shown what can be done today. He’s a role model in that respect.

“I’ve been fortunate in being able to speak to him and to understand what he has done and what he does consistently to keep himself in shape.

“It is also great seeing Fernando. He was here way before I was and is still doing an amazing job.

“It just shows that your talent never really leaves you so long as you have that passion and commitment to continue.”

Russell joined Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022, out-scoring his team-mate in their first season together.

He also claimed his maiden victory – Mercedes’ sole triumph of last year – at the penultimate round in Brazil.

“Lewis wouldn’t have stayed if he didn’t think the team was capable of winning again,” added Russell. “That reinforces the confidence that I have in the team.”

Lewis Hamilton will extend his record-breaking career in Formula One beyond his 40th birthday after signing a new contract with Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows confirmed ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix that Hamilton, 38, will continue to drive with them for 2024 and 2025.

It is anticipated that the new deal will earn Hamilton in the region of £50million-a-year.

The announcement ends speculation surrounding the seven-time world champion’s future on the grid with his current deal up for renewal at the end of the year.

Mercedes will stick with their all-British line-up until at least the end of 2025 with George Russell, 25, continuing to partner Hamilton.

“We dream every day of being the best and we have dedicated the past decade together to achieving that goal,” said Hamilton, who started his career back in 2007.

“Being at the top does not happen overnight or over a short period of time, it takes commitment, hard work and dedication and it’s been an honour to earn our way into the history books with this incredible team.

“We have never been hungrier to win. We have learnt from every success but also every setback. We continue to chase our dreams, we continue to fight no matter the challenge and we will win again.

“I’m grateful to the team who have supported me both on and off the track. Our story isn’t finished, we are determined to achieve more together and we won’t stop until we do.”

Barbadian Zane Maloney sped to a second place finish in Sunday’s Zandvoort feature race as the FIA Formula 2 series moved to the Netherlands this past weekend.

The 19-year-old Maloney, who had been fifth in Saturday’s two-lap sprint race, started fourth on the grid and clocked a finishing time of 1:01:30.308, just over two seconds behind Frenchman Clement Novalak, who logged his maiden win in 1:01:36.125.

Jak Crawford of the USA was third in 1:01:38.650. Championship leader Theo Pourchaire, of France, spun off and did not finish the 38-lap feature.

Novalak kept himself out of trouble in a dramatic race while Maloney held Crawford at bay for the runner-up spot, managing his tyres to the end and keeping the polesitter Crawford behind him for his fourth podium of the season.

Maloney had third place finishes in Bahrain and Monaco and was second at Britain’s Silverstone.

Maloney is currently ninth in the championship standings on 96 points, the same as eighth placed Richard Verschoor of the Netherlands and they are 72 points off leader Pourchaire. Denmark’s Frederik Vesti (156), Japanese Ayumu Iwasa (134) and Australian Jack Doohan (130) are second, third, and fourth respectively heading into this weekend’s next stop in Monza, Italy, the penultimate event of the season.

Maloney’s Rodin Carlin are third in the team standings on 200 points, trailing leaders ART GP (290) and Prema Racing (258).


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