Lewis Hamilton still does not feel comfortable in his Mercedes but has renewed confidence the team can fight to challenge Red Bull after a strong showing at an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix.

In a race that saw three red flags at Albert Park, Hamilton finished second behind world champion Max Verstappen, who has won two of the opening three races in the 2023 season.

Hamilton consequently returned to the podium for the first time since the penultimate race of the 2022 campaign in Brazil.

The Briton said he is still trying to get a connection with the car, but feels the team have an opportunity to narrow the gap to the dominant Red Bulls.

"It was [a crazy race]. I have had the best week here this week," Hamilton said.

"I still feel uncomfortable in the car, I don't feel connected to it so I am driving as best I can with that disconnect and I am working as hard as I can to try and create that connect but it is a long project.

"But still, considering we have been down on performance and the straight pace compared to the Red Bulls, for us to be up here fighting with Aston, it is just amazing at this point in the season.

"We have got to keep on fighting. Big, big thank you to everybody back at the factory, let's keep pushing.

"If we can close that gap, it is going to be tough, but it isn't impossible." 

Team-mate George Russell lost the lead amid the drama of the first red flag and later had to retire with a power-unit issue.

Hamilton added: "It was really unlucky for George. On our side, we have got to look into our reliability, which has generally been really good, so that is really unfortunate.

"Otherwise to get those points is really amazing. I definitely didn't expect to be second. So I am super grateful for it."

On his disappointing premature end to the race, Russell said: "Yeah, I guess when it's not your day, it's not your day, and pretty disappointed initially with the decision to red flag the race.

"Everything we've done this weekend has been good: qualifying was great, the start was great, the restart was great, the strategy decision was the right one. It's just such a shame to be stood here right now."

Max Verstappen continued Red Bull's fine start to the Formula One season as he won his first Australian Grand Prix in a chaotic race on Sunday.

The double world champion did not have it all his own way after dropping from pole position to third as he was passed by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in the resurgent Mercedes on the opening lap.

There were three red flags, with Russell losing the lead amid the drama around the first and he was later forced to retire, with Verstappen overtaking Hamilton to go in front on lap 12.

Verstappen charged clear from there to claim a second win from three races. He finished ahead of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, though there was more drama and confusion before the final result was confirmed.

Sergio Perez started in the pit lane after opting to change his car under parc ferme regulations due to his issues in qualifying, but he was able to salvage a fifth-place finish.

Russell overtook Verstappen down the inside of the first corner and with the Dutchman on the back foot Hamilton forced his own way through.

Last year's winner Charles Leclerc was in the gravel after contact with Lance Stroll, ending the Ferrari driver's race and bringing out the safety car in a thrilling start.

The safety was car called out again on lap 7 after Alex Albon hit the wall, with leader Russell diving into the pits.

However, that move backfired when a red flag followed soon after, leaving Hamilton and Verstappen – who had not stopped – with an advantage and Russell down in seventh.

Russell promptly got back up for fourth after the restart, but it was not his day as he then lost power with the back of his car on fire.

At the front, Verstappen clearly had the most pace and easily reclaimed the lead by sweeping past Hamilton round the outside in a DRS-assisted move.

A Verstappen victory rarely looked in doubt from there until a late crash for Kevin Magnussen caused a second red flag.

In a dramatic restart, contact between Carlos Sainz and Alonso caused an immediate third red flag and looked to have ended the Aston Martin veteran's podium hopes.

A period of confusion then followed as the FIA determined what rules would be applied and Alonso was reprieved as it ordered the race to finish with the same order as existed before the restart, with Sainz receiving a time penalty.

Brad Binder won MotoGP's sprint race in Argentina after a stunning ride saw him surge from 15th on the grid.

The South African beat Marco Bezzecchi by just 0.072 seconds, with his Mooney VR46 team-mate Luca Marini coming in third to clinch a double podium for the team.

Binder enjoyed a meteoric rise through the pack on the opening lap, leaping from his lowly start position to fourth and taking the lead on lap three en route to victory.

Prior to the sprint, Marquez secured pole after a dramatic day for the Spaniard in Q1 saw him go top, crash out and abandon his number one bike as it caught fire.

The younger Marquez brother rallied in Q2 after gambling on slick tyres in wet conditions to seal a maiden pole and his spot at the front of the pack for Sunday's race, following in his brother's footsteps after his pole in the season opener.

Bezzecchi, who starts second, smashed the top time by two seconds but Marquez pipped him to pole, while a late charge from Francesco Bagnaia saw him bump Franco Morbidelli out of the top three.

Binder's victory in the sprint caused quite a stir, with the man himself among those surprised by his performance.

"I didn't expect that at all, honestly my bike worked so well from the first lap and I got the most unreal start I could have ever asked for," he told reporters.

"I got really lucky [at the start] where there was a gap where the riders split, some were on the left and some were right so I could get down the middle and just chip my way through.

"I couldn't have ever dreamed of getting a start that good, so when I saw an opportunity of getting to first I took it with both hands and from then on it was a case of whoever passed me try and divebomb them straight back.

 "We made a huge step from [Friday] and I was able to keep rhythm at my fastest lap from [Friday], so hats off to the team. They did an unreal job.

"My rhythm wasn't terrible, and even though the other guys had a bit extra at the end we won the race so I can't complain and I'm really happy."

GRID CLASSIFICATION

1. Alex Marquez (Gresini) 1:43.881

2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.172

3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +0.858

4. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) +2.101

5. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +2.355

6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +2.582

7. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46) +2.707

8. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +2.754

9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.997

10. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +3.241

SPRINT RESULT

1. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) 19:56:873

2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.072

3. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46) +0.877

4. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) +2.354

5. Alex Marquez (Gresini) +2.462

6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +2.537

7. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +2.643

8. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +3.754

9. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +4.856

10. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) +5.143

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 41

2. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) 28

3. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) 25

4. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) 22

5. Alex Marquez (Gresini) 17

6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 15

7. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) 15

8. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 11

9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 11

10. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 9

Lewis Hamilton suspects Mercedes' sensational Saturday in Melbourne may not be achievable at other tracks and is still unsure if he and George Russell can fight to win the Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes drivers and officials had been pessimistic in their forecasts for the season prior to qualifying in this week's third race.

But Russell secured a place on the front row alongside Max Verstappen, with Hamilton qualifying third-fastest to put the Silver Arrows in a great position to attack Red Bull's world champion.

"I'm a little bit surprised; maybe they are also a little bit surprised," Verstappen said in Saturday's press conference. "But I guess it's a good thing."

It is certainly a good thing for Mercedes, although Hamilton is not convinced this means all their issues have gone away.

"I think it's perhaps track-specific," he said, "but I think ultimately there's no one in the team that's had their heads down, in terms of giving up.

"Everyone's been working incredibly hard to try to squeeze the most out of what we currently have."

Verstappen had not previously qualified on pole in Melbourne, where he is still waiting for his first win.

Hamilton has a joint-record eight poles at this event, winning twice, and added: "I think this gives everyone in the team a boost and a glimpse of hope and this will spur everyone on and will inspire everyone to continue to push.

"We know that if we can just bring a little bit of performance, we can close the gap to the front. Still, there are going to be places where the gap is a lot bigger."

Russell did not entirely concur, countering: "For sure, we maximised the job, no doubt about it, but we had a good qualifying last week in Jeddah.

"I didn't put my lap together in the last run in Jeddah and was only a tenth off P3.

"So no, I don't think it's necessarily track-specific. I do think we're making some improvement with the understanding of the car."

But Hamilton and Russell were in agreement that Red Bull, even with Sergio Perez encountering issues and failing to make it out of Q1, remain the team to beat.

Russell said: "I do still think Red Bull are a class ahead of everybody else.

"For sure Lewis and I got the most out of it today, [but] by the sounds of what Max is saying, there was probably still a little bit more in the locker.

"And we're talking that three-tenths is a little bit – normally, they're a second ahead; now, they're three-tenths ahead – that's still a huge amount in the world of F1."

If only for this weekend, though, can Mercedes challenge Red Bull for the top step of the podium? Hamilton still does not know.

"I haven't even done a long run," he explained. "So tomorrow, going into the race, will be the first time I do so.

"And I've not seen where we tally up compared to them. We have to expect they're going to be a quarter of a second, half a second, at least, quicker than us.

"But maybe in the tow, maybe we can just about hold on; maybe the fact that there's two of us and only one Red Bull, maybe with strategy, maybe we can apply some pressure to them. So, we'll see."

Max Verstappen ended his wait for pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, but Mercedes came out of Saturday with their optimism renewed in Melbourne.

While reigning Formula One champion and season leader Max Verstappen remains the man to beat, he is without Red Bull team-mate in support at the front of the grid this weekend.

Instead, George Russell joined Verstappen on the front row, with Lewis Hamilton qualifying third-fastest in a qualifying session the pair acknowledged was "unexpected".

It could have been even better for Mercedes, with Hamilton setting an initial provisional pole in a hotly contested Q3.

Just 0.301 seconds separated the top seven at one stage, before a dominant Verstappen performance took him 0.236s clear.

"The last run was very good," he said, acknowledging a "very tough" weekend.

After finally securing pole in Melbourne, his next aim is a first Australia GP win.

Verstappen added: "I've been on the podium once, but I want to be on a different step this time."

Yet Mercedes intend to have something to say about that, even if merely getting this close to Verstappen was far beyond their expectations.

"We weren't expecting that, that's for sure," said Russell. "There's a lot of hard work going on back at the factory here in Melbourne, and what a session for us. The car felt alive.

"The lap at the end was right on the limit, and to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed we didn't get pole position.

"It's one of those things, how your expectations change so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with top four, top five yesterday, but the car felt awesome.

"It goes to show we've definitely got potential still to come."

Hamilton suggested this week it would take "the rest of the year to potentially close that gap" to Red Bull, yet the Silver Arrows are suddenly back in contention.

"I'm so happy with this. This is totally unexpected," Hamilton said. "I'm really, really proud of the team.

"George did a fantastic job today, so for us to be up there on the two front rows is a dream for us.

"We're all working as hard as we can to get right back up the front, so to be this close to Red Bull is honestly incredible. I hope tomorrow we can give them a bit of a run for their money."

Absent from the Q3 battle was Perez, who is on a career-best run of three straight podiums and had talked up his title aspirations this week.

But he endured problems right from the outset on Saturday, delayed in his start to FP3 and then running into trouble at Turn 3.

Perez locked up again at the same corner early in Q1 and ended in the gravel, his session over as he bemoaned "the same issue again" over the team radio.

McLaren's home favourite Oscar Piastri, making his Australian GP debut, fared little better, out in Q1.

A strong start to the season for Fernando Alonso continued as the veteran qualified fourth, ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. George Russell (Mercedes)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
8. Alexander Albon (Williams)
9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

Daniel Ricciardo believes he will return to the Formula One grid for the 2024 season after a year-long absence.

The Australian departed McLaren at the end of the 2022 campaign and did not take a seat on the grid for 2023, instead returning to Red Bull in a reserve driver capacity.

Just three months into his reduced role, which has allowed far more free time, Ricciardo feels he has got what he wanted out of the break and is now seeking a full-time return to F1.

While it is not yet known what opportunities may emerge next year, Ricciardo is expecting to be back

"The signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid. I feel like that's where I'm tracking in my head and a few of the habits that I'm having or doing is pointing towards that," he told reporters ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

"It's only been a few months [out of F1] but I think some itches have been scratched, so to speak. I've actually weirdly found that the days that I've had no schedule are the days when I've actually done training, and I've done things like I would before.

"So I don't know, being my own boss, writing my own schedule has actually brought out a lot of the things in me. When I thought I might just sit on the couch and watch movies all day and eat junk food, I'm just not. That's not me.

"So even these things have made me realise how much I do care about it."

However, Ricciardo will not change the stance he had ahead of the current season and will only accept a seat with a team capable of fighting at the front end of the grid.

"I still am at a point where it's not at any cost, it's not just to be back on the grid," he added.

"A lot of the reason for taking this year off was that I didn't want to just jump back into a car, any car just to be one of the F1 drivers. And I still don't see myself starting from scratch and rebuilding a career from ground zero and going at it for another decade.

"I appreciate I might not have every opportunity under the sun, but I want to win. I want to be back with a top team and obviously a team where I have my confidence back and my mojo.

"I think also that's where, maybe when I look back that's a weakness of mine, but in a way it's a strength as I feel better at the front of the grid. I feel like I perform in those situations with a bit more pressure and a bit more emphasis on a podium.

"So, to go back and try to put myself in just any seat or something that's fighting at best for a top-10 finish, I don't think that's going to bring the best out of me. So yeah, I see myself, at least in my head, wanting to go back on the grid, but there's still some terms and conditions, so to speak."

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes will require the rest of the Formula One campaign to get into a position where they can challenge early pacesetters Red Bull.

Red Bull have started the 2023 season with back-to-back one-twos, with Max Verstappen triumphing at the Bahrain Grand Prix and Sergio Perez winning in Saudi Arabia last time out.

Mercedes, meanwhile, sit third in the constructors' championship having started a second consecutive year off the pace, with Hamilton posting successive fifth-place finishes.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was pessimistic about his team's chances of matching Red Bull in the short term.

"It is going to take us the rest of the year to potentially close that gap," the seven-time world champion said.

"If you look at the Red Bull, it is just going to continue to evolve most likely. Some cars do plateau in terms of performance. At some point it can't just keep going. But maybe it can.

"They have a great team around them and I am sure they will continue to add downforce.

"We just have to make sure when we do make the change, hopefully the drop isn't too far, and it is going to take us the rest of the year, for sure, to potentially close that gap."

Hamilton has been outspoken in his criticism of Mercedes' troubled W14 car, which the team plan to make major alterations to just two races into the season.

Expanding on the car's issues, Hamilton said: "I don't know if people know, but we sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. Our cockpit is too close to the front.

"What that does is it really changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. It makes it harder to predict compared to when you're further back and sitting more centred. It is just something I have really struggled with.

"There is a part of me that is just hopeful we find the trick and are straight on to the right track that is not far away from the others."

Max Verstappen is relieved there is a break in the Formula One calendar coming up as the drivers' champion battles back from an illness that left him feeling as thought one lung was incapacitated.

The Red Bull driver, seeking a third consecutive title this season, was left stricken ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia and only just hauled himself together to be able to compete.

In the end, he pulled out something special, finishing second after starting in 15th place on the grid, having dropped out in Q2 due to a mechanical failure.

Verstappen also retained his place at the top of the drivers' season standings by recording the race's fastest lap right at the death, so he leads the way heading into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

After competing in Melbourne, there will be a break before F1 resumes in Azerbaijan across the April 28-30 weekend, a gap that was created by the cancellation of a planned race in China.

Three clear weeks without competition should allow Verstappen to get back on an even keel, although he signalled the worst of the illness has already passed.

"I was not looking forward to the break, but then I got really ill and have just been struggling a bit since that time, especially last race out," Verstappen said.

"So I think for me now these three weeks are just about getting back to full fitness, getting a full programme in."

Reflecting on his tough experience prior to racing in Jeddah two weeks ago, Verstappen said: "At home I was really ill, I could barely just walk around. It felt like I was just missing a lung, and I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone.

"Normally when you get sick like two, three days after, you’re normally all right – you can just do your workouts – but then when I jumped into the car in FP1, even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally."

He added: "It definitely did affect me throughout the weekend, which I didn't like. It was one of the first races where I felt I was physically limited, and that's really frustrating when you're in the car.

"Since then I've been trying to work on it, trying to improve it, and I do think it has improved a lot, so this weekend should be all right."

Verstappen has yet to have a win at the Australian Grand Prix, with third place in 2019 being his best finish to date.

The 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year Verstappen retired from the race at Albert Park as Charles Leclerc claimed a dominant victory for Ferrari.

George Russell has refuted Lewis Hamilton's suggestion his result at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was down to luck – and Hamilton has now explained his comments.

Russell finished fourth in Jeddah, though he looked set to take third place when Fernando Alonso was penalised.

Aston Martin managed to overturn that decision, leaving Russell in fourth, one place ahead of Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.

Seven-time Formula One world champion Hamilton seemed to suggest after the race that Russell made a fortunate choice when deciding to alter his set-up.

Hamilton claimed that call would "more often than not" have been wrong. Russell, however, disagrees.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Russell said: "I don't think there's any luck in it at all.

"I think it's down to the preparation you put in before the event.

"The changes we made overnight, I knew that was going to be the right direction with the work we did with the team. And I believed it was going to be better than the set-up that Lewis opted for.

"I think everybody's got different preferences, I was happy with the direction I took and the work I'm doing with the engineers."

Keen to avoid any animosity, Hamilton sought to clarify what he had meant in Jeddah.

He said: "I want to reiterate how great a job George did.

"I think the thing I was commenting on is that there's one specific thing that you can change in the suspension that you have to do over Friday night, and when you make that change, once you start P3, you can't change it for the rest of the weekend, so when you make that change, you're basically rolling the dice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"I've done it in the past. Sometimes it hasn't worked, sometimes it has, and it worked great for George and he did a great job.

"The thing that I was lacking in the race was a lot of front end, which that set-up gives you, so, in hindsight, that would've been great."

Sergio Perez is adamant Red Bull will not steer him away from a battle with Max Verstappen for the Formula One title.

Red Bull have dominated the opening two rounds of the season, securing one-two finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Verstappen holding a narrow one-point lead over his team-mate courtesy of the fastest lap in Jeddah.

Verstappen's push for the extra championship point last time out saw sparks flying at Red Bull, with Perez unhappy he was not given a similar message over team radio and ultimately not making a bid himself to set the fastest time.

Suggestions that tempers are flaring in the paddock have been downplayed, however, and Mexican driver Perez feels he has support within the team to launch his own bid for the title.

The season continues this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

"When I first came to the team [ahead of the 2021 season], things were very different.  Basically, they were just going racing with two cars because they had to," Perez said, quoted by BBC Sport.

"I can now say that I really feel part of the team, have my place and am well respected.

"I really believe I have the team's full support, as much as Max does, and that I will have every opportunity to win the championship, as much as Max."

While going wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen could lead to tensions over the course of the season, Perez feels the pair have the maturity to deal with any rivalry that could emerge on track.

"I'm here to do the best possible thing for myself as well. To be honest, we have a lot more respect for each other than people might think," Perez said.

"Inside the team, there is a very high level of respect with each other. I think we are both mature enough to know what's right and what's wrong and, as long as that keeps being the case, I don't expect anything to change."

Lewis Hamilton needs support from his fellow Formula 1 drivers to fill the gap left behind by Sebastian Vettel in championing human rights issues, says former McLaren head of communications Matt Bishop.

The pair have formed the cornerstone of the sport's stands against injustice and have voiced vocal support for a multitude of social causes, in particular the LGBTQ+ community, during their time in F1.

With Vettel's retirement at the end of last season, however, Hamilton has been left to lead from the front, particularly amid the sport's powerbrokers moving to censor political protests on race weekends.

Ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Bishop – who helped create the Racing Pride organisation to support the LGBTQ+ community in motorsport – has called for the void to be filled in support of the Briton.

"[Vettel] absolutely saw Lewis as somebody who he could confide in, who he could seek counsel from," he told Sky Sports.

"I think it was mutual. They both saw each other as somebody who 'gets it' in the same way. I'm not trying to criticise any of the other drivers by the way – I worked with many of them, and it takes all sorts to make a world.

"But I suppose I would now like some of the other drivers to consider whether they could perhaps fill the void Sebastian has vacated, because Lewis is a tiny bit on his own now."

Bishop's comments come after three-time world champion Nelson Piquet was last week fined £780,000 for racist and homophobic comments made about Hamilton during an interview from November 2021.

"The most important thing is that in Brazil that wrong was righted and I know he's got to pay a big fine," Bishop said.

"I assume he can afford it and I do hope, which presumably was the objective, that it will deter other people from speaking in such an appalling way moving forward."

Repsol Honda alleged the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) has "violated" the team's rights after its decision to uphold Marc Marquez's ban beyond the Argentina Grand Prix.

The six-time MotoGP champion suffered a fracture to the first metacarpal bone in his right hand in Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

That was after a crash with Miguel Oliveira at Turn 3 early in the race, with Marquez found guilty of irresponsible riding in Portimao after both riders were unable to continue.

The Spaniard was handed a double long-lap penalty and the FIM confirmed Marquez will serve the sanction when he next features after Honda announced he will miss the next race due to a hand operation.

Honda have contested the FIM's ruling, questioning the merits of changing the penalty two days after the initial sanction.

"The modification of the penalty consisted of a change of criteria on when the penalty should be applied," Honda said in a statement on Wednesday.

"This modification was issued by the FIM two days after the initial sanction was final and definitive, and is not in line with the current regulations of the FIM for the MotoGP World Championship.

"The Repsol Honda Team intends to use all the means of recourse to defend its rights and legitimate interests, which it considers violated as a result of the latest resolution adopted, and in particular has duly submitted an appeal before the FIM Appeal Stewards."

Japanese team Honda have opted to go to the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit with just one rider, despite having test rider Stefan Bradl available.

Joan Mir will step up in the absence of Marquez as the 2020 world champion prepares for his second race in the team's colours on Sunday in Santiago del Estero.

The Formula One grid will see a "different" Max Verstappen at the Australian Grand Prix, according to Helmut Marko.

Those are foreboding words for the two-time defending world champion's rivals, among which only his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez can be considered a serious challenger following the first two races of the season.

Red Bull claimed one-twos in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, doing so in dominant fashion as Verstappen prevailed in the season opener before Perez won from pole in Jeddah.

Verstappen recovered from 15th, his qualifying hindered by a driveshaft failure, to finish second in Saudi Arabia.

But Red Bull consultant Marko expects Verstappen to produce a stronger performance at Albert Park.

"He wasn't 100 per cent fit," Marko told F1-Insider after Verstappen had battled illness in the build up to the race.

"However, he is now doing everything he can to maximise performance next time. 

"We will therefore see a different Verstappen in Australia."

While Red Bull are the clear class of the field, Mercedes remain a long way off their former glories, though boss Toto Wolff has reason for optimism following fourth and fifth-place finishes for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia and signs of progress at their factory.

"The signs we are seeing back at the factory are promising," said Wolff. "We have got to take it step by step, though, and won't get carried away until we see performance translated into lap time on track. 

"The competitive order behind Red Bull is tight, with small margins having a big effect on points scored. There remains a significant gap to the front and that is ultimately what we are interested in closing."
 

A Red Bull-Alonso hat-trick?

The only man who has come close to challenging Red Bull is Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, who got past Perez at the start in Saudi Arabia and briefly led.

He has back-to-back third-place finishes. If he, Verstappen and Perez share the podium again, it would be first time since 2015 with the same three drivers in the top three in the first three races of the year in Formula One (Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel).

A third straight one-two for Red Bull would mark the first time they have achieved such a feat and make them to sixth team to do so.

Piastri's progress

Oscar Piastri is the only Australian on the grid, having replaced compatriot Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.

McLaren have yet to score a point in a difficult start to the season, but Piastri qualified an encouraging ninth in Saudi Arabia before early pit stops for front wing damage for him and team-mate Lando Norris hindered their respective races. 

But his qualifying performance in Jeddah offers hope he can score his first F1 point at his home grand prix, with team principal Andrea Stella praising the rookie.

"We have seen really strong progress by Oscar," Stella told Autosport. "Obviously, Lando is a complete certainty. So we know that Lando is there.

"If you look back, already in FP1 he [Piastri] was a little bit more competitive than Bahrain, then FP2 closer, then FP3 pretty much a match for Lando, capitalising in qualifying, and then very strong in the race. 

"For me, I see more the sense of constant progression, which is ultimately the plan that we have with Oscar."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 44

2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 43

3. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 27

4. George Russell (Mercedes) 21

5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 20

Constructors

1. Red Bull 87

2. Mercedes 41

3. Aston Martin 35

4. Ferrari 26

5. Alpine 8

Marc Marquez has been ruled out of next weekend's Argentina Grand Prix after undergoing surgery on his hand.

The six-time MotoGP champion suffered a fracture to the first metacarpal bone in his right hand in Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

Repsol Honda confirmed on Monday that Marquez was operated on at the Ruber Internacional Hospital in Madrid and will spend a short period recuperating.

As a result of sitting out the next round in Argentina, the Spaniard will also miss the double long-lap penalty imposed on him by the FIM 

Marquez was found guilty of irresponsible riding in Portimao when ploughing into Miguel Oliveira at Turn 3 early in the race, resulting in both riders dramatically crashing out.

The 30-year-old also forced Jorge Martin wide, which saw his compatriot lose several positions.

Speaking after the race, which he entered in pole position, Marquez accepted blame for the collision that cut his opening race of the season short.

"The most important is that Miguel is okay," he said. "I made a big mistake on Turn 3, in the first part, and this created everything.

"I braked and had a massive lock with the front tyre. That meant that I released the brakes. My intention was to go to the left side. 

"But the bike stayed on a lean and I couldn't avoid going to the right side. I was able to avoid Martin but couldn't avoid Miguel. I was very worried because the contact was big.

"I already said it personally – but I want to say sorry to him, to his team, to the Portuguese fans. 

"I have been penalised for that mistake with a double long lap penalty, that I completely, completely agree."

Marc Marquez has been hit with a double long-lap penalty following his Portuguese Grand Prix crash on Sunday.

The six-time MotoGP champion started on pole in Portimao, but a costly mistake brought his race to a premature end.

Marquez ploughed into Miguel Oliveira at Turn 3 early in the race, resulting in both riders dramatically crashing out.

The Spaniard also forced Jorge Martin wide, which saw his compatriot lose several positions.

Marquez could miss the next round in Argentina, as he waits to discover if he suffered a fracture to the first metacarpal bone in his right hand.

If he is passed fit for that race, the 30-year-old will face a penalty after the stewards ruled that he was guilty of irresponsible riding.

Marquez said: "Honestly speaking, I am not worried about Argentina. Today, the most important is that Miguel is okay. Because I did a big mistake on Turn [3], in the first part, and this created everything.

"I braked and had a massive lock with the front tyre. That meant that I released the brakes. My intention was to go to the left side. But the bike stayed on a lean and I couldn't avoid going to the right side.

"I was able to avoid Martin but couldn't avoid Miguel. I was very worried for him because the contact was big.

"I already said it personally – but I want to say sorry to him, to his team, to the Portuguese fans. I have been penalised for that mistake with a double long lap penalty, that I completely, completely agree.

"But apart from that, I have a few injuries – my hand, my knee. We need to check. Let's see. At the moment it's not the most important, my situation."

Oliveira suffered from a contusion in his right leg on home soil in a race that was won by Francesco Bagnaia, who completed a double after his success in the sprint race on Saturday.

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