Max Verstappen strengthened his grip on the Formula One world championship as Charles Leclerc and Ferrari endured a nightmare Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Leclerc had claimed his fourth successive pole position at the street circuit in Baku but was passed into the first corner by Monaco winner Sergio Perez.

Perez struggled to press home his advantage, though, and eventually ceded the lead to Verstappen on lap 15.

Leclerc had dived into the pits under the virtual safety car after his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz retired due to a hydraulics issue and appeared to be well-placed to challenge Verstappen, only for an engine failure on lap 20 to hand victory to his Red Bull rival, who led a one-two ahead of Perez and Mercedes' George Russell.

Ferrari's dismal day began as Perez reacted quicker than Leclerc at the start to quickly render his pole immaterial and by lap nine they were down a car as Sainz was forced to end his race.

The Scuderia responded by gambling on pitting Leclerc for fresh tyres without the usual time loss and that decision appeared to be paying dividends, a potential battle with Verstappen looming after the Dutchman passed Perez on lap 15, the Mexican having emerged from a slow stop just in front of Russell.

Any prospect of that fight was removed when blue smoke puffed out of the back of Leclerc's Ferrari on lap 20, hugely damaging his title prospects.

Further blows to Ferrari came as the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen's Haas, both powered by their engines, suffered retirements.

Red Bull, by contrast, cruised home to a fifth successive win and a second one-two in three races. Russell took his third podium ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri rounding off the top five.

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes know they must "take a beating" in order to recover the lost ground they trail Red Bull and Ferrari by ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion will start seventh on the grid following another disappoint qualifying session in Baku, while team-mate George Russell will start in fifth.

Mercedes have remained dramatically off the pace of their rivals, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc sealing a fourth consecutive pole position in his title race with Max Verstappen.

Hamilton – who won on this track in 2018 – admitted he and his team are continuing to draw the same conclusions from their struggles, in what could be a bad omen for their prospects over the rest of the season.

"I'm not surprised [about the gap], I mean it was the same in Monaco," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really difficult qualifying session, we're constantly pushing.

"We have a very, very small window where we can work this car and everything we try doesn't give us what we want.

"So, we're making lots of changes, but we're always out with the same conclusion, which is most often bouncing, which loses us a lot of performance.

"All the performance is when you get the car low… so we said let's take a beating in our necks and backs to get the car as low as possible for the performance."

Russell, who is out to better his best-ever 15th-place finish at the circuit, posted in 2019, suggested improvements were harder to decipher from within the cockpit.

"The lap felt good, the car felt good but obviously it is pretty shocking when you cross the line and you are one and a bit seconds behind pole position," Russell said.

"We expect so much of ourselves and we are working so hard to bring more performance, but definitely this weekend has brought out the strengths and the weaknesses of all of us.

"To be honest, it truly is just not going fast enough.

"It feels ok from within, except when we are going down the straights because every single bump is the most rigid I have ever felt from any race car before.

"In the breaking zones, it is so bumpy down those straights and feels awful from within but through the corners itself the car feels good.

"So we know it isn't a balance thing getting the car in the right window with the set up, it is more we don't have the downforce and we are balancing a lot of limitations to try and get the downforce.

"We know there is a lot there but we don't know how to extract it."

Charles Leclerc is desperate to "finish the job" after surging to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

In Baku on Sunday, the Ferrari driver will start from the front of the grid for the fourth successive grand prix. 

Leclerc has failed to turn each of his previous three pole positions into a victory, something that has become a familiar story for the Monegasque. 

From his 14 pole positions in Formula One, he has managed just four victories (29 per cent) – only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent – one win from four poles) has a worse ratio among drivers to have topped the podium at least once. 

Leclerc is keen to avoid another disappointment and believes upgrades made by Ferrari can help him get over the line this time. 

"I just want to finish the job. The past two weekends I've already said that on the Saturday and it didn't happen on the Sunday," said Leclerc. 

"So, we need to make it… I mean, we don't need to make it work but it will be very nice if we make it work. Let's see how it goes in the first few laps, and then I will try to keep the lead.   

"I think since we have the new package, we've tried different things. And from my feeling it feels better in the race. But we still need to confirm it. But the feeling is there and it's good, so I'm optimistic." 

Verstappen qualified third for the second successive Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Last year he crashed out from the lead with three laps remaining, handing Sergio Perez the win. 

The reigning champion does not expect to make his move early but still believes he will be in with a good shot of a fourth victory in five races. 

"I think last year I started third here, so a lot of things happen. If you have good pace, I do think you can do something out there in the race," said Verstappen. 

"We'll just look through the data to optimise everything and make sure that the car is good on the tyres. 

"The run to Turn 1 is super short, so there's not a lot you can do there, but it's a long race. Baku has shown that a lot of things happen. We just need to stay calm and focus on having a good race car." 

Charles Leclerc stormed to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, surprising himself by getting the better of the Red Bulls.

Leclerc produced a sensational final lap in Baku to become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to record six pole positions in the first eight races of a season. 

He was almost three tenths of a second faster than Sergio Perez, who pipped team-mate Max Verstappen to a place on the front row. 

"It feels good. Obviously all poles feel good, but this one I did not expect because in Q1 and Q2 I really struggled to see that we could be faster," said Leclerc. 

"In the last lap everything came together and I managed to do good, so I'm extremely happy. 

"I'm really excited for [the race]. Tyre management is a big thing here. In Barcelona and Monaco we were managing it well but overall our race pace has gone a step up since we brought in the upgrades." 

Championship leader Verstappen was disappointed to miss out on a place on the front row but is confident Red Bull will be able to challenge for the win on Sunday. 

"I think the start was good, then it went away from me a little bit with tiny mistakes," said Verstappen. 

"It's not ideal but in general I was just struggling to find balance over one lap. It's not what I want but being second and third the team has a good opportunity. 

"We'll find out tomorrow, but we maybe seem to lack a bit of pace over one lap but in the long run we should be quite good." 

Perez, who experienced an issue in the garage in Q3, said: "On the first run of Q3 is when you go all out. I hit the wall a couple of times – luckily we managed to survive, which is the key here. 

"We had a problem with the engine at the end, we couldn't turn it on. We lost a few tenths, but I think Charles has done a very good job. 

"It's a very long race ahead, so we just have to make sure we are there. You can make a mistake at any point and that's it." 

Lewis Hamilton could only qualify seventh and was facing an investigation for driving unnecessarily slowly in Q2.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:41.359
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.282s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.347s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.455s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.353s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.486s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.565s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.697s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.732s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.814s

Lewis Hamilton has confirmed he is working on a Formula One movie with Brad Pitt.

It was reported this week that seven-time F1 world champion Hamilton had taken on a producer role in a film starring Hollywood legend Pitt for Apple TV+.

Hamilton says he has relished the opportunity to work on such an alternative project.

He said during a media conference ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: "It's a really cool project and we are already working on the script. 

"I'm much involved in the script, which is fun, and spending good time with Brad, which is pretty epic… and really from my responsibilities and something that I take on is just making sure the cast and crew in the background is diverse – something I really highlighted at the beginning.

"It's been very difficult, if you look at all the racing movies, you can't necessarily say all the racing movies that have been in the past have been spectacular and that's something we want to change.

"It's really about showing how great this sport really is to people that have never watched it and also making sure that we keep the real heritage and the true racing spirit within the movie and within the script, so that's part of my role."

The Mercedes driver says a cast has not yet been finalised.

Hamilton added: "We're going to need drivers I'm sure at one stage. What I think will be important is - it's not my movie, it's Formula One's, it's for all of us, so there's lots of people within the sport who are being a part of this, helping educate those who are trying to create this movie, so it's going to include lots and lots of people and there's talk already of how we're going to capture the footage and it's going to take us drivers to be involved in that.

"But we're not actors. We don't want it to be crap… which is probably why I'm not going to be a part of it! We need some good actors."

Max Verstappen says it would be "completely wrong" to introduce a salary cap for Formula One drivers who "put our lives at risk".

F1 introduced a budget cap at the start of last season and that figure was reduced to $140m (£119m) a team this year.

There has been talk of a limit being place on the wages drivers are paid, but world champion Verstappen made it perfectly clear what he thinks about the prospect of that being implemented.

"It's still a bit vague. I think no one really knows where it is going to go but from my side, it's completely wrong," he said ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: 

"I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM [Formula One Management].

"Everyone is benefitting, so why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped? We actually bring the show and put our lives at risk, because we do, eventually. So for me, it's completely wrong."

Verstappen says youngsters making their way in junior categories would also be affected.

He added: "Also, in all of the junior categories, if you see how many of the drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will have a certain percentage of their income in F1 or whatever.

"I think it's going to limit that a lot because they'll never get their return in money and if you get a cap, so it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don't think you want that."

Sebastian Vettel has questioned how much Lewis Hamilton is enjoying racing amid his struggles in the 2022 Formula One season.

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, and Mercedes have battled issues with the new design of their car during the early throes of the campaign.

The 37-year-old has just 50 points to his name in the drivers' standings, and sits 75 behind leader and defending champion Max Verstappen heading into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Hamilton has just one podium finish this campaign, a third-place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix opener, from seven races as Mercedes have failed to keep the pace with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Aston Martin driver Vettel pondered whether Hamilton is still getting the same joy he previously did.

"He had a package where he was able to win," four-time world champion Vettel said. "Obviously, it's been a little different for myself the last few years, but that's how it goes sometimes.

"You still try to make the most of it, but for sure, in terms of how much you enjoy it, when you get used to winning there is no feeling that can replace that.

"But having said that you have to work together as a team to try and get back up."

Mercedes have repeatedly struggled with 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height with their W13 car.

That has left them in the wake of a dominant season so far for Red Bull and Ferrari, and Vettel acknowledged the difficulties as he suggested Aston Martin are having problems of their own.

"I don't think Mercedes pulled back voluntarily; I think they are obviously having difficulties extracting the most from their car just like many other people have," he added.

"But others that have got it together more so the balance has shifted a little bit. But for us that’s not what is most important, the most important is about looking at ourselves where we are.

"And as I said at the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there’s a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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Sebastian Vettel is confident Aston Martin can improve their results after a disappointing start to 2022 amid doubts over his future in Formula One.

The four-time world champion is nearing the end of his contract with Aston Martin and it remains to be seen whether he will continue in the sport beyond this season.

Aston Martin's form has done little to quieten talk of retirement.

Vettel was 12th in the drivers' championship with 43 points in 2021. After missing the first two races of this season with COVID-19, he has claimed only five points from five grands prix.

However, as F1 returns to Baku, the scene of a second-placed finish for Vettel last season, he is hopeful changes to the car - which provoked controversy and questions from Red Bull due to the similarities the two cars now share - can spark an upturn in fortunes.

He told Stats Perform: "Obviously we are not aiming to be where we are now. But yeah let's see, we still have some races ahead of us and the team is pushing hard to improve the car.

"With the new set of regulations, there's always a risk you might get it wrong and I think that we have changed our path with a different car that we have adopted now and we believe that it is a better option for the races in the future.

"At the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there's a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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Max Verstappen is looking to settle some "unfinished business" at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he sets out to further extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' championship.

Verstappen is nine points ahead of Charles Leclerc after a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix in which the Dutchman finished third ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Leclerc was apoplectic as a Ferrari miscue that saw them double stack the Monegasque and team-mate Carlos Sainz in the pits cost him the chance of a home victory.

Red Bull have won each of the last four races, with Leclerc's loss in Monte Carlo the gain of the victorious Sergio Perez, who will be out to replicate his 2021 triumph in Baku.

That win for Perez came after a rear tyre failure caused Verstappen to crash from the lead on lap 47, a piece of misfortune for which he is keen to make up.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Baku, we have some unfinished business there after last year," said Verstappen.

"It's a tricky track with big braking zones and a tight run-off, finding the best set-up for the car will be difficult in terms of making sure we get the correct wing level.

"It will also be interesting to see if we can make our one-lap performance better for qualifying as we’ve been lacking a little."

Ferrari have never tasted victory at the street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital, which presents one of the most challenging tests on the F1 calendar.

Leclerc finished fourth from pole last year and failing to back up qualifying performance on race day has been a persistent problem for Ferrari in 2022.

Luckless Leclerc

Leclerc has claimed pole in five of the first seven races this season and could become the first Ferrari driver to record six poles in the opening eight races since Michael Schumacher in 2001.

Yet he has only two victories to his name this campaign, with wins snatched from his grasp in Barcelona and Monaco.

For his career, Leclerc has won just four of the 14 races in which he has taken pole position. His win percentage of 29 per cent in those races is the second-lowest behind Jarno Trulli (25), who won one of the four races he started on pole.

Given the prevalence of fast straights in Baku, this is a track more likely to favour Red Bull, meaning it could be another frustrating weekend for Leclerc even if he continues his dominance of qualifying.

A Perez title push

Perez is himself only 15 points behind Verstappen in the title race and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently said the Mexican is "in this championship just as much as Max is".

That statement runs contrary to the call Red Bull made in Barcelona, ordering Perez to let Verstappen through en route to victory there.

Perez made his dissatisfaction in Spain clear, and Verstappen's father Jos expressed his irritation after Monaco that the Red Bull strategy went against the reigning world champion.

"Max was not helped by the chosen strategy. That was disappointing for me and I would have liked it to be different for the championship leader," he wrote on Verstappen.com.

Should Perez triumph again in Baku, any talk of Red Bull playing favourites may have to give way to an in-team title tussle.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 125
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 110
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 84
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 235
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 134
4. McLaren 59
5. Alfa Romeo 41

Aleix Espargaro has apologised to his team after his costly blunder at the Catalan Grand Prix handed Fabio Quartararo a further advantage in the MotoGP championship.

Quartararo was cruising to first place on Sunday as title rival Espargaro seemed set to finish second in Barcelona.

But Espargaro inexplicably started waving to the crowd as he began the final lap, incorrectly believing the race had finished and he had secured second on the podium.

That ended a four-podium race streak for Espargaro, who slipped to fifth, and he sits 22 points behind leader Quartararo in the standings.

The Aprilia rider was quick to apologise for his mistake after the race as he explained he had misread the circuit's timing tower when keeping an eye on the lap count.

"I'm sorry. That's the only thing that I can say, sorry to my team. It's completely my fault," Espargaro told reporters.

"My people [with the pit board] were the first ones [out of the last corner], so I had no time to watch the lap. Some laps I had no time to look at the laps [remaining] and the gap with [Jorge] Martin.

"I was pushing to the limit so I just watched the gap with Martin, +0.6, then I watched the tower and I saw 'L1'. So I did one lap and then I didn't remember that here in Barcelona the last lap is 'zero' not 'one'. And I closed the gas on the straight.

"So I'm very sorry for my team because I didn't have the speed of Fabio to win. But if I want to beat him in the championship I cannot do these mistakes. Today, I lost nine points, so I'm very sorry."

Espargaro also believes he could have maintained pace with Quartararo but had been too worried about concerns surrounding his tyre management.

"Yesterday between Michelin and my team, everybody put a lot of worry into my [mind] by saying that I use a lot of tyres, that I had to be gentle on the first laps and I was too gentle sincerely," Espargaro said.

"Because at the end of the race, when I overtook Martin, I had enough tyre to put 41.5s and go away.

"I think Fabio was not faster than me, but he was smarter, was able to push at the beginning, and then it's impossible to recover two, two-and-a-half seconds to Fabio.

"I think I could have gone with him at the beginning. But anyway, it's too late."

Fabio Quartararo extended his MotoGP championship lead with victory in Sunday's Catalan Grand Prix as title rival Aleix Espargaro made a staggering and costly mistake.

Quartararo was a comfortable winner, and Espargaro looked nailed on for second place as he began the final lap, but the Spaniard thought the race was over and began waving to the crowd in Barcelona.

He was celebrating what he believed to be a podium finish, having started on pole position, but by slowing down he lost momentum and could not recover once he realised his clanger, trailing home in fifth.

Espargaro would have had good cause to celebrate second place, given he suffered abandonments in six of his previous seven appearances in this race, finishing only once when he was 12th in 2020.

The devastated Espargaro was later seen with his head in his hands by the side of the track and in the Aprilia garage. Nine points had slipped away, potentially crucial come the end of the season, with Quartararo boosting his championship lead to 22 points.

Quartararo and Espargaro were first and second at halfway, with a gap of around four seconds between the pair.

Espargaro slipped a place as Jorge Martin jumped to second, but the Aprilia man soon edged back ahead of the Pramac rider.

That looked set to be the 1-2-3 until Esparagaro's miscalculation allowed Martin to snatch second place, with Johann Zarco finishing third and Joan Mir fourth.

There had also been early drama, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), winner of two of the last three races this season, crashing out on the first corner along with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) and Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) after a shunt.

Enea Bastianini (Gresini), third in the championship, a place ahead of Bagnaia, also tumbled out of the race, with Quartararo's grip on first place tightening even before Espargaro's hapless error.


TOP 10

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)
2. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +6.473 seconds
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +8.385s
4. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +11.481s
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) +14.395
6. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46) +15.430
7. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) +15.975
8. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +21.436
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +26.800
10. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda) +30.460


CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Riders
1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 147
2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) 125
3. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing) 94
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 91
5. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 81

Teams
1. Aprilia Racing 171
2. Monster Energy Yamaha 169
3. Ducati Lenovo 146
4. Pramac Racing 142
5. Suzuki Ecstar 138

Aleix Espargaro continued his dominant form in Barcelona by setting a "totally crazy" lap record to claim pole position for the Catalan Grand Prix.

Aprilia rider Espargaro topped three of the four practice sessions and was able to see off Francesco Bagnaia's late charge in qualifying on Saturday.

The Spaniard blitzed to a lap record of 1:38.771 in the third practice session and promptly broke his own mark with a time of 1:38.742 in qualifying.

Espargaro, whose only previous pole this season came in Argentina in round three, finished 0.031 seconds ahead of Bagnaia at a scorching Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Reflecting on an impressive showing in his home country, the 32-year-old said: "I did a totally crazy lap, slipping around everywhere and in truth I didn't really appreciate this lap.

"I was on the limit on each bend. The conditions today were super difficult. I'd say the most difficult I've experienced this season."

Espargaro is eight points behind reigning MotoGP champion and 2022 pacesetter Fabio Quartararo, who finished third in qualifying.

However, Espargaro has failed to finish in six of his seven appearances at the Catalan Grand Prix, completing the race only once when finishing 12th in 2020.

Monster Energy Yamaha rider Quartararo has finished on the podium in three of his last four races, meanwhile, and is one shy of finishing in the top three for a 25th time.

After struggling in practice, Quartararo is pleased to be behind only Espargaro and Ducati's Bagnaia heading into Sunday's race.

"I would have signed up for such a result, indeed," he said. "I would have been satisfied with second row, because yesterday's practice was a disaster. Nothing seemed to work.

"Technically we opted for a big change of setting today, and the track conditions also changed."

Bagnaia also has no complaints following a well-fought qualifying session in which 0.403s separated Espargaro in first and Suzuki Ecstar's Alex Rins in seventh.

"It wasn't easy because of the heat, which made the track slippery. For my part, I couldn't do any more," he said.

"I'm very happy with the work we did. We are close to Aleix in terms of the race pace."

Bagnaia, who has won his past three races held in Spain, added: "This is turning into one of the most difficult world championships.

"Tomorrow it will be essential to understand the grip of the track so as not to use the tyres too much. All the bikes are very fast and practically every driver is a world champion."

 

PROVISIONAL GRID

1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) 1:38.742
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +0.031s
3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.217s
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.285s
5. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing) +0.357s
6. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +0.400s
7. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.403s
8. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) +0.655s
9. Luca Marini (Mooney Racing) +0.709s
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +0.735s

Marc Marquez has undergone successful surgery on his arm, after the Honda driver underwent a "complex" procedure.

The six-time MotoGP world champion announced a leave of absence at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend to confirm a fourth operation on his right humerus.

The Spaniard broke his arm during his home Grand Prix in 2020, ultimately curtailing the rest of his campaign, while a struggle for fitness has been an issue since his return in April 2021.

That has prompted the decision to go under the knife once more for a complicated operation in Minnesota, which has now been cleared as a success by the medical team.

"Today we had the opportunity to operate on the right humerus of Mr. Marc Marquez," Dr. Sanchez Sotelo said in a statement. "The procedure was completed in approximately three hours.

"Despite the complexity of the procedure, the final outcome was satisfactory.  We would like to wish Mr. Marquez a swift recovery and a successful return to his professional career."

Marquez made his MotoGP debut in 2013 with Honda and promptly went on to win the first of his half-dozen world titles in his maiden campaign.

He will remain in Minnesota over the coming days for post-operative recovery before he returns home to Spain.

MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo says Monster Energy Yamaha's pledge to improve on their bike's shortcomings convinced him to commit to a new two-year deal with the team.

Quartararo, who finished ahead of Francesco Bagnaia to become the first Frenchman to be crowned MotoGP world champion in 2021, extended his contract through the 2024 season on Thursday.

The 23-year-old again tops the driver's standings after eight races of the 2022 campaign, having posted three podium finishes in his last four outings, but had previously hinted at a move elsewhere after becoming irritated by the M1's lack of power.

After claiming his first win of the season at the Portuguese Grand Prix in April, Quartararo revealed his frustration that the team had "not made a massive improvement on the bike."

While Quartararo admits he talked to various teams before signing his new deal, he has now revealed Yamaha's promise of substantial investment to improve the bike convinced him to commit his future to the side. 

"It was not an easy decision, and we took a little bit more time to evaluate all the project," he said.

"As you can imagine, we were not talking only to Yamaha. At one stage, my head was going to one side, then one week later I wanted to go [somewhere else] and it was a little bit difficult.

"Basically, my first goal is to have the best bike and best project. And they convinced me because they will bring new people, engineers, and they know exactly where they need to improve.

"In the past, maybe they were working on a few areas, but they didn't really accept that the bike was more slow than the others. And now they know, and they will clearly work on this weak point.

"To be fair, I feel super good on the bike. Of course, every rider always wants more. But the only thing that we're missing compared to the others is the speed.

"So that's what made me really take the decision to stay in Yamaha. I know that they're pushing to bring more power, and I feel good on the bike.

"I'm super happy because they really understand, and they are doing their best to find what we are missing. Many people, engineers, will go into the engine side and work on that part of the bike."

Quartararo will hope to celebrate his new deal by continuing his strong recent form at Sunday's Catalan Grand Prix, where he posted a disappointing sixth-placed finish from pole last year.

Sergio Perez will race for Red Bull until at least the end of the 2024 Formula One season after signing a new deal following his triumph at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Mexican put pen to paper on fresh terms during race weekend, as he went on to earn the third victory of his career in a rain-soaked race at the weekend.

The 32-year-old sits third in the driver standings this season, just 15 points off team-mate and leader Max Verstappen.

"For me, this has been an incredible week," Perez said in an official statement.

"Winning the Monaco Grand Prix is a dream for any driver and then to follow that with announcing I will continue with the team until 2024 just makes me extremely happy.

"I am so proud to be a member of this team and I feel completely at home here now. We are working very well together and my relationship with Max, on and off the track, is definitely helping drive us forward even more.

"We have built tremendous momentum as a team and this season is showing that, I am excited to see where that can take us all in the future."

Initially entering F1 in 2011 with the Australian Grand Prix, Perez worked through a succession of teams in the sport, including Sauber, McLaren, Force India and Racing Point.

The Mexican looked poised to be without a seat for 2021 after the latter confirmed he would be replaced by Sebastian Vettel following the team's transition to Aston Martin.

But a shock maiden victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix earned him a drive with Red Bull and saw him set a record for the most races before a first win in F1, with 190.

Since his move to Red Bull, he was won two more, including Monaco, and will seek to defend the trophy he won in Baku last year at next month's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

"Since joining Red Bull, Checo [Perez] has done a fantastic job," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

"Time and again he has proved himself to not only be a magnificent team player but as his level of comfort has grown he has become a real force to be reckoned with at the sharp end of the grid.

"This year he has taken another step and the gap to world champion Max has closed significantly, evidenced by his superb pole position in Jeddah earlier this year and by his wonderful win in Monaco just last weekend.

"For us, holding onto his pace, race craft and experience was a no-brainer and we are delighted that Checo will continue to race for the team until 2024. In partnership with Max we believe we have a driver pairing that can bring us the biggest prizes in F1."

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