Lewis Hamilton is optimistic the upgrades Mercedes are bringing to the British Grand Prix will help his team cut the gap to Red Bull.

Three straight Formula One wins have helped Max Verstappen open up a 32-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers' championship, while Red Bull are 44 clear in the constructors' standings.

Having finished fourth in Austria, Hamilton is bidding to avoid finishing two consecutive races outside the podium for the first time since 2017.

Toto Wolff's outfit are winless in their past five GPs, their worst run in the hybrid era (since 2014) and as many races without finishing first as in their previous 17.

But the seven-time world champion now has hope for his home event.

"There's a lot of changes on the car," Hamilton told reporters.

"It is not a massive update in terms of the gap that we have seen in the races, but it definitely helps us in terms of closing that gap quickly,

"Massively looking forward to it. A lot of work has gone on over the past couple of weeks. 

"So, I'm hoping that coming back to a circuit that suits us a little bit better and hopefully bodes well for a closer battle at least with the Red Bulls."

 

The home support he will receive and the new race weekend format – with points available in a Saturday sprint race that will also determine the grid for Sunday – means Hamilton is hopeful he can reduce Verstappen's lead.

There will be two practice sessions – with only one on Friday before qualifying for the sprint race will also take place – rather than the usual three.

That means it could be harder to judge the gaps between cars in the pecking order prior to the competitive action.

"Another element is this sprint race that we have: this new format," said Hamilton. "Of course, it's easy for any of us to get it wrong but there's opportunities there, which is exciting.

"There's always talk of the energy and the buzz that the fans bring, and without doubt when it's your home grand prix and the British crowd, you come with more.

"So, I'm hoping that all of those [elements] together close that nice gap those guys [Red Bull] have grown out in terms of performance, and enables us to take it to them this weekend.

"With all those elements I hope and pray, yes, that [cutting Verstappen's lead] is the case."

Hamilton is enthused by the return of a sell-out crowd to Silverstone.

He added: "Ever since the first time I came and raced here in 2006, but particularly in Formula 1 – 2007 – the roar of the crowd here is unlike anywhere else.

"Considering we‘ve had a drought in terms of fans not being at the races in the past year, the energy has definitely been very much missed."

Red Bull are also expecting a closer battle than has been seen in the previous races.

Verstappen said: "We are very focused. They are bringing upgrades, so naturally I think if they work, they [will be] closer. 

"Of course, we've been happy with the last few races, but we always look at things we could do better and that's what we'll try and do this weekend again."

Lando Norris admitted he is "not in perfect condition" ahead of the British Grand Prix, after he had his watch taken from his wrist in an incident after the Euro 2020 final.

Norris, who is fourth in the Formula One drivers' championship, was targeted as he walked back to his car following Italy's penalty shoot-out win over England at Wembley on Sunday.

McLaren announced on Monday their star driver was left "understandably shaken" following an incident which has been reported to the police.

However, the 21-year-old was cleared to race in his home grand prix this weekend.

Norris acknowledged, though, that the preparation has been far from ideal.

"I'm fine... but I've been better, I can say that. I'm not in perfect condition, I'm not going to lie," he told Sky Sports.

"Some work to do, mentally. Of course I talk about that a lot and mental health, and mental strength is very important. I've not been sleeping that great, and so on.

"Not ideal and I'm feeling a bit sore. But I'm not the guy in the worst position after Wembley.

"I'll work on it, I'll make sure I'm in the best shape possible and I feel like can still go out and focus on what I need to do and that's the main thing.

"I guess it's just unlucky. I don't really want to go into too much detail, but I'm thankful that I'm here.

"It's not the nicest experience for anyone to go through and it's not only me that it's happened to, it's happened to other people. It's something I don't wish upon anyone and, of course, if anyone else goes through it, I can sympathise with them and I know what they feel like."

Norris earned his third podium finish of the season last time out in Austria, and has collected points at 14 successive races. It is the best run of his F1 career.

McLaren were dealt a blow ahead of the return to Silverstone, with chief executive Zak Brown forced to isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown will miss the British Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19, it emerged on Thursday.

Brown was one of three members of the McLaren team to return a positive test ahead of the Silverstone race weekend, but drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have had the all-clear.

The team said in a statement: "McLaren Racing confirmed today that three team members, including CEO Zak Brown, tested positive for COVID-19 during the team’s rigorous testing programme before the British Grand Prix. Neither of our drivers are close contacts.

"All three cases are unconnected and now isolating in accordance with government guidelines. The team’s operations for the British Grand Prix are unaffected."

Brown added on his Twitter account: "I've notified all my close contacts and isolating in accordance with government guidelines. I'll still be connected to and supporting the team safely from home."

McLaren stand third in the constructors' championship, with Norris their standout performer, earning three third places among eight top-five finishes from nine races.

Ricciardo's best results have been three sixth-placed finishes and he stands eighth in the drivers' standings.

British driver Norris, fourth in the championship, will be eyeing a strong performance in this coming Sunday's race, as well as Saturday's inaugural sprint.

He was said to be "shaken" after having his expensive watch stolen after attending the Euro 2020 final last Sunday.

 

Lewis Hamilton will hope returning home for the British Grand Prix and a new sprint race format can kickstart Mercedes' faltering challenge in the Formula One title battle.

Round 10 of the 2021 season takes place at Silverstone, a venue where Mercedes have won seven of the last eight races.

Six of those triumphs came for Hamilton and he has a total of seven British Grand Prix wins, having also triumphed there for McLaren in 2008.

That is already a record for most F1 wins at a driver's home circuit and if he can secure an eighth victory, he will match Hungary – which is next on the calendar this year – as his most successful race.

Victory will not come easily, though, with Max Verstappen coming into the event after winning three races in a row for the first time in his F1 career. 

 

The in-form Red Bull star has built an impressive 32-point advantage over Hamilton in the drivers' championship that could have been bigger were it not for his late tyre woe in Baku.

Verstappen has taken one more pole position this year (four) than in the rest of his F1 seasons combined (three).

The constructors' standings are also looking good for Red Bull, who are 44 points clear.

Two straight podiums for Valtteri Bottas have come at a good time as he fights for his Mercedes future, while Sergio Perez – who sits third in the drivers' standings – will want to recover from a ragged race in Austria.

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen eased to yet another victory at the Red Bull Ring, as he won in front of huge support at the Austrian Grand Prix to complete a triumphant triple-header having won in France prior to the two races at his team's home circuit.

The Dutchman led from start to finish again after claiming pole.

Hamilton's hopes of reeling him in – dismissed as "out of the question" after qualifying – were hindered by another fine drive from Lando Norris, with the Mercedes great starting where he finished in fourth.

Bottas was the big mover, up from fifth to second, benefiting from keeping clear of controversy as numerous drivers – notably including Norris and Perez – tangled in costly fashion.

Norris claimed a superb third despite a time penalty and has now collected points in 14 consecutive races – his longest streak and the best ongoing run in the series. Fernando Alonso in 2007 was the last McLaren driver to enjoy such a stretch.

Carlos Sainz took fifth ahead of Perez, who was hit with two penalties.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT SILVERSTONE

The new sprint event and revised race weekend format is undoubtedly the most intriguing aspect that will be closely followed at Silverstone.

Qualifying will take place on Friday, which sets the grid for the first-ever sprint race in F1 on Saturday, with all cars to be fitted with soft tyres.

The results of the sprint race, which will last 100km – around 17 laps – will then determine the grid for Sunday.

Points (three for the winner, two for second and one for third) will also be awarded in the sprint race, with drivers getting a free tyre choice for sprint race and the main grand prix.

Practice, meanwhile, will be cut from three sessions to two.

Aside from the new format, Mercedes are bringing an upgrade to the circuit, which Hamilton and Bottas will hope revitalises their fortunes in the battle against Red Bull.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Super Silverstone – This will be the 55th race at the famous circuit, which has held more grands prix in F1 than all but two tracks – Monza (70) and Monaco (67).

Hamilton hope – Having finished fourth in Austria, Hamilton is bidding to avoid finishing two consecutive races outside the podium for the first time since 2017 (Mexico and Brazil).

Pole drought – Mercedes have gone five consecutive races without reaching the pole position in F1, their worst run since 2019 (seven between Hungary and Mexico).

Mercedes misery – Toto Wolff's outfit are winless in their last five GPs, their worst run without a win in the Hybrid Era (since 2014) and as many races without finishing first as in their previous 17.

Red Bull flying high – The team have won six races in 2021 including the last five. The last time they won so many in a season was in 2013, when Sebastian Vettel won the championship for them.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 182
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 150
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 101
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 92

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 286
2. Mercedes – 242
3. McLaren – 141
4. Ferrari – 122
5. AlphaTauri – 48

Lando Norris had his watch taken in an "incident" at the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, Formula One team McLaren have confirmed.

Norris was in attendance at Wembley as England lost on penalties to Italy in the European Championship decider.

There were scenes of unrest throughout the day at England's national stadium as individuals without tickets attempted to gain access to the long-awaited final.

Indeed, pictures in London showed supporters clashing inside and outside Wembley.

And McLaren announced on Monday their star driver was left "understandably shaken" following an incident which has been reported to the police.

The team said: "McLaren Racing can confirm that Lando Norris was involved in an incident, after the Euro 2020 final match at Wembley, during which the watch he was wearing was taken.

"Thankfully, Lando was unharmed but he is understandably shaken. The team is supporting Lando and we are sure that racing fans will join us in wishing him all the best for the British Grand Prix this weekend.

"As this is now a police matter we cannot comment further."

Heading into his home British Grand Prix, Norris is an impressive fourth in the F1 drivers' championship having earned a third podium of the season last time out in Austria.

Norris has collected points at 14 consecutive races, the best run of his F1 career and the longest ongoing streak in the series.

Fernando Alonso, in 2007, was the last McLaren driver to enjoy such a stretch.

Fans of Formula One and MotoGP will not be able to witness the Australian Grand Prix after both 2021 events were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

F1's Australian GP was scheduled to take place at Albert Park from November 18-21 in Melbourne after the 2020 race was called off due to COVID-19, while the MotoGP meet at Phillip Island was set for October 24.

However, both races have been scrapped for the second successive year because of restrictions and logistical challenges relating to the ongoing pandemic.

With the Australian GP removed from MotoGP's calendar, the Grande Premio do Algarve has been added for November 5-7, with the Malaysia GP brought forward a week to October 22-24.

"We're deeply disappointed that for a second consecutive year, both MotoGP and Formula 1 fans won’t be able to see the world’s best riders and drivers compete at the wonderful Phillip Island and Albert Park Grand Prix Circuits," said Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Paul Little on Tuesday.

"We appreciate the challenge Australia faces with current international travel restrictions and the importance of vaccinations.

"I would like to reassure our motivated and professional staff, suppliers and partners, as well as the Victorian tourism and major events community that we will work tirelessly to deliver these iconic events in 2022."

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said: "While it is disappointing we won't be racing in Australia this season, we are confident we can deliver a 23-race season in 2021 and we have a number of options to take forward to replace the place left vacant by the Australian Grand Prix.

"We will be working through the details of those options in the coming weeks and will provide further updates once those discussions are concluded."

"The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the Red Bull Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix," MotoGP said a statement. "The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting travel complications and logistical restrictions mean it has not been possible to confirm the viability of the event at this time, and it will therefore not feature on the 2021 calendar.

"The FIM MotoGP World Championship looks forward to returning to race in front of the Australian fans at the spectacular Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit in 2022."

Toto Wolff believes assessments of Mercedes' season to date have been overly negative, even as Max Verstappen and Red Bull have control of the title race.

The Silver Arrows had Valtteri Bottas second and defending champion Lewis Hamilton fourth at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton is now five races without a win for only third time over a single season since 2014. Red Bull have won all five of those, with Verstappen triumphing in four.

Damage to his car apparently sustained over a kerb at Turn 10 saw Hamilton fall behind both team-mate Bottas and third-placed McLaren man Lando Norris.

But Wolff, despite describing himself as "a sceptical person, cup is half empty rather than half full", tried to look at the positives.

"First of all, the result looked worse than it was in terms of pace," he told Sky Sports. "We were stuck behind the McLaren.

"In terms of pace, we probably could have been there, maybe not enough to win the race but right there, which is a step forward.

"The damage occurred at Turn 10, over the kerb; I don't think he was particularly running too hard over the kerb – it was just the part that fell away.

"We looked at the loads and they were the same as in the laps before, so we need to find out why that happened.

"So, overall, damage limitation? Maybe. I think we're going to go to Silverstone, blow everybody away, finish one-two, 30 seconds in advance of everyone else."

He added: "We're one DNF away from being right there in the constructors' and in the drivers' championship, so this is far from over."

This was not the result Hamilton – still two victories shy of a landmark 100 – would have wanted to celebrate his new two-year contract.

But Wolff said: "The morale is good, but we have to be working on these feelings actively.

 

"If you come from a run of seven world championship titles, everything looks like a defeat, whatever result you have. I think this is a switch in mindset we have to achieve now.

"Today we finished second and fourth, it's not the end of the world. You see how happy the McLaren guys are about their position [P3] and I think we have to just recognise this is a tough, tough championship.

"This is the Formula One world championship and you can't expect every year to cruise away in the sunset.

"We will make everything that's needed to not make Red Bull do exactly that."

Perhaps Hamilton himself could use a more optimistic outlook, rueing "a lot of damage" despite insisting he "wasn't going over the kerb any more than anyone else".

"There were a lot of points lost today," Hamilton said, adding: "I would have been second. I was in second when all of a sudden it obviously broke.

"It would have been an easy second generally, but obviously not able to catch up with the guys ahead."

A home race for the seven-time champion at Silverstone is up next, but Hamilton said: "We're miles away from [Red Bull], so we've got a lot of work to do.

"We need all hands on deck, which I know there already are. They brought a lot of upgrades, clearly, over these last few races, and we haven't brought any.

"We've got to find as much performance as possible, otherwise this will be the result most often."

Max Verstappen relished being able to deliver another win at the Red Bull Ring in front of his 'orange army' in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

The Formula One drivers' championship leader secured a third straight victory and second at Spielberg in two weeks.

As at the Styrian GP, Verstappen led from start to finish having taken pole position on Saturday.

The Dutchman now has two poles, four wins, six podiums and 139 points at the Red Bull Ring, reserving his best returns at any circuit for Red Bull's home race.

"It was incredible, to be honest," Verstappen said. "The car was unreal, every tyre set we put on was really enjoyable to drive.

"It's pretty insane. I'm a bit amazed myself how it went – I didn't expect it to be like this.

"Incredible job by everyone to deliver something like this. Of course, when you go into the weekend, everyone sees you as the favourite, but it's never easy to actually always deliver what we did.

"It's a great effort by the whole team and also by Honda, I think the whole package...

"These two weeks, especially here, it's been incredible."

Verstappen had the support of a large, loud crowd, dressed in orange and cheering their man home.

"It was insane to see all the fans here," he added. "There's so much orange, it's incredible. A great motivation as well.

"Especially the last lap, there was a lot of orange all over the track. Thank you very much for coming."

 

Lando Norris, who recovered from a controversial five-second penalty, also earned encouragement from the fans, though, finishing third ahead of Verstappen's title rival Lewis Hamilton.

His run of 14 straight races in the points is the best of his career and the best ongoing streak in F1.

"It was a lot of fun," Norris said, before giving his take on the incident involving Sergio Perez. "It was a good race, exciting, but I'm disappointed because it should have been second place.

"I thought lap one was just racing really – he tried to go around the outside of me, which was a bit stupid. He ran off the track himself, I didn't even push him. I don't know.

"I was frustrated, but I'm also happy with P3. We had very good pace and I'm happy."

Valtteri Bottas clung to second in front of Norris, but the Briton was confident his McLaren could tussle with the best.

"I could keep up with him a lot, even in the dirty air – just not enough to get into the DRS," he said. "As soon as I got close to within one second, I started struggling too much.

"Shoulda, woulda, coulda, in the end.

"It's nice to know that we could be there and we could race them. It's probably the first race in many years I'm actually racing the Mercedes and the Red Bulls.

"Hopefully we can keep it up next time."

Max Verstappen eased to yet another victory at the Red Bull Ring in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, completing a triumphant triple-header in front of home support.

The Red Bull superstar and Formula One season leader won for the third week running to stretch his drivers' championship advantage to 32 points over Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen had become the first F1 driver to win three times at this circuit in the previous week's Styrian Grand Prix and led from start to finish again after claiming pole.

Hamilton's hopes of reeling in Verstappen – dismissed as "out of the question" after qualifying – were hindered by another fine drive from Lando Norris, with the Mercedes great starting where he finished in fourth.

Valtteri Bottas was the big mover, up from fifth to second, benefiting from keeping clear of controversy as numerous drivers – notably including Norris and Sergio Perez – tangled in costly fashion.

Verstappen displayed his superior straight-line speed from the outset to disappear into the distance, only to find his early progress checked by Esteban Ocon's crash that prompted a safety car.

The Dutchman – backed by swathes of orange-clad supporters – pulled clear again from the restart but team-mate Perez had more difficulty as he doggedly pursued Norris.

Norris' determination forced Perez off the track in an incident that was subsequently investigated.

Even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner dismissed the clash as "one of those things", but a five-second penalty for Norris was confirmed just as Hamilton passed him, having been held up for 20 laps – already around 10 seconds shy of Verstappen.

Perez's attempts to recover from his early setback saw the Mexican twice earn five-second penalties of his own for nudging Charles Leclerc out of his path.

However, Norris regained his composure in far more impressive fashion, serving his penalty and falling behind Bottas but then attacking Hamilton, getting ahead of the seven-time champion amid Mercedes tyre trouble for a third podium of the year.

MAX MAKING MOST OF HOME COMFORTS

Verstappen now has four wins, six podiums and 139 points at the Red Bull Ring, his best returns at any circuit.

Saturday's pole had seen him make Spielberg – Red Bull's home grand prix – the first track at which he has qualified first twice, following on from last week's effort.

Five victories and four poles have made this is his best season to date, but Verstappen has bigger fish to fry with the title in his sights.

UNLUCKY LANDO STILL THE BREAKOUT STAR

It was hard not to feel for Norris, who so bravely battled against Hamilton and then learned of his penalty for essentially holding his line.

Informed of the punishment, he first replied: "What for?"

Norris added: "What did the guy expect running around the outside?"

Regardless, he had built enough of a buffer to only fall to fourth and recovered to make the podium, meaning the McLaren man has now collected points in 14 consecutive races – his longest streak and the best ongoing run in the series.

Fernando Alonso, in the first 14 races of 2007, was the last McLaren driver to enjoy such a stretch of points returns.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +17.973s
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) +20.019s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +46.452s
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +57.144s
6. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +57.915s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +60.395s
8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +61.195s
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +61.844s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1 lap

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 182
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 150
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 101
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 92

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 286
2. Mercedes – 242
3. McLaren – 141
4. Ferrari – 122
5. AlphaTauri – 48

Lewis Hamilton believes even a "step up" on Sunday would see him merely competing for second after ruling out victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton qualified in fourth behind Sergio Perez, surprise 2021 star Lando Norris and championship leader Max Verstappen, who has pole.

Verstappen, who is 18 points clear, won at the Red Bull Ring last week and is the only F1 driver with three victories at his team's home circuit.

Fourth place (Verstappen in 2018) is the furthest back a race winner has triumphed from since Spielberg returned to the calendar in 2014, but Hamilton does not believe such a recovery is possible.

On the weekend he committed to Mercedes until 2023, the Briton believes he is set to tie his longest winless run over a single season (five races – also twice in 2016).

"I don't," Hamilton replied when asked if he thought he could steal a strategic win. "We definitely can't take it to the Red Bulls, obviously. They're just too fast.

"But maybe we can step up, I guess my race now is with the two guys ahead of me – trying to get past them."

He added: "On pure pace, [winning] is definitely out of the question.

"Those guys have got two cars to get through in front, and they've got three-tenths on us. I think they've improved their car again for this weekend.

"So, I would say that's an easy cruise win for Max. I think for us it's to try to see if we can get ahead of Perez and try to limit the damage this weekend."

 

Hamilton at least fared better than two of his former title rivals, with Sebastian Vettel handed a grid penalty for impeding Fernando Alonso in Q2.

Vettel will start from 11th, having qualified in eighth, while Alonso is back in 14th.

"I guess the weekend is over now for us, but nothing we can do," Alonso said.

Ahead of Vettel's expected punishment, which was later confirmed, the Spaniard added: "It will change something for them, but for us it will change everything on the weekend.

"I don't think that Seb could do much more because, inside the car, we are just relying on our engineers, so I guess it was more the team than Seb himself."

Lando Norris described his "epic" second place in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix as one of the best laps he has driven in Formula One.

McLaren are back on the front row for the first time since 2012 after Norris incredibly finished just 0.048 seconds behind Max Verstappen, marginally missing out on a historic pole.

Verstappen became the first F1 driver to win three times at the Red Bull Ring as he beat Lewis Hamilton to victory last time out.

Having also won in France, the Dutchman looks well placed to make it a treble.

He was boosted as his team-mate Sergio Perez qualified third, meaning the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were left in fourth and fifth respectively.

George Russell – reportedly in the running to drive for the German team next year – took a brilliant ninth for Williams on a day of surprises.

Verstappen – unhappy with his team for the position he was put out in the running order in Q3 – could not improve in his second run, giving surprise challenger Norris the chance to come agonisingly close to pole.

But Verstappen has shown impressive form this weekend and it continued with another strong result, even if Norris was understandably attracting the attention after Saturday's session.

"I feel epic!" Norris said to Sky Sports. "It's one of the best laps I've done – I'm really happy with P2, my best qualifying in Formula One.

"One of my best laps in Formula One. It's a good feeling, so I'm looking forward to Sunday.

"It feels pretty cool. After the last race I wanted to take one more step [after qualifying fourth] – but we went two more! 

"It's nice to be in a good position for Sunday. I don't know how far I was off pole, bit gutted I didn't get pole – Sunday will be tough but we did the best job we could."

 

After a third straight pole and his fourth overall in 2021, Verstappen warned victory would not come easily as he looks to extend his 18-point lead in the drivers' standings.

"I think Q3 was pretty bad. Of course I'm happy to be first but not the way we got it," he said.

"Pole again is good. Hopefully we can finish it off on Sunday – it is never straightforward though.

"Softer compounds compared to last week, so it will be tough to manage those in the race but aside from that, we'll just try to focus on our own race and of course, we'll try to win it."

Both Ferraris and Fernando Alonso – who was angry at being held up by Sebastian Vettel in an incident that could result in a grid penalty – all missed out on progression from Q2.

It meant Yuki Tsunoda and Vettel were able to claim seventh and eighth, with Lance Stroll taking the last spot in the top 10 behind the impressive Russell.

Perez claimed third for Red Bull having initially looked poised to start further down the order after his first Q3 run.

"It's been a hard weekend up to now," the Mexican explained. "We have been chasing the balance and just exploring the car.

"It didn't come easy. It was very hard work – harder than you think.

"In the end we got a good lap and we have a good position. I believe we have got a better race car than qualifying."

Six consecutive top-five finishes have put Perez third in the championship prior to the ninth race of the campaign, with Norris fourth in the standings ahead of Bottas and Charles Leclerc.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:03.720
2. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.048s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.270s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.294s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.329s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.387s
7. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +0.553s
8. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +0.850s
9. George Russell (Williams) +0.871s
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +0.898s

Lewis Hamilton has ended speculation over his Formula One future after signing a new two-year contract with Mercedes.

The seven-time world champion, bidding for a record eighth crown in 2021, is now tied to the German team through the 2023 season, covering the first two campaigns of new regulations which come into force next year.

The 36-year-old has won six of his previous seven drivers' titles with Mercedes, who he joined from McLaren in 2012.

Hamilton only signed a one-year deal for 2021 in February and both he and team boss Toto Wolff had stressed agreeing an earlier deal this time around was a priority.

The Briton is embroiled in a thrilling title scrap with Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who has opened up an 18-point lead in the championship going into the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.

 

It is still unclear who Hamilton's team-mate will be for 2022 and beyond.

Valtteri Bottas is languishing fifth in the championship, while George Russell – now with Williams – impressed when he stood in during Hamilton's coronavirus absence at last season's Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell reacted to the news by calling it "great for Mercedes and F1".

After his new deal was confirmed, Stats Perform looked at the data to summarise Hamilton's incredible F1 impact.

LEVEL WITH SCHUMACHER

Michael Schumacher won his seventh and final championship in 2004, a streak of five in a row at Ferrari that saw him surpass Juan Manuel Fangio's previous overall record of five career titles.

All but one of Hamilton's triumphs have come with Mercedes, following a dramatic initial 2008 success at McLaren.

That means he has now gone past Schumacher as the driver to have won the most F1 titles with the same team. The German's back-to-back 1994 and 1995 successes came at Benetton.

The only championship not claimed by Hamilton during his current run, 2016, was picked up by his then Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton has won four in a row, meaning matching another Schumacher best for successive crowns while also claiming the outright record of eight are his targets this season.

WINNING RECORD

In 2020 Hamilton equalled his best single-season return of 11 wins, which he also recorded in each of 2014, 2018 and 2019.

Hamilton is an all-time F1 leader in terms of career race wins (98), poles (100), podiums (171) and points (3,916), having overtaken Schumacher to take top spot in all but the latter category.

Of those race victories, 77 have come with Mercedes, the most any driver has achieved with a single team.

He has led the most races (168) and laps (5,221) in F1 history, while he had finished a record 48 consecutive grands prix in the points until COVID-19 forced him to miss the penultimate race of 2020.

However, as he signs his deal at a time when rival Verstappen is thriving, the Briton is only one GP away from equalling his worst run (five races) without winning in a single season since 2014.

He also had two five-race runs without a win in 2016, the year Rosberg triumphed and the only campaign Hamilton did not win the title in the hybrid era.

Interestingly, Hamilton did set a record in that season as runner-up. He won 10 races and racked up 380 points, both the most ever by a driver who did not go on to win the world title.

DOMINANCE SPANNING DECADES

When he won his first championship in 2008, Hamilton was F1's youngest world title winner at 23 years, nine months and 26 days old. Sebastian Vettel later surpassed that feat in 2010 at 23, four months and 11 days.

Title number seven arrived with Hamilton 35, 10 months and eight days old.

The 12 seasons between his first and most recent titles is the longest span in F1 history, with Schumacher (1994-2004) and Niki Lauda (1975-1984) next on the list.

Lauda edged out Alain Prost in 1984 by half a point in the last of his wins, the only margin narrower than the single point Hamilton beat Felipe Massa by in 2008.

He does not deal in such slender differences nowadays. The 124-point advantage he had over Valtteri Bottas last year stands as Hamilton's biggest personal margin over the driver in second place.

Vettel still holds the most processional title win, going back to 2013 when his Red Bull was 155 points better off than runner-up Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.

FAVOURITE RACES

Hamilton has won eight times at the Hungarian Grand Prix, sharing the record for most wins at a single circuit with Schumacher, who triumphed eight times in France.

With seven wins at the British Grand Prix, Hamilton holds the F1 record for most wins at a home race.

Hamilton has also triumphed seven times in Canada, with six wins apiece in China and the United States, which are both among his favourite tracks.

His career victories have come at an astonishing 29 different circuits and 28 different grands prix, highlighting his longevity, and a win in Austria on Sunday would kickstart his pursuit of further records.

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes, running until the end of the 2023 Formula One season.

The 36-year-old is chasing a record-breaking eighth world championship this season, having won six of his previous seven with Mercedes, who he joined from McLaren in 2012.

Hamilton confirmed "positive" discussions last month and can now focus fully on attempting to overhaul Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who has opened up an 18-point lead in the drivers' standings after eight rounds of the 2021 season.

"It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I'm excited we're going to continue our partnership for two more years," Hamilton said.

"We've accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track."

This latest prompt renewal is in stark contrast to Hamilton's contract situation for the current campaign.

The compressed 2020 schedule and then Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff both testing positive for COVID-19 contributed to the world champion ending the year out of contract. He did not pen his most recent one-year deal until February.

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes, running until the end of the 2023 Formula One season.

Lewis Hamilton is refusing to give up on defending his Formula One title as rival Max Verstappen aims for another triumph in Austria this weekend.

Verstappen became the first F1 driver to win three times at the Red Bull Ring as he raced clear of Hamilton last time out, triumphing by more than 35 seconds despite showboating as he crossed the line at the Styrian Grand Prix.

Red Bull and Verstappen return to their home circuit for the next race – the Austrian Grand Prix – and Mercedes, who have typically fared well on the track, will be aiming to drag Hamilton back into contention.

Mercedes are also 40 points behind Red Bull in the constructors' championship, yet when asked if he was having to accept the idea of missing out on the title for the first time since 2016, Hamilton gave a bullish response.

"Well, I don't accept anything," Hamilton told F1's official media channels.

"I think we've still got many races ahead of us and we've got to keep pushing. We're world champions and we can definitely improve if we put our minds to it."

LAST TIME OUT

The Red Bull ring is Verstappen's favourite – in terms of track victories – after his efforts last Sunday.

Having qualified in pole, Verstappen swiftly pulled clear of Hamilton to clinch Red Bull's fourth straight victory – the first time the team has achieved such a feat in the hybrid era.

It was Verstappen's fourth win of 2021, marking his best return in a campaign, though Hamilton, who took the fastest lap, finished second and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas fought off Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull car to clinch a podium place.

Further back, Williams' George Russell had his race cut short by a power unit issue, while Pierre Gasly crashed out following a collision with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPIELBERG

Hamilton is hoping for more support from his team, stating: "If we're not going to develop and improve our car for the rest of the year, this is the result you're going to see, because, as I said, they've [Red Bull] really eked out performance in these last few races, wherever it's been, whether it's been in France with the engine or the new wing, whichever it is."

While Mercedes will look to improve, Red Bull have history firmly in their sights.

Verstappen comes into this contest having become the driver to have won most races at the Red Bull Ring (three), though Hamilton and Bottas are the drivers to have taken the most pole positions (three for each).

Indeed, Verstappen has achieved five podiums and collected 113 points at Spielberg, more than any other circuit in his F1 career, and he is aiming to take more than one pole position at the same circuit for the first time after qualifying in top spot last week.

His Red Bull team-mate Perez is also just one win away from surpassing Pedro Rodriguez as the Mexican driver to have won the most races in F1 (three).

Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, will be looking to mark his 34th birthday on Saturday with a good run in qualifying. The four-time world champion is the third-highest driver in the record books in terms of race victories (53) and fourth for pole positions (57).

However, his last time on pole was at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix; that run of 29 races is his second-worst streak to date without starting at the front of the grid, following a 31-race stretch between 2014 and 2015.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Spielberg short of twists and turns – With only 10 turns, seven to the right and three to the left, the Red Bull Ring has the fewest amount of corners of any track currently on the F1 calendar.

Mercedes' miserable run – Mercedes (79) are looking to equal Ferrari (80) as the team with the most one-twos in F1 qualifying, but the German constructor is suffering its worst run without a race win in the hybrid era, with Red Bull triumphing in the last four events.

Bottas far from finished – Should he claim pole, Bottas would equal Kimi Raikkonen as the second Finnish driver to have taken the most pole positions in F1 (18), after Mika Hakkinen (26). He has taken three pole positions at this race in the past, more than any other grand prix in his career (three: 2017, 2018 and 2020).

Leclerc's poor conversion rate – Ferrari's Leclerc has recorded only two wins out of the nine pole positions in his F1 career (22.2 per cent). If he takes pole this time around, but then fails to win, only Rene Arnoux (11.1 per cent, two of 18 pole positions) and David Coulthard (16.7 per cent, two of 12 poles) will have lowest ratio of victories from pole.

Hamilton daunted by his hundred? – With 100 pole positions in his F1 career, Hamilton is two shy of his 100th race victory. However, the Brit is one grand prix away from matching his worst run without winning in a single season since 2014.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 156
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 138
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 96
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 86
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 74

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 252
2. Mercedes – 212
3. McLaren – 120
4. Ferrari – 108
5. AlphaTauri – 46

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