Max Verstappen's third successive Formula One drivers' championship is "only the beginning", says 1978 title-winner Mario Andretti, who feels the Dutchman could go on to break records in the sport.

Red Bull star Verstappen wrapped up his third world title in as many years by finishing second in a dramatic sprint race in Qatar on Saturday, having left his rivals in the dust throughout a dominant 2023 season. 

Verstappen capped off his championship triumph in style on Sunday by cruising to victory at the Qatar Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old has a long way to go to match the accomplishments of the sport's all-time greats, however, with Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven titles being equalled by Lewis Hamilton in 2020.

However, Andretti – who captured the world crown when driving for Team Lotus in 1978 – feels those are the names Verstappen will be looking to hunt down in the coming years.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Andretti said of Verstappen: "There's no question that he fits the category of the greats, and it's ongoing.

"Like you say, it's three championships in a row and he's still going. There's no sign anywhere that he has reached a peak. 

"It's really fun watching someone like that, because he's just taking advantage of every single ounce that's at his disposal under any circumstance.

"The way I look at it, records are made to be broken. I never thought that Schumacher would have any rivals, not in my lifetime.

"I think Lewis Hamilton disproved that by tying that record, and Max is on his way, no question. 

"I mean, if there's anyone that you could consider to be a record-breaker, it's going to be Max Verstappen. At 26, it's only the beginning."

Verstappen has won 14 races this season, including an unprecedented run of 10 successive victories starting with May's Miami Grand Prix and ending after he triumphed at Monza last month.

Andretti recalled Verstappen's very first race win – which came as an 18-year-old at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix – as he heaped further praise on the Dutchman for his dominant displays.

"What makes Verstappen a great driver is that he is something special," Andretti continued.

"As a matter of fact, when you say 'special', that's understating what this man is all about. He has shown something right from the very beginning. 

"I remember in 2016, what he did that day, he revealed himself. After that, obviously the rest is history. 

"He has been dominant and is taking advantage of every possibility in the best possible way. I think for any team on the grid, they're all envious of the fact Red Bull has a contract with this guy."

Max Verstappen hailed his third Formula One world title as the finest of his career – and vowed to celebrate by downing a few sparkling waters.

The 26-year-old Dutchman has emulated Sir Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna after being crowned a triple world champion with six grands prix still remaining – equalling Michael Schumacher’s 21-year-old record.

Red Bull’s Verstappen has dominated Formula One since he beat Lewis Hamilton to clinch his maiden championship at the deeply controversial season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

And his coronation of this most one-sided of campaigns was confirmed on lap 11 of 19 of a frantic sprint race when Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull crashed out under the floodlights of the Lusail International Circuit.

Verstappen has failed to win just three of the 16 rounds so far this season, and he became the first driver in history to win 10 consecutive races following a remarkable unbeaten streak from the opening weekend of May in Miami to the Italian Grand Prix on September 3.

Verstappen’s title parade will start here at 8pm local time (6pm BST) when the lights go out on Sunday’s 57-lap Grand Prix.

“This championship is the best one,” said Verstappen. “The first one was the most emotional because that is when my dreams were fulfilled. But this has been my best year in terms of performance.

“I am the most proud of this one because of how consistent I have been. I will have quite a few sparkling waters tonight, but I will be here tomorrow.”

Verstappen’s championship-winning campaign has been one largely led from the front but the Dutchman dropped from third to fifth at the end of the opening lap of Saturday’s sprint race.

After being usurped by Mercedes’ George Russell and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc off the line, Verstappen momentarily got out of shape at the opening right-hander, with Fernando Alonso nibbling at the back of his machine.

Verstappen survived, and then slung his Red Bull underneath Lando Norris for fifth. Two safety cars followed as Liam Lawson and Logan Sargeant beached their respective cars and Verstappen – on the slower, but more durable, medium rubber – set about his comeback.

First to be swatted aside was Leclerc on the main straight on lap nine, with Sainz the Dutchman’s next victim on the following lap.

On lap 11, the championship was officially over. Esteban Ocon attempted to overtake Nico Hulkenberg on the inside of the second corner, and with Perez to the right of the Haas driver, Ocon lost control of his Alpine and took the Red Bull with him. It summed up the Mexican’s woefully disappointing campaign.

Perez shared two wins apiece with Verstappen from the opening four fixtures but his demise has been dramatic. He is 177 points – the equivalent of more than seven victories – behind the man driving identical machinery.

On lap 16, Verstappen eased past Russell with Oscar Piastri 2.6 seconds up the road. However, the impressive McLaren rookie could not be caught as he claimed his first win in F1. It did not matter for Verstappen who could celebrate becoming just the 11th driver to win the title on more than two occasions.

“Max, you are a three-time world champion,” roared Red Bull’s jubilant team principal Christian Horner over the radio. “That is unbelievable. It has been an incredible year for you.”

Verstappen, who starts on pole on Sunday, could claim the 49th win of his career with only Hamilton (103 victories), Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) ahead of him.

Verstappen turned 26 only last week, and the prospect of emulating the seven championships shared by Hamilton and Schumacher is surely possible.

“I am enjoying the moment and hopefully we will keep this momentum going for a while,” said Verstappen, whose deal with Red Bull runs until 2028.

“It is different to other sports where you can set out targets and if I keep in good shape then these things are possible.

“But in F1 it doesn’t always work like that. It depends on the package. I have quite a few more years in me to operate at my best but we will see how long that is. It is more about how long I want to be here.

“I live in the moment and I have achieved way more than I ever thought was possible.”

Max Verstappen clinched the Formula One world drivers’ title after finishing second in the sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the Dutchman’s season and overall record in numbers.

3 – Verstappen has wrapped up his third world title.

11 – he is the 11th driver to win the title three times or more, and only the fifth to do so in successive years.

10 – along the way Verstappen produced a record-breaking run of 10 consecutive race wins, from the Miami Grand Prix in May to September’s Italian GP.

13 – his overall win tally this season, from 16 races. He has finished second twice, and fifth in Singapore.

407 – Verstappen’s points tally.

184 – lead over second-placed Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

10 – pole positions.

7 – fastest laps.

2 – sprint race wins.

48 – Verstappen’s career win total ranks fifth in F1 history. He has the chance to climb to fourth or even third by the end of the season, with Alain Prost winning 51 races and Sebastian Vettel 53.

6 – clinching the title in the Qatar sprint race means Verstappen did so with six grands prix remaining, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record from 2002.

Max Verstappen will begin his quest to win the world championship from third for Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar as Oscar Piastri took a surprise pole position.

Piastri saw off team-mate Lando Norris as McLaren secured a front-row lockout.

Lewis Hamilton was knocked out of Q2 and qualified only 12th in his Mercedes for the 19-lap dash, which gets under way at 8:30pm local time (6:30pm BST).

Verstappen will wrap up his third consecutive title if he finishes sixth or better, or if Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fails to finish inside the top three in the sprint at the Lusail International Circuit. Perez qualified only eighth on yet another scruffy outing for the struggling Mexican.

A day after taking top spot for the start of Sunday’s 57-lap main event, Verstappen, who has dominated all year, saw his first lap in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.

And the 26-year-old Dutchman was unable to do enough on his final run to usurp Piastri, finishing two tenths behind the rookie Australian.

Norris was in the running for first place but he ran wide at the last corner and failed to improve on his earlier effort.

George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes – four tenths behind Piastri – and ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who took fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.

Sprint qualifying at a windswept Lusail – 18 miles north of Doha – was delayed amid fears over the safety of the tyres.

The running had been due to start at 4pm local time (2pm BST), but was delayed by 20 minutes following revisions to the track limits.

The drivers took part in an additional 10 minutes of practice to familiarise themselves with the changes made to the track at turns 12 and 13 prior to qualifying.

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords” were discovered on the Pirelli tyres following yesterday’s one-hour running.

The federation believe the problem is likely to have been caused by a number of the high kerbs used at the circuit.

An emergency summit was staged in the build-up to qualifying with the drivers assured they would not be put in harm’s way.

Additional analysis will take place following today’s sprint race and further action – which will include three mandatory tyre stops – may be taken for Sunday’s grand prix.

Lance Stroll shoved his British performance coach and stormed out of a television interview after he was eliminated from Q1 in Friday’s running.

And the under-pressure Canadian fell at the first hurdle again on Saturday, one place better off in 16th.

Stroll’s Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso, who also saw his best effort in qualifying chalked off for exceeding track limits, lines up in ninth.

Qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar has been pushed back amid fears over the safety of the tyres.

The running had been due to start at 4pm local time (2pm BST), but it will be delayed by 20 minutes following revised track limits at the Lusail International Circuit.

The drivers will instead take part in an additional 10 minutes of practice at 4pm to familiarise themselves with the changes made to the track at Turns 12 and 13 prior to qualifying.

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords” were discovered on the Pirelli tyres following yesterday’s one-hour running.

The FIA said the problem is likely to have been caused by a number of the high kerbs used at the circuit.

Additional analysis will take place following today’s 19-lap race, and further action – which will include three mandatory tyre stops – may be taken for Sunday’s grand prix which runs for 57 laps.

Max Verstappen will be crowned champion of the world for a third time if he finishes sixth or Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fails to finish outside the top three in Saturday’s sprint.

Max Verstappen took pole position for Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix as the indomitable Dutchman closes in on his third world title.

Verstappen will be crowned champion of the world if he finishes at least sixth in Saturday’s 19-lap race at the Lusail International Circuit.

And the Red Bull driver started his quest to become just the 11th driver in history to win the title on more than two occasions in typically irresistible fashion by clocking the fastest time in qualifying.

In terms of the championship mathematics, Verstappen’s pole lap for Sunday’s main event will be redundant if he secures three points in Saturday’s sprint – the starting order for which will be determined by a second qualifying session here on Saturday afternoon – or Sergio Perez fails finish inside the top three. The probability of both are high.

As Verstappen raced to top spot, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton securing second and third on the grid for Mercedes, Perez failed to make it out of Q2.

His best lap, which would have been fast enough to see him sneak through to Q3, was deleted for exceeding track limits at turn five. Perez, in equal machinery to the driver dominating the sport, will start 13th on Sunday.

Perez threatened to fight Verstappen for the championship by winning two of the opening four rounds of the season, but the Mexican’s challenge has faded. He has not won since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30, with Verstappen winning 11 of the next dozen races.

Indeed, only a Singapore blip for Red Bull has thwarted this most one-sided of seasons for the Dutchman.

He bounced back in impressive fashion to win in Japan last time out and his form under the Lusail lights, 18 miles north of Doha, indicates he will wrap up his third championship in as many years in style.

Qualifying did not pass without incident for the 26-year-old following a duel with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who, like Perez, was a surprise casualty in Q2.

“What is he doing, man?” Verstappen yelled over the radio. “He is defending. You see that? I almost crashed into him.” The stewards are investigating the Spaniard for erratic driving.

Verstappen then aborted his final lap after making a rare mistake, but his first effort was good enough for first place, and he is primed to celebrate his probable title triumph on Saturday by claiming his 14th win from the 17 rounds so far 24 hours later.

Behind Verstappen, Lando Norris looked to have taken second place, but his lap was scrubbed after he put all four wheels of his McLaren over the white line, relegating him to 10th.

Russell was bumped up to second, one place ahead of Norris’ McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri. However, the Australian’s lap was also chalked off, dropping him to sixth and promoting Hamilton to third.

Mercedes will take some comfort from being best of the rest, but Russell still finished four tenths off Verstappen, with Hamilton half-a-second down.

Max Verstappen moved to within range of a hat-trick of world titles by returning to winning ways at the Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull clinched the constructors’ championship.

The Dutchman backed up his searing pace in qualifying by easing to victory by a massive 19.387 seconds a week on from seeing his record 10-race winning run ended in Singapore.

Lando Norris finished second ahead of McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Lewis Hamilton fifth and George Russell seventh for Mercedes.

Verstappen has won 13 of 16 rounds this season, extending his lead to 177 points over team-mate Sergio Perez – who endured a miserable afternoon – and he will have the chance to wrap up his third title at the Qatar Grand Prix in two weeks, potentially even in the Saturday sprint by outscoring Perez by three points or more.

While it was serene at the front, the race behind was thrilling as Perez was involved in two early collisions before retiring – only to briefly return – and Mercedes team-mates Hamilton and Russell scrapped with each other.

Red Bull are the first team in Formula One history to win the team championship with six races to spare as Verstappen’s victory moved the Milton Keynes-based team 318 clear of second-placed Mercedes in the standings. It is Red Bull’s sixth constructors’ title since their debut season in F1 in 2005.

Norris predicted after qualifying that if Verstappen led after the 277-metre dash down to turn one, there would be nothing the rest of the field could do.

The McLarens put up a strong fight, sandwiching Verstappen as Norris surged around the outside to go second, but the pole-sitter emerged from the first corner ahead.

Perez was overtaken by Ferrari’s Singapore winner Carlos Sainz and drifted into Hamilton, forcing the seven-time world champion onto the grass.

The safety car was deployed before the end of the first lap due to debris on the track after heavy contact between Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon.

Perez pitted under the safety car on lap three to replace a damaged front wing and fit the hard tyres but re-joined 17th.

The race resumed on lap five and Verstappen blasted clear of Norris.

Perez’s miserable start continued as he was handed a five-second penalty for overtaking under the safety car as he entered the pits.

It soon went from bad to worse as he suffered more front-wing damage in a collision with Kevin Magnussen, forcing him to pit again on lap 13, and was given another five-second penalty for causing the contact.

The Mexican was put out of his misery on lap 15 as Red Bull retired the car. Remarkably he was briefly sent back onto the track on lap 40, with the team keen for him to serve his outstanding penalty.

Elsewhere it was a story of battling team-mates.

Hamilton was soon engaged in a thrilling scrap with Russell, who slid up the inside at the final corner but Hamilton blasted back ahead down the pit straight.

The battle soon resumed as Hamilton ran wide and had to defend fiercely against Russell, forcing the 25-year-old off the track at the Spoon Curve.

“Who do we want to fight here, each other or the others?” Russell asked his team.

Hamilton’s defence was investigated but cleared by the stewards as he pitted first.

Meanwhile, Piastri had gained an advantage by pitting just as a virtual safety car was called, leapfrogging Norris after his pit stop.

Norris was soon on his team-mate’s gearbox, urging McLaren to act.

“The longer I stay behind the worse you are going to make the race for me,” Norris said, adding “What’s he doing?” before McLaren allowed him through.

Russell rolled the dice by attempting a one-stop strategy on an afternoon where tyre degradation was an issue for all the teams at a baking hot Suzuka.

But he was swallowed up by both McLarens, Charles Leclerc and team-mate Hamilton – with Russell urging his team to get Hamilton to give him DRS to defend from Sainz, as the Spaniard did a week ago to thwart Russell.

But Sainz moved past to take sixth as Ferrari gained the edge on Mercedes in the battle for second in the constructors’ standings.

Max Verstappen can cement his place in the Formula One record books by surpassing Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, so says Jody Scheckter.

Red Bull driver Verstappen broke another record with his victory at the Italian Grand Prix, tallying up a tenth straight race victory, overtaking Sebastian Vettel's previous best of nine.

Verstappen extended his lead in the drivers' championship standings to 145 points and looks on course to win his third title in a row - having triumphed in 2021 and 2022 - and Scheckter sees no reason why the Dutchman's run will end here.

"It really depends on the cars, to a large extent. There's no question he's good enough but has he always got the winning car," he told Stats Perform. 

"To think Lewis [Hamilton] had a dominant car for a long period of time, not to take anything away from him. I also think he's brilliant and smart. You can get in a bad car now and then, doesn't matter how good you are, you're not going to be winning.

"Right now, he's got the car to win. Granted, you can't put anything against it. If he has this dominance all the time, it could be maybe eight drivers' championships."

Verstappen became the youngest driver in F1 when he made his debut aged 17 at the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix, but Scheckter believes that the 25-year-old has had to refine his technique and tactics on the track to fulfil his championship-winning potential.

"He's obviously quick as anything, but he's aggressive. But he's also smart and comes out on the top in these different very difficult situations. At the beginning, he was too aggressive. But now he seems to get it all together and real championship material," Scheckter added.

"I think at the beginning, when you get into Formula One, you just want to prove that you're faster than everybody and so that's what you do. And then you realise you don't win championships like that.

"You tune yourself and he's a smart guy. So he's got it together now and obviously got the car at the moment to do it."

With Verstappen closing in on his third successive title, it has reignited debate surrounding the competitiveness of F1.

Prior to Verstappen's win in 2021, Hamilton had won six titles in the space of seven years, with Vettel also winning four in a row between 2010 and 2013.

According to Scheckter, who won the drivers' championship in 1979 during a nine-year career in which no F1 rival successfully defended their title, changes should be made to try and level the playing field during this era of Red Bull dominance.

He said: "One thing that frustrates me about are these penalties that they mean they have to go back on the grid, and if the gearbox goes, it just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

"It spoils the spectacle of the racing, you want to see people racing on the track. If he breaks down in practice or qualifying he can't get back up to race. Why?

"Everybody wants to see them racing side by side. Just doesn't make any sense from a spectator's point of view that I can see."

Sergio Perez’s torrid run of form continued at the Hungarian Grand Prix after he crashed out of a rain-hit opening practice.

George Russell led the way in the wet conditions for Mercedes at the Hungaroring, 0.359 seconds clear of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll third and Lando Norris fourth.

Only 13 of the 20-strong field posted a competitive lap, with championship leader Max Verstappen and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton not risking the possibility of damage.

The first one-hour running of the weekend was still dry, and barely a few minutes old, when Perez lost control of his Red Bull and ended up in the wall.

The Mexican put two wheels on the grass under braking for the fifth corner, sending him into a pirouette and into the tyre barrier.

Perez was unharmed in the accident but he sustained significant damage to the front of his machine.

Perez is under increasing pressure at Red Bull following five consecutive qualifying sessions in which he has failed to make it into Q3. On each of those occasions, Verstappen has scored pole position in the other Red Bull.

Indeed, Verstappen, who has won eight of the opening 10 rounds and six in succession, has already moved 99 points clear of his struggling team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback at Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri is also likely to be playing on Perez’s mind, with the Australian admitting he is daring to dream about the possibility of a return to the grid’s all-conquering team.

For now, Ricciardo has a dozen races to prove his credentials. However, the eight-time grand prix winner was among those who elected not to set a timed lap on Friday.

The red flags were deployed to deal with Perez’s stricken car and then the rain arrived. The slippery conditions caught out Carlos Sainz after he lost control of his Ferrari on the exit of turn three.

The Spaniard spun across the track and grazed the wall on the opposite side of the circuit before becoming stuck in the grass.

A second red flag was required as marshals assisted in helping Sainz return to the pits with front-wing damage on his scarlet machine.

Friday’s concluding session takes place at 5pm local time (4pm BST).

Lewis Hamilton has criticised Red Bull’s decision to axe Nyck De Vries after just 10 races.

Daniel Ricciardo has been handed a second chance in Formula One, replacing De Vries at Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri for the concluding dozen rounds of the year, starting at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.

De Vries, 28, crashed on multiple occasions and failed to score a single point, with a best finish of 12th in Monaco, before he was handed his marching orders by Red Bull’s ruthless motorsport adviser Helmut Marko 48 hours after he finished 17th and last at the British Grand Prix.

“I am not surprised to see Daniel back but I was surprised to see the decision they took for poor Nyck,” said Hamilton at the Hungaroring.

“He is such a talented young man and a nice guy. The future is bright for him and there will be opportunities for the future. But that is how Red Bull do it.”

When it was suggested to Hamilton that De Vries’ dismissal is a reminder of how F1 works, the seven-time world champion replied: “I would say that is how Red Bull work.”

Ricciardo’s career looked to be all but over after he was dumped by McLaren following two underwhelming seasons with the British team.

But the popular 34-year-old impressed in a test at Silverstone for Red Bull last Tuesday, and given Sergio Perez’s torrid run of form – which has seen him fall 99 points adrift of team-mate Max Verstappen – AlphaTauri’s move to hire the Australian will fuel speculation that he could land a return to the team which carried him to seven of his eight victories.

Speaking at the world champions’ packed motorhome earlier on Thursday, Ricciardo said: “The dream is a Red Bull seat, but there is no ‘this is what you need to do’ to achieve that.

“Given what has happened over the past few years and taking time off, I knew it would be hard to get back in at the top.

“Of course that was my wish, but you need to be realistic, and if I want to get back into Red Bull it will be a process, and this is the best path for me at the moment.

Ricciardo’s reputation in the sport is on the line following his poor period with McLaren which saw the British team move to cancel his contract.

Ricciardo failed to land a seat for the 2023 campaign and instead elected to return to Red Bull as a reserve driver.

But he might struggle to impress with a team currently rooted to the foot of the constructors’ table, taking just two points all season.

However, Ricciardo added: “Over the past few years, I started falling into a trap where I believed the car does not suit me and you can be your own worst enemy. I know this car will have limitations but I will work with that.

“Getting this opportunity is a chance to make things better. That is why I am excited to get back behind the wheel and show my true self.

“I had enough time off to reset and also enjoy it again. Six months ago, I wasn’t at a place to jump at an opportunity like this but that has been the luxury of time.

“I have fallen in love with it again and I feel myself in an environment that provides me with a lot of nostalgia, so when the opportunity came along it was like, ‘let’s try it’.”

Max Verstappen is in the form of his career, but Williams team principal James Vowles is confident other teams are closing in on Red Bull.

Verstappen is well clear in the drivers' championship, having won seven races already in 2023. 

Red Bull, with their other driver Sergio Perez occupying second place, are also the runaway leaders in the constructors' championship.

Vowles, though, does think the gap is gradually beginning to close.

Asked how teams can stop the Verstappen-Red Bull juggernaut, he told Stats Perform: "It's a meritocracy. They've done the best job with the same finances available, not the same equipment, the same finances available as everyone else. 

"He's on fire at the moment. There's just every race where you think he might struggle. He still pulls one out of the bag and does well. 

"I think what you are seeing is people catching up. That's the slight difference. There is a closing of the gap relative to what happened before. It's just going to take time for that to fully kick in."

Before taking charge of Williams, Vowles was the motorsport strategy director at Mercedes, who have endured a difficult time since the start of the 2022 season.

"I think Mercedes lost a year's worth of development simply because the direction they went down was quite different to really the rest of the field," he said.

"And sometimes you have to believe in what you're doing at one point, which is what they've done now, you have to realise that is the wrong direction.

"But that year hasn't been undone. You can't just undo it in the space of one week.

"So what you'll see from this is that now we're going to slowly start, I'm sure, to learn what the package is and how to develop it because they are an incredible organisation and will get back to the front, but it's going to take them I think from here another six months, 12 months to be able to do that."

Asked if F1 was becoming too predictable, Vowles replied: "I think there always is a risk of that. That's like any sport, when you can predict the result, it's less interesting.

"The only thing is I'd go back and say, actually, Austria was one of the most interesting races we've had so far this year, so the gems are still there and this won't last forever.

"[Verstappen] will come back towards everyone else and it just takes a little bit more time than we're expecting. But he will do."

Lewis Hamilton's Formula One legacy "will live forever" says Logan Sargeant, who does not anticipate the seven-time world champion will bow out just yet.

After a disappointing 2022 season, Hamilton is once again well behind two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the F1 standings.

While Verstappen has seven race wins to his name already this year, Hamilton has zero, and has only managed three podium placings.

The Mercedes driver sits fourth in the drivers' championship, and there has been speculation that this year might be his last in F1.

Williams driver Sargeant, however, feels Hamilton will stay on, though the American is sure that legendary status has been secured for the Briton.

"I personally think he's going to stay," Sargeant told Stats Perform.

"I think he wants to keep going. I could be wrong.

"His legacy will live forever, he's one of the best ever do it, if not the best, and he's a driver I looked up to through my junior career.

"I'll always have a massive amount of respect for him. His legacy will live forever."

Sargeant, though, does not feel Hamilton or anyone else will be able to compete with Verstappen for this year's title.

He said: "This year, I don't think so. Maybe next year, but it seems like they [Red Bull] have got this year well under control.

"Max is obviously driving amazingly, so I don't think anyone's going to be able to beat them this year unless they have a problem."

Sargeant is experiencing his first season in F1, and conceded it is taking some getting used to.

"It's extremely difficult, as you can imagine, being against 19 of the other best drivers in the world," he said.

"It's so tight from eighth to 20th, and if you put one foot wrong, that can be the difference between getting top 10 or 20th, so that's the biggest challenge just making sure you're at your best every single day, and I feel like it's coming.

"I'm just getting more and more comfortable with it, so the goal is to eventually get to a point where I can extract everything that car has throughout a weekend. That's where I want to get to."

Max Verstappen produced another emphatic performance to complete a home win for Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The double world champion was made to work for his seventh victory from nine rounds so far after he passed Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on track.

But after manoeuvring himself ahead of both Ferrari drivers, Verstappen raced off into the distance to the delight of his 70,000-strong travelling army from Netherlands.

Leclerc crossed the line five seconds behind Verstappen in Spielberg, with Sergio Perez recovering from his lowly grid slot of 15th to finish third. The Mexican fought his way past Sainz with 10 laps remaining following a nip-and-tuck duel.

Sainz took fourth after he served five-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

The Spaniard was among six of the 20-strong field to be sanctioned by race director Niels Wittich, with Lewis Hamilton also punished.

Hamilton finished an underwhelming seventh, while Lando Norris ended the day in fifth to record his best result of a difficult season for his under-performing McLaren team. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished between Norris and Hamilton.

George Russell made up three places from his starting spot of 11th to finish eighth.

Verstappen heads Perez in the standings by 81 points – the equivalent of more than three victories – heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.

A day after taking the sprint race spoils, Verstappen was celebrating his fifth consecutive win on his unstoppable march to a hat-trick of world titles.

Verstappen fended off an aggressive Leclerc on the opening lap before he fell to third after the Ferrari drivers stopped for tyres under the Virtual Safety Car.

It ended Verstappen’s run of 249 consecutive laps at the head of the field. However, the Dutchman required just 11 laps before he was back in charge.

After he left the pits on lap 25, Verstappen moved ahead of Sainz a couple of laps later, and then fought his way past Leclerc on lap 35 of 71.

From there, the Dutchman cruised to the flag – even stopping for tyres on the penultimate lap in order to set the fastest lap and take a bonus point.

“We did not pit during the Virtual Safety Car,” said Verstappen. “We followed our strategy and that worked out well. It was a great day and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Asked about the prospect of taking his third straight title, Verstappen said: “I don’t like to think about that yet.

“I am enjoying the moment. We have done a good job all weekend and a lot of things went right for us. I am happy and now I will focus on Silverstone.”

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion endured a difficult day in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started fifth and leapfrogged Norris at the start of the race, but soon faced the wrath of the stewards for putting all four wheels of his Mercedes over the white line.

A black-and-white warning flag was served to Hamilton before he was hit with a five-second penalty on lap 17.

Sainz, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Logan Sargeant were also handed five-second penalties, while Yuki Tsunoda saw his initial five-second sanction upgraded to 10 for driving off the track.

Hamilton served his penalty at his second pit stop on lap 43, dropping him to eighth place. He moved up one spot when Gasly stopped for tyres but he failed to make any impression on Aston Martin’s Alonso.

The Briton was on the radio several times asking why other drivers had not been penalised.

Team principal Toto Wolff first came on with a word of encouragement for his superstar driver.

“They are all going to get penalties in front of you, Lewis.” he said.” Keep going.”

But following another frustrated radio message from Hamilton, Wolff was back on to his driver with a firmer message.

“The car is bad, we know,” said Wolff to the Briton: “Please drive it.”

Hamilton finished 39.1 seconds behind Verstappen and is no closer to ending his 18-month losing streak in Formula One.

Charles Leclerc conceded Red Bull are in "another league" after Sergio Perez triumphed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.

Perez was the fastest in Saturday's sprint and managed to stave off the pursuit of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen the following day in Baku, the Spaniard claiming his second win of the season.

Leclerc finished in third and the Ferrari driver acknowledged Red Bull are way ahead at present.

"Red Bull are in another league when it comes to the race," he told Sky Sports. "A very good [qualifying] lap managed to put us in front but over 51 laps it was just not possible, they have so much [more] pace than us in race pace. They found something that we didn't yet.

"The feeling is a little bit better but when I see the gap, we don't really know how much we closed the gap. The Aston Martin was also really quick so we have some work to do."

Red Bull are the seventh team in F1 history to have won the first four races of a campaign, with the victories split evenly between Perez and Verstappen.

They have now surpassed Mercedes as the team with the most wins in Baku as the individual battle between team-mates Perez and Verstappen continues to play out.

World champion Verstappen pushed throughout the race but was unable to usurp Perez, who lauded his control when leading the charge.

"It really worked out today for us," Perez said on Sky Sports. "We managed to stay in the DRS train and keep the pressure on Max. 

"I think we had better degradation on that first stint. I think it was very close between us, we pushed to the maximum today, we both clipped the wall a few times.

"The way Max pushed me today was really hard but we managed to keep in control."

Verstappen had the lead after the third lap before clipping the wall on Turn 4, which allowed Perez to overtake, before the Dutchman pitted just before a safety car was deployed.

He labelled that decision to pit as "unlucky", before adding to Sky Sports: "I think the tyres were overheating a bit because of that, trying to follow. 

"Also, the balance, I was struggling to be really consistent, I was playing around with the tools a little bit. Once I got that sorted, I'd say the last 10 laps were actually quite good again, but just a little bit too late.

"A lot of things learnt again throughout the race, at the end of the day, a good team result."

Sergio Perez followed up his sprint race victory with a superb drive to triumph in Sunday's main event at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was marred by shambolic organisation on the final lap.

Perez was the quickest in Saturday's sprint and the Mexican held off Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to claim his second race win of the season.

However, the FIA and race organisers will have questions to answer after crew members and photographers were allowed onto the pit lane during the final lap, despite Esteban Ocon having not pitted.

The Alpine driver came in for his pit stop, but managed to slow down enough to avoid any incident.

Fortunately, there was no taking away from Perez's triumph, his second in Baku after 2021.

Leclerc held pole but two-time reigning Formula One champion Verstappen took the lead in the third lap, with Perez overtaking the Ferrari soon after.

Verstappen clipping the wall on Turn Four allowed Perez to close ground, and there was more bad news for the Dutchman when he pitted just before a safety car, which was brought out after Nyck De Vries spun off the track.

Perez took advantage by pitting during the safety car, and was back out in first place by the time racing resumed.

An investigation for a possible unsafe release yielded no penalty for Perez, who would not relinquish his lead and eventually won by over two seconds.

Behind him, Verstappen and Fernando Alonso tussled for the fastest lap, though it was George Russell who clinched it at the death after a late pit stop.

Leclerc, meanwhile, had to settle for third on a disappointing day for Ferrari.

Red Bull on the charge

Red Bull are the seventh team in F1 history to have won the first four races of a campaign, with the victories split evenly between Perez and Verstappen.

Indeed, Red Bull have now surpassed Mercedes as the team with the most wins in Baku.

Verstappen overtakes legendary Senna

One day short of the 29th anniversary of Ayrton Senna's death, Verstappen secured his 81st podium finish.

That is one more than the great Senna managed in his career, which was tragically cut short in 1994.

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