F1 news, standings and more
After the fallout from the Qatar Grand Prix, who propelled Lewis Hamilton to favourite for the Formula 1 drivers’ championship, the build-up to Saudi Arabia and how Max Verstappen will react with his advantage now within reach of the seven-time world champion.
The Briton is only eight points behind the Dutch driver and with just two races to go, having timed his latest excellent drive to perfection in a comprehensive win from start to finish, there is no room for error for either driver now.
Verstappen showed his toughness to limit the damage after a damaging grid penalty took a win out of the question, surging up from seventh on the grid after a five-place penalty to snatch second, while also landing a late blow on Mercedes with the bonus point for the fastest lap.
The sport is flying right now, and the iconic Fernando Alonso delivered some nostalgia with a first F1 podium in seven years to the delight of Alpine, with his performance topping Indy Sport’s Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings.
Here’s all the latest F1 news and reaction from Qatar as the build-up to Saudi Arabia begins:
Lammers urges Verstappen to be cautious
Jan Lammers has warned Max Verstappen that his aggressive “on the limit” racing style could cost him the championship.
Verstappen escaped punishment after forcing Hamilton off the track in Brazil but Lammers believes his fellow Dutchman is now skating on thin ice if there are any further incidents in the final two races.
“He just poked the organisation in the eye,” Lammers said. “Of course, that’s all very well but it’s on the limit. Because what if a situation arises in the last Grands Prix where they are in doubt about whether to give a penalty or not?
“Or if they have to choose between a five or ten-second penalty? What do you think it will be?”
Hamilton wants to see Russell succeed at Mercedes
“You’ve seen George is hugely respectful,” Hamilton said. “He’s a super-talented young man and I think there’s a huge amount of respect already going in and we’ve got a nice balance at the moment.
“But he’s going to want to be quick, he’s going to want to show up and win, and do all those things that you do when you enter a new role.
“I remember in 2007 when I went up against [Fernando] Alonso. Of course, I wanted to beat him at the first race, so I appreciate and expect George to have that mentality, otherwise, he’s not a winner, you know?
“But I’m in a different place. I really want to see him succeed. There’s going to be a point where I don’t continue in this sport and, you know, he’s my teammate and he’s gonna be the next Brit that I want to see win a world championship.
“So while we are going to be competing and I want to win on track, I really hope I can have a positive influence on how he conducts himself within the team.
“Whether it’s the time he commits to engineering or how he churns through the data or even just how he drives on track.”
Number of titles not Verstappen’s priority
Max Verstappen insinuated that he has little desire to try and match Lewis Hamilton’s tally of seven world championship titles, claiming winning one is the “final goal”.
Verstappen holds an eight-point lead over Hamilton ahead of the final two races of the season, but asked about his goals going forwards, the 24-year-old hinted that he could look at what he can achieve beyond F1.
“In F1 not so much,” he said of his remaining goals in the sport. “Because [winning one chamionship] that’s it, you’ve completed it, and it then doesn’t really matter anymore how many you win because you’ve already won one.
“Of course, I would always try to win more, but that’s done, that’s the final goal, and will, of course, work very hard to try and achieve that, and after that, there’s a lot less pressure.”
Hakkinen: Advantage Hamilton in championship race
“If Formula 1 was a tennis match I would say that it was ‘advantage Hamilton’ following his dominant wins in Brazil and Qatar,” former world champion Mika Hakkinen said ahead of the penultimate race in Saudi Arabia.
“Although Max Verstappen leads the World Championship by eight points, Mercedes has responded by giving Lewis Hamilton a car with which he can really fight to defend his title.
Asked about the rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull, which has occasionally boiled over this season, Hakkinen said he expected to see more flashpoints over the course of the final two races.
“In my opinion, we are seeing a sporting war between Mercedes and Red Bull,” he said.
“It’s a battle between Lewis and Max, team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, and the 2000 people who work for them. We have already seen some tense moments and I know we will see some more.”
Horner defends blunt attitute
Red Bull chief Christian Horner received a warning from the FIA stewards in Qatar after he suggested a “rogue marshal” was at fault for Max Verstappen’s five-place grid penalty.
Horner has been increasingly outspoken amid a tense championship race, with Mercedes’ rear wing and Yuki Tsunoda also on the wrong end of criticism.
However, while Horner did apologise for his comments in Qatar, he defended his right to speak freely and criticise, and insisted he had no regrets. “No, not at all. I believe in my team. I am a straight talker and I’ve always conducted myself in that manner,” he said.
“I’m not an overly emotional person, I don’t rant at cameras. I think the way I’ve conducted myself, I’ve got no issues with, and I’d do exactly the same [in the future].
“I think the only issue, regarding the marshal, was that if there was any personal offence taken for referencing a rogue yellow flag, it was not intended at any individual or any marshal.
“I don’t know whether you heard the interview that I gave [where the comments came from] but I didn’t feel that it was unreasonable.”
Albers: Horner doesn’t have a clue
Former F1 driver Christijan Albers believes that Toto Wolff is handling the pressure of the season’s thrilling climax better than Christian Horner.
Albers claimed that Wolff is better at keeping his emotions in check, after Horner suggested a “rogue marshal” caused Max Verstappen to be hit with a grid penalty last time out, and that the Mercedes chief has a far more extensive technical knowledge in the sport.
“Toto really asks his engineers how and what,” Albers said. “He’s more into the [technical] matters than Horner.
“Horner doesn’t have a clue. The issue is that he doesn’t delve into the matter. You see that Horner doesn’t ask his engineers any more questions when it comes to technique.”
Martin Brundle: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have raised their games ahead of F1 season finale
Brundle said in his Sky Sports column: “There can be no doubt that Hamilton and Mercedes have raised their game at a pivotal point of the championship. Lewis has found renewed trust in the factory simulator and works late into the night at the track as he impressively finds new motivation for an eighth title despite his relative age, trophy warehouse, and significant bank balance.
“Mercedes have some powerful car set up tools and a fresh engine too for the remainder of the season which will ensure they are very fast, and no doubt they will be watching each other like hawks regarding interpretation of particularly the aero regulations. You couldn’t help but feel both teams were on their best behaviour with their rear wing elements in Qatar.”
Lewis Hamilton has no regrets over Max Verstappen collisions
“If you’re on the outside of a car, backing out is the sensible option pretty much all the time in order to see the end of the race,” Hamilton tells BBC Sport on his clashes with Verstappen at the British and Italian Grands Prix. “If you’re on the inside, there are scenarios where I truly believe I was in the right, [when] I’m almost wheel to wheel with the car.
“At Silverstone, for example. Go and look at the footage. My front wheel was alongside his front wheel, so it wasn’t like my wheel was next to his rear wheel going in. And in that scenario, if I had taken the approach [Max did] for example [in Brazil], just stayed on the gas and gone off track and then kept position, what would the scenario have been there? Would they have looked into the rules there?
“But anyways. I don’t mind being the one that… I am not too big or too successful to have to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one. And sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it’s not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and through that selfish decision I could make – ‘No, I’m going to hold my ground’ and don’t finish – that costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also.”
Lewis Hamilton highlights ‘avoiding collision’ as key in Max Verstappen rivalry
“Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that’s what’s going to happen,” Hamilton told BBC Sport.
“So you always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because you want to see the end of the race, right? If you’re stubborn and you hold your ground, you’re going to crash.
“So that’s what I’ve just tried to do. I’ve tried to make sure I avoid the collision. And I think I’ve been pretty decent at it in most scenarios. You can’t always get it perfect.”
Qatar Grand Prix: Masi reported Horner over ‘rogue marshal’ comment
Formula One race director Michael Masi personally referred Red Bull team boss Christian Horner to Qatar Grand Prix stewards for television comments about a ‘rogue marshal’, the Australian said after Sunday’s race.
Horner apologised, was given an official warning and agreed to take part in an international stewards’ programme next February.
“It was a race director referral to the stewards,” Masi told reporters. “I don’t have time to go and search social media in the lead up to a race but I was advised of them (the comments) and referred Christian.
“Christian was very apologetic for his comments and as part of that obviously the stewards’ decision was straightforward.”
Masi said nobody should be criticised for acting in the interests of safety and pointed out that marshals were unpaid volunteers and the sport relied upon them.
“All of them give up a huge amount of time, and without them it won’t happen,” he said.
“That’s the part that a lot of people miss, and I’ll defend every volunteer official and every official around every racetrack around the world that that (criticism) is not accepted.”