Lewis Hamilton has warned rivals that he plans to be better than ever as he chases a record-equalling seventh Formula One championship this season.
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver posted a picture on Instagram of himself at home, hugging a wooden pillar and smiling.
“I am at peace when I’m here, can focus and build my mind and body so that I can come back year on year. I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before,” he declared on Thursday.
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Red Bull have also signed a deal with Max Verstappen until the end of 2023. With stable rules and similar tyres to last year, hopes are high of an epic battle between Hamilton at the peak of his powers and the young guns vying to topple him.
“We’ve got continuity across all aspects of next year with drivers, with regulations, with engine supply, engine regulation,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told motorsport.com.
“So unless somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat, then I think we’re set for a really exciting year next year between, Mercedes, Ferrari, ourselves. It could be a real classic season.”
Outclassed in the season so far by stablemate Max Verstappen, the pressure on Alex Albon only grew after the man he replaced at Red Bull Racing last year – Pierre Gasly – won a chaotic race at Monza.
Despite the Thai driver finishing well outside the points that race and his wait for a podium continuing, Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner insisted the factory would not be considering sending Albon back to AlphaTauri – formerly Toro Rosso – with Gasly coming the other way.
Nevertheless, after 17 races without a podium for Red Bull and none in 30 across his season and a half in F1, Albon must have felt the walls starting to close in going into the weekend.
He did himself plenty of favours, finishing third to pick up points for Red Bull on a day where Verstappen crashed out in the opening lap alongside Gasly.
Max’s Bull CRASHES in Lap 1
With his car slow off the mark, Albon had to work hard for his first podium in a race that featured three standing starts.
“It was tricky out there,” he said. “We had to work for it. It was nice to finally get that podium, under the circumstances as well. We weren’t good off the line, so a lot of the overtakes had to come on track.
“When you lose positions at the start, you always feel it will be more hard work, but you never doubt you can get back up there. The first stint, I used a lot of my tyres to overtake, I think, two cars.
“On the mediums, we were strong, so I knew the pace was there, but I was a bit afraid with another red flag as I was happy to be in that position. The Renault was strong at starts, Racing Point, too. It fired me up when we lost another position off the start, but I knew we had the pace.
“It was more about patience during the race, and making sure you don’t use the tyres too early so you had something for overtakes later on.”
The need to push for positions in the race rather than at the starting line put Albon in an old and uncomfortable position. The past two times he has been in contention for a podium finish he has paid dearly for failed overtake attempts, falling back to 14th after making contact with Lewis Hamilton at Brazil last year and failing to finish after colliding with the same man in this year’s opening race.
A GOLDEN CHANCE GOES BEGGING FOR RICCIARDO
The man Albon passed to third place was Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo, who seemed destined to end Renault’s long wait for a first podium since rejoining F1 in 2016.
Ricciardo was among the podium spots for much of the race and was sitting second after being fastest off the mark in the race’s third standing start.
However, that standing start proved more curse than blessing for Ricciardo, who was looking comfortable in third before the second red flag. Although the standing start gave him the chance to use Renault’s impressive starting speed to push into second, it cost him track position while Albon flew on the soft tyres.
“It’s at the end the last part of the race, that final restart, Albon showed more pace than he had all race and we didn’t have an answer for that,” Ricciardo said. “He was really quick on the softs, on lower fuel, and it looked like that suited them more than us.
“I felt really good in the car but third sector was where he had us and that’s where you latch on to the DRS. We didn’t have an answer really.”
“If there wasn’t a red [flag] for Stroll, I guess, we had track position at the time and the medium was looking pretty good for us – I felt a bit in control of the pace. It’s pretty crazy, three reds in the last week. But they all had reason, there was big accidents.
“We’ll keep coming back and we’ll try to do it. I don’t feel like we missed out today, we put ourselves there, we didn’t have the speed at the end,” he said.
“A bit of pain on the inside”
LIKE LONDON BUSES…
It turns out red flags are like London buses. You wait forever for one, and suddenly three come at once.
F1 went more than three years without seeing a red flag, with its last appearance coming at Azerbaijan in 2017 – a race halted due to the amount of debris on the track. Ricciardo went on to win that race and looked odds on for another positive result this time around. Alas, it was not to be.
The three-year red flag drought came to an end last week at Monza when Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari lost its rear end, sliding into the gravel trap, badly damaging his car and the tyre barriers. That race also saw Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll serve 10-second stop-start penalties, with a chaotic set of circumstances catapulting Gasly to the front of the grid and eventually a well deserved win.
F1 race restart MADNESS!
It seemed a safe bet that was going to be the most eventful race F1 would see for a while. A week later and it is not even the most eventful race of the month.
Only 12 of the 20 cars that started the race on Sunday finished it, with Max Verstappen and Gasly both crashing out in the first lap, bringing the safety car out early. The safety car had barely made it off the track when things got real ugly, with a terrifying chain of events seeing four crash out at the rolling start, bringing out the red flag for the second time in as many races. Before racing resumed, Esteban Ocon was also forced to retire due to an overheating brake.
The drama did not end there however. The race was suspended again on lap 46 as Lance Stroll suffered a heavy crash and an internal fire on his Racing Point had to be extinguished before stewards could take his car off the track. In the space of two weeks, F1’s three-year red flag count jumped from zero to three.
Ferrari SMASHES into barrier!
WHO’S NOT TO BLAME FOR STANDING START MADNESS
Fingers were pointed everywhere after the rolling start went wrong, with those at the front of the grid adamant they were in the clear and those in the middle of it either insistent the problems started ahead of them or simply mystified by what had gone on.
“That was f***ing stupid from whoever was at the front,” Haas’ Romain Grosjean said on the team radio. “They want to kill us or what? This is the worst thing I’ve seen ever.”
Valtteri Bottas, the man at the front, said on the Mercedes’ team radio: “What happened with a restart that way, chaos was happening.”
In the wash-up no one was hurt but all four of Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Nicholas Latifi were forced to retire after Sainz cannoned into the back of three cars that had come to a virtual standstill.
Ultimately, stewards laid the blame on 12 of the 20 drivers in the race, issuing warnings for “inconsistent application of throttle and brake”. The 12 drivers were Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat, Latifi, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, Ocon, George Russell, Giovinazzi and Sainz.
Bottas was cleared of any wrong doing, with stewards dismissing the notion he was driving too slow, pointing out it was his prerogative to set the pace up until clearing the start line after the safety car left the track.
“Car 77 [Bottas] had the right under the regulations to dictate the pace,” stewards said.
A statement added: “The Stewards acknowledge the challenges the location of the Control Line presents at this circuit and the desire of drivers to take advantage of the restart.
“However this incident demonstrates the need for caution to be exercised in the restart situation and note that there was an extreme concertina effect which dramatically increased as it moved down the field.”
HAMILTON DOES IT AGAIN…
Right now, the only thing that seems to be able to stop Lewis Hamilton is the man himself.
Last week at Monza, Hamilton blew his own chances of a podium by illegally pitting, landing himself a 10-second stop-start penalty that saw him plummet to the back of the grid midway through a red-flagged race.
He did well to fight all the way to seventh, finishing just two spots behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
At Mugello, he started the race in pole position but slid to second as Bottas got the jump on him.
The second standing start provided him the perfect opportunity to reclaim the lead and on the third he retained it. From there, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Only 12 cars made it to the end of the first ever Formula One race at Mugello as red flags were called upon on two separate occasions.
The madness started from the opening lap as Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly both crashed out on turn two after the latter collided with Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen subsequently rear ended Verstappen who in turn was pushed into the path of Romain Grosjean. The Red Bull racer finished his race stuck in the gravel trap.
Verstappen and Gasly were the first two drivers forced to retire from the race but far from the last, with four taken out in a chaotic rolling start.
Looking to get some heat into his tyres, race leader Valtteri Bottas swerved in and out as he approached the starting line at a consistent but slow pace as the safety car made its way back off the track.
That pace was apparently too slow for those further back in the grid as the back half of the pack accelerated in apparent belief the race was underway before Bottas had cleared the starting line. Running out of space quickly, the chasing pack hit the brakes suddenly resulting in Carlos Sainz cannoning into the back of a wall of cars.
In the aftermath, fingers were pointed everywhere.
“That was f***ing stupid from whoever was at the front,” Haas’ Grosjean said on the team radio. “They want to kills us or what? This is the worst thing I’ve seen ever.”
Bottas, the man at the front, said on the Mercedes’ team radio: “What happened with a restart that way, chaos was happening.”
In the wash-up no one was hurt but all five of Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Nicholas Latifi forced to retire. Esteban Ocon also had to retire due to his brake overheating.
Max’s Bull CRASHES in Lap 1
“I’m okay and it looks like everyone is okay and that’s the main thing because the crash was properly scary,” Sainz said. “We were doing 290, 300kph at that point, it was probably everyone in front of me just thought that we were racing.
“Suddenly it looks like we were not racing anymore and everyone started braking again and by the time I saw everything it was too late and it was a big crash.
“It felt like at the back of the grid where I was, it felt like everyone in front of me thought the race was going and we were all flat out until someone realised the race was not on.
“Something definitely to look into the because the speeds we are going on on the main straight are very big. The crash I had could have been much worse if one of the cars was sideways on the main straight and I just took him (out).
“It’s something to learn from here because it is not a nice feeling to do 280 km per hour and find three cars in the middle of the straight completely stop.”
That crash brought out the race’s first red flag and remarkably the madness did not end there, with the session stopped again when Racing Point’s Lance Stroll suffered a heavy crash after puncturing a tyre.
Lewis Hamilton claimed a record-increasing 95th pole position on Saturday when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to seize the prime grid position in qualifying for Sunday’s inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix.
It was the series leader and six-time champion’s seventh pole in eight races this year as Mercedes continued their dominant run to nine poles out of nine this season with an eighth consecutive front row lockout.
“It’s been a really tough weekend, if I’m honest,” said Hamilton. “Firstly, this track is phenomenal — it’s a really challenging circuit and you saw Valtteri was quicker than me all day yesterday and even this morning.
“But I’ve been working hard in the background to improve on my lines and set up and the engineers and mechanics did a great job, so finally I got the lap that I needed.”
Bottas had been fastest in all three practice sessions, but he was unable to maintain his superiority over Hamilton in the decisive hour albeit that his second run was affected by yellow flags after Esteban Ocon spun in his Renault.
“The yellow flag definitely hampered me – I had more time to come, but didn’t get the opportunity to do it,” said Bottas. “It’s disappointing as I’ve been quick all weekend. It’s a long run to Turn One tomorrow and the headwind could help me there.”
LISTEN: Hilarious radio check
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third ahead of his team-mate Alex Albon with Charles Leclerc claiming fifth for Ferrari, as they celebrate their 1000th Grand Prix at their own circuit.
“I didn’t expect to fight for pole, but overall this has been a promising weekend,” said the Dutchman. “We have bounced back well from Monza where it was tricky so, at the end, to be third here…We can be happy with that.
“This track is amazing to drive and qualifying was really something special.” Hamilton agreed.
“The track is crazy,” he said. “You go through Turns Six, Seven, Eight and Nine at 170-180 mph and the G-force we’re pulling is insane — it gets more and more as you go through.
“Valtteri did a great job pushing me, so I’m really, really happy to be on pole.” Leclerc said he was surprised and delighted.
“I’m very happy with the lap overall,” he said. “P5 is higher than our expectations, so we’re very happy. Monza and Spa were very disappointing.
“The balance was good today and gave me confidence and in the end we made it happen.
“I think it helps that we had experience of the track in FP1, but onwards, all the guys are F1 drivers and can get up to speed quickly. There’s a good opportunity tomorrow, but there was quite a lot of cars that had better race pace on Friday.”
Ferrari SMASHES into barrier!
Sergio Perez, who faces a one-place grid penalty for his brush with Kimi Raikkonen on Friday, qualified sixth ahead of his Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Ocon.
On a glorious day in the Tuscan hills, the air temperature was 29 degrees Celsius and the track 46 as Q1 began with Bottas topping Hamilton by almost three-tenths, leaving Verstappen adrift by half a second in third.
Perez was fifth behind Albon with Leclerc in sixth while, in the drop zone, Vettel scrambled through to Q2 in his Ferrari to dump last Sunday’s Monza winner Pierre Gasly into 16th.
That meant the Frenchman was eliminated along with Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo, the two Williams of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen.
Lando Norris then missed out on the top 10 shootout along with Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri, Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Vettel and Romain Grosjean of Haas.