F1 close to agreement on trio of sprint qualifying races in 2021 season

  • Decision could be confirmed at Imola next weekend
  • Finishing order of sprint race will determine grid placings

Formula One is expected to soon confirm it will adopt three sprint qualifying races this season as a test for the format. The teams are understood to have come to an agreement on the potential financial implications of the move and an announcement is expected shortly, once the remaining technical details are ironed out. The decision could be confirmed as early as the next round at Imola next weekend.

The proposal of hosting a sprint race to replace qualifying on a Saturday has been under discussion for some time. F1’s owners, Liberty Media, were keen to try the new format as a way on providing greater spectacle for fans and with the finishing order deciding the grid for the grand prix on Sunday potentially mixing up the pecking order of the teams.

Related: Toto Wolff rues Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry and says ‘never again’

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Toto Wolff rues Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry and says ‘never again’

  • Team principal would have dropped drivers if feud escalated
  • ‘If the debriefing room is full of negativity, that will spill over’

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has insisted he would have dropped Lewis Hamilton or the British driver’s then teammate Nico Rosberg from races had their rivalry continued to prove detrimental to the team.

Wolff revealed he had to use an “iron fist” to manage his two drivers. The turbulent period at Mercedes has informed Wolff’s decision-making process in choosing teammates for Hamilton and will play a part in the makeup of the team in future.

Related: Nico Rosberg: 'To do good you need to get out there, you can’t sit in a cave'

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When Stirling Moss joined Fangio in the Mercedes dream team

Only 10 years after the war, the British grand prix driver joined the German team – a big thing in those days – for a brief but glorious period of success

What would it mean for an Englishman to drive a Mercedes, only 10 years after the end of a war that had killed so many millions? In 1937 Dick Seaman had signed up for the same team and watched as the shadow of war fell across Europe. He stood to attention when Adolf Hitler inspected the cars and their drivers in Berlin and made a reluctant Nazi salute on the victory podium at the Nürburgring. He had been killed, while leading a Grand Prix in one of the Silver Arrows, only weeks before Britain and Germany went to war. Now former foes were expressing unstinted admiration of Germany’s engineering prowess as applied to the science of motor racing – skills that had only recently been used to fashion Tiger tanks, V2 rockets and Messerschmitt engines. It was as if the two things had no connection.

Mercedes’ tentative return in 1951 with pre-war cars in Argentina – not exactly a hostile environment – proved only that reviving obsolete machinery was not the way to go. It was followed in 1952 by the development of new sports coupés which secured first and second places at Le Mans and in the Carrera Panamericana. That was more like the old Mercedes, and the company’s full-scale return to Grand Prix racing in 1954 saw them resuming the sort of dominance they had enjoyed between 1934 and 1939. For Stirling Moss, just as it had been for Seaman, the invitation to join this historic team was the greatest compliment that could be paid to a racing driver.

Related: Sir Stirling Moss obituary

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Lewis Hamilton admits change of approach in fight against racism

  • F1 champion says he has learned to adapt his approach
  • ‘There’s times where you have to be very diplomatic’

Lewis Hamilton has admitted to changing his approach in the fight against racism by deploying diplomacy instead of “embarrassing people”.

The seven-times world champion was outspoken in his views last season – demanding Formula One and its governing body, the FIA, do more to tackle inequality within the sport.

Related: Nico Rosberg: 'To do good you need to get out there, you can’t sit in a cave'

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Nico Rosberg: ‘To do good you need to get out there, you can’t sit in a cave’

Former F1 world champion on life as a team owner in Extreme E and leading global sport in tackling the climate crisis

Nico Rosberg’s eyes these days seem to truly reflect the former Formula One world champion’s soul. They are vivid, fascinating windows to his feelings, far from the steely glare that emerged from beneath his F1 visor. Here then is the bright, joyous moment of recalling how it felt to win that world championship swiftly subsumed by the earnest gaze of the man who walked away from F1 to dedicate his life to addressing the climate emergency. The eyes truly have it as Rosberg leaves no doubts which is now of the greater import.

“It’s ecstasy when you win races and championships, an unbelievably thrilling experience, such ecstasy,” he says. “But my feeling is that to be on this path now gives me a longer-term fulfilment, where I am focusing on being of service to many, many people around the world and that makes me proud.”

Related: Lewis Hamilton says Bahrain GP win proves it's more about talent than car

Some people would not tune in if it was just about the message, here we are going to entertain with the racing

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‘A Shakespeare novel’: F1 team chiefs demand clarity on track limit rules

  • Max Verstappen fell foul of rules in overtaking Lewis Hamilton
  • Hamilton was warned mid-race about wide line at turn four

Leading Formula One team principals have called on the sport to end the ambiguity and confusion over track limit rules after it proved a decisive issue at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes principal, Toto Wolff, decried the rules as being the length of a “Shakespeare novel” and Red Bull’s Christian Horner said they should be definitive rather than “shades of grey”.

Related: Lewis Hamilton says Bahrain GP win proves it's more about talent than car

Related: Hamilton holds off Verstappen for tactically brilliant win at Bahrain GP

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Lewis Hamilton says Bahrain GP win proves it’s more about talent than car

  • Opening win a ‘chance to prove people wrong’, says Hamilton
  • Mercedes driver adds: ‘We’re not the fastest: that’s all good’

Lewis Hamilton celebrated his victory against the odds at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as again proving that he can make the difference behind the wheel.

The world champion beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen into second after a thrilling finish in what he predicted would be an enthralling season-long fight between the pair of such intensity it was likely to turn his hair grey.

Related: Hamilton holds off Verstappen for tactically brilliant win at Bahrain GP

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Hamilton pips Verstappen amid late drama to win F1’s Bahrain GP – as it happened

Lewis Hamilton held off Max Verstappen in a dramatic finale to triumph in the first grand prix of the season

And here’s our report – that all from me. Thanks for reading!

Related: Hamilton holds off Verstappen for tactically brilliant win at Bahrain GP

The bottom 10:
11 Raikkonen
12 Giovinazzi
13 Ocon
14 Russell
15 Vettel
16 Schumacher
17 Gasly
18 Latifi
19 Alonso
20 Mazepin

“Disappointing for sure,” mopes third-placed Valtteri Bottas, whose chances were scotched by a 10-second pitstop. Alas.

Max Verstappen, through gritted teeth: “I can see the positives, we’re really putting the fight on them. We scored good points.”

Lewis Hamilton speaks: “What a difficult race that was. Pitting early we knew would be difficult, it was going to take something really special. I just managed to hold him off - it was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while.”

The final top 10:

1 Hamilton
2 Verstappen
3 Bottas
4 Norris
5 Perez
6 Leclerc
7 Ricciardo
8 Sainz
9 Tsunoda
10 Stroll

It sounds as if Red Bull’s decision to give up first place was an instruction from race control

And after a hugely intense final lap, Hamilton keeps his elbows out to hold first place until the finish line. But what a strange moment that was when Verstappen overtook Hamilton before letting him back through. Red Bull clearly thought he had it in him to do it again, but is wasn’t to be.

Lap 56: Verstappen isn’t close enough to overtake on turn one, and Hamilton keep his nose ahead through the second DRS zone. This is his to lose now…

Lap 55: So after that remarkable pieces of sportsmanship, Verstappen has one more chance to win this Grand Prix.

Lap 54: But the Dutchman took the position off the race track! So he pulls over and lets Hamilton back through, so it’s back as we were. Three laps to go and Hamilton still leads - and Verstappen declines to attack on turn one. The gap is 0.6seccs.

Lap 53: Verstappen makes his move on the outside on turn one, no joy. But he goes again on the next turn and, after some wheel-to-wheel duelling, he races past his rival into first. He just had the grip on Hamilton.

Lap 52: Verstappen looms in Hamilton’s rearview. Hamilton’s grip looks shaky. No DRS yet for the Dutchman. Perez picks off Leclerc for fifth.

Lap 51: Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo needs lapping by the two leaders – the gap between them 1.4secs, 1.3secs… Hamilton goes wide on turn 10 and that’s a needless mistake. Just 1sec now!

That’s the real quiz:

Another all-time record has been broken by @LewisHamilton

He's now led for more laps in his career than any other driver in F1 history #BahrainGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/G99rP6RIz4

Lap 49: The Ocon-Vettel episode has slowed Verstappen’s ascent, he’s has to clear back markers, but he’s whittled Hamilton’s lead to 2.4secs.

Lap 48: Verstappen has reeled Hamilton into within 2.9secs. He should be level with five laps to go – but needs to make sure his tyres are ready for the big attack.

Lap 47: The top 10: Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Norris, Leclerc, Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, Stroll, Tsunoda.

Lap 46: Perez roars past Ricciardo’s McLaren for sixth. “Front wing damage. Why did you have to change line? I lock up, he changes line?” moans Vettel.

Lap 45: Perez has seen off Ricciardo with DRS. Ocon and Vettel have collided! Vettel hits the Frenchman – poor from him. Both get going again, but that’s their races demolished. Meanwhile Hamilton completes his best lap. Eleven laps to go and 4secs the gap.

Lap 43: Bottas is still third, Norris fourth, and Perez is eyeing Ricciardo in sixth. Russell heads into the pits for new tyres. Verstappen completes the fastest middle sector of the GP – 4.7secs is the gap.

Lap 42: Verstappen is screaming round the course on his new tyres, making that 10-lap prediction look conservative. Hamilton’s hards have done 12 laps already – he’s in trouble.

Lap 41: “Verstappen forecast to catch us in about 10 laps,” Hamilton is told. There’s 15 to go.

Lap 39: Verstappen pits from leads – mediums off, hards on – and emerges less than 2secs later just behind Hamilton. The gap is eight seconds: game on.

Lap 38: Sainz pits to switch to the hard compound tyres and returns in ninth. Perez goes from hards to mediums, coming out behind Norris, Leclerc and Ricciardo, and just ahead of Stroll.

Lap 37: Raikonnen has snuck into the top 10, knocking out Tsunoda and Vettel. A point in his 20th year in F1?

Lap 35: “If my pace is good, just keep me out,” bellows Verstappen. Bottas is in third, a nose ahead of Perez.

Lap 34: Mercedes tell Hamilton to put his foot down. “If I do that I’m not going to make it to the end,” comes the reply. This is real neck and neck stuff between him and Verstappen, who is 17secs ahead but will probably have to stop again. Hamilton might not.

Lap 33: Alonso’s race is over. His rear brakes seem to have given up, and that’s him finished. Welcome back to F1 Fernando!

Lap 32: Ricciardo is is overtaken by Perez for sixth. Verstappen with his type advantage now looks the favourite, with Hamilton 18secs behind after his second stop and 24 laps to go.

Lap 31: Bottas pits and it’s a horrible stop. The front right tyre won’t come off … and he come out 10 seconds later in fifth. That’s him out of the running up top.

Lap 29: Hamilton tells Mercedes: “I could have kept going a little bit longer I think.” Mercedes to Bottas: “Lewis is in the pits, Verstappen could have undercut him, so we are going long.”

Lap 28: So Hamilton re-emerges in third, with Verstappen back in the lead and Bottas, set to shadow the Dutchman’s strategy, in second. Alonso reports an issue with deployment over his radio.

Lap 27: And Hamilton pits. It’s all done in a tidy 2.2secs, and that a new set of hard types. What will Red Bull do?

Lap 26: Verstappen steps on the gas – or perhaps Hamilton takes his foot off it – and suddenly the gap is a mere 2secs. “I can’t go any quicker!” says Hamilton.

Lap 25: Tsunoda has raced ahead of Vettel and now sits in 12th, and sensing the whiff of a debut point.

Lap 25: The gap at the front has steadied at about 3.8secs. But Verstappen will have to stop again and Hamilton has already done 11 laps on his tyres… Watch this space.

Lap 24: Raikonnen overtakes Alonso, who has hit a rut after a great early start. He’s back down in 11th now, but remains ahead of his teammate Ocon in 14th. The top 10: Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Norris, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Stroll, Sainz, Perez, Raikonnen.

Lap 22: Verstappen continues to close in, making up a second a lap on Hamilton. The gap is now under four seconds.

Lap 21: A great scrap as Sainz gains two places, leaving Vettel ninth and Alonso 10th.

Lap 20: Verstappen is making a game of it and eating into Hamilton’s lead, a second faster in that last lap. Sergio Perez is back in the pits, change on to the hards.

Lap 18: Lewis Hamilton leads the Bahrain Grand Prix, and it’s a lead of nearly 7secs. Verstappen is on fresher medium tyres but Mercedes look to have the upper hand hand. Meanwhile Bottas is pressuring Perez for second … and makes it.

Lap 17: “The wind is making it super hard for me now,” gripes Verstappen. Bottas, six seconds behind Verstappen, heads into the pits, and is followed the next lap by the leader. New mediums. So that’s a two-stop strategy.

Lap 16: Sainz pits. He has been undercut and comes out behind Stroll and Alonso. Hamilton completes the fastest lap of the race - 2.9secs quicker than the leader.

Lap 14: Hamilton is 1.4s faster than Verstappen in the middle sector. So he is the net leader here, and Verstappen stays out on track, playing the long game. We have ourselves a chess game.

Lap 13: Stroll and Giovinazzi also pit. Alonso comes out and overtakes Stroll. Hamilton pits and, 2.9 seconds later, steams away in a new set of hard tyres.

Lap 12: Norris and Leclerc follow Alonso’s lead and head into the pits. Sergio Perez has crept into 12th behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Lap 11: Alonso pits. A gaggle of McLaren towards the front. Top 10: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Alonso, Stroll, Sainz, Giovinazzi

Lap 10: Alonso continues inching forward, slowly but surely. He is now seventh. Ten seconds separates the top six.

Lap 9: Norris goes again and this time makes it – he’s in fourth. Mick Schumacher is struggling in 18th after his early spin, ahead of only Gasly. A tough race for the debutants.

Lap 8: Norris attacks Leclerc again round the outside but the Ferrari holds him off – just. The Briton remains in fifth.

Lap 8: “There is definitely something wrong. You better find it” – Verstappen to his team (clean version). He leads Hamilton by a second and a half.

Lap 7: Bottas overtakes Leclerc in third while Alonso is flying on his soft tyres and closely eyeing Ricciardo in sixth.

Lap 6: Gasly’s front wing has gone. The virtual safety car comes and goes. A wobble from Schumacher, who spins and recovers, Verstappen still leads.

Lap 4: Vettel’s good start has taken him from 19th to 14th, and the safety car departs us. And Hamilton and Verstappen go neck and neck but the Mercedes driver cant quite get ahead. Norris steams past Gasly round the outside on turn four and goes for Bottas! He doesn’t quite make it but that’s brilliant aggression.

Lap 3: Sergio Perez has come into the pits for a very early change of tyres

Lap 3: Mazepin lost it on his own, his rear grip failing him after turn two, and that’s a grim start to his F1 career. “I feel something weird on the throttle on the low speed corners,” shouts Verstappen into his radio. His team promise to look into it.

Lap 1: Verstappen holds first place after the first turn. And immediate drama as Nikita Mazepin spins his Haas is into the wall, his F1 debut over before it has begun – thankfully he is fine. And the safety car is deployed with Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc overtakes Bottas for third, followed by Gasly, Norris and then Ricciardo.

Lap 1: Verstappen steamed around the formation lap making sure his rear tyres had felt some proper heat … and nearly a disaster for Sergio Perez, who stopped by the side of the track during the formation lap. So the drivers go round again while he revives his car, which he does successfully, and will start from the pit lane. No idea what the issue was there, but not a great omen for a driver whose energy store had been changed pre-race. The race will be a lap shorter. And at last, after a bizarrely delayed start, the most keenly anticipated F1 season for a decade is upon us.

The tyre warmers are off, and the formation lap is underway.

The behelmeted drivers are now all behind their wheels and ready to go. Not long now…

Want race strategies?
#BahrainGP #Fit4F1 pic.twitter.com/zqJbmWVOR7

“It’s going to be a really tough race today,” says Hamilton. “The Red Bulls have done an amazing job. But we’re in a position to give them a hard time today I think.”

All drivers gather on the grid for a We Race As One messages. Some take the knee. Some, er, don’t.

Sergio Perez’s Red Bull underwent a precautionary change of energy store earlier, but apparently it’s nothing to worry about. “Hopefully he can have a good debut race for Red Bull this afternoon,” says Christian Horner, who expects Mercedes to “throw the kitchen sink at it”. Perez starts in 11th.

How they line up:
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7. Lando Norris (McLaren)
8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
11. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
12. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
13. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
15. George Russell (Williams)
16. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
17. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
18. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
19. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
20. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

And another familiar name enters the fray today: Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, will take to the track for the Haas team as the most-scrutinised rookie F1 has seen for decades. As this interview shows, he talks a good game:

Related: Mick Schumacher: 'That weight of the name, to me it’s light as a feather'

Fernando Alonso makes his F1 return today after two years away. “I have to get better myself first of all because even today it was like the very first time on these gritty tyres and gritty qualifying session,” he said yesterday. “It’s going to be the first time doing a formation lap, the traffic lights, the first corner action. It seems like simple things for a racing driver but after two years it’s going to feel again like new for me.”

And here’s our report from yesterday’s qualifying, when Max Verstappen hinted at a very exciting season indeed:

Related: Max Verstappen lays down early marker and beats Hamilton to Bahrain F1 pole

And on that possible swansong – here’s Giles Richards’ piece on a big season for Lewis Hamilton:

Related: Lewis Hamilton's genius faces fresh test as he aims for record eighth title

Rampant domination is all well and good, but sport is always best when there’s a healthy dose of stiff and bloodthirsty competition. Which is why the history of Formula One is, at heart, a history of rivalries: Senna and Prost, Hunt and Lauda, Hill and Schumacher.

Verstappen and Hamilton is unlikely to join that list of all-timers but, for now, a rivalry of any sort would be very welcome. And, with the new season upon us, the early signs are good. Lewis Hamilton has had a nice run of rampant domination. But now, all being well, he might just be in for a year of bloodthirsty competition.

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Hamilton holds off Verstappen for tactically brilliant win at Bahrain GP

  • Seven-times champion and Mercedes pull off strategic coup
  • Verstappen and Red Bull settle for second after securing pole

Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix in the opening round of the new Formula One season. He and his Mercedes team executed perfectly for a gripping and unlikely victory, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen into second place, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas in third.

Related: Lewis Hamilton's genius faces fresh test as he aims for record eighth title

Related: Mick Schumacher: 'That weight of the name, to me it’s light as a feather'

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