Abu Dhabi


Lewis Hamilton is determined to try and help secure second place in the Formula One constructors’ championship to help offset the cost of living crisis for team members in the UK. The seven-time champion and his Mercedes have two races left to catch Ferrari, beginning at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Mercedes are currently third, 40 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, with Red Bull having already taken the title at the last round in Mexico. Ferrari have enjoyed the better car all season but Mercedes, Hamilton and his teammate George Russell have toiled defiantly all season at improving their car and stealing what was an unthinkable second place at the start of the season remains on the cards.
The Mercedes was very competitive against a recalcitrant Ferrari at the last round in Mexico and Hamilton believed the most important advantage in taking second this season was in terms of the increased financial remuneration team members would receive.

“I know how important it is for the team back at the factory in terms of bonuses, especially with energy prices and rising costs in the UK,” he said. “It’s skyrocketed, so I know how impactful and important that is for them and I know how hard we have dug deep to catch up, so it would be an amazing feeling if we could.”

The British driver, speaking in Sao Paolo at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, noted that it would be a challenge but that doing so would also lay down an important psychological marker for next season.

“Ferrari have had an amazing car most of the year and most likely they will be back at the front this weekend,” he said. “It will be no easy feat to beat them but if we did it would be a pretty amazing comeback and with that narrative it would send them into the winter knowing we mean business.”

Also in Brazil, the world champion Max Verstappen, who secured his second title in Japan this year, conceded that he expects the punishment for his Red Bull team’s breach of the 2021 budget cap to have a detrimental effect on his chances to defend the world championship next season.

The row over the budget cap had rumbled on across almost a month before being finally concluded at the Mexican GP when Red Bull entered an accepted breach agreement with the FIA acknowledging their breach and accepting their punishment.

Red Bull were found to have overspent the £114m cap by £1.86m. They were given a £6.05m fine and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time. Their team principal, Christian Horner, described the penalty as “draconian” but other teams believed the sporting punishment of a reduction in aero-testing was suitable given the advantage they believe Red Bull gained by overspending.

Some rivals have noted that the penalty will not be felt too severely by Red Bull, since the money saved on a reduction of wind tunnel time can be spent elsewhere on car development.

Verstappen insisted it could prove a blow to his chances. “It will affect us but how much I don’t yet,” he said. However Red Bull have enjoyed an absolutely dominant car this season which has returned 16 wins from 20 races thus far. They will retain that advantage going into next season and the Dutchman was optimistic his team would react positively to their penalty.

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Max Verstappen (left) says his team will ‘give their best’ in the pursuit of both drivers’ and constructors’ titles next season. Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty Images

“I am confident the team and the people we have will use that as extra motivation to do even better,” he said. “I know they already give their best. We have a very competitive car and we have a lot of great ideas for the car for next year and hopefully it will be enough.”

Verstappen also confirmed that he and Red Bull’s boycott of Sky Sports, initiated at the Mexican GP, was over. The Dutchman had been angry with Sky presenter Ted Kravitz who had referred to Lewis Hamilton being “robbed” of an eighth championship at last year’s controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Verstappen sealed his first title.

The 25-year-old had been blunt in stating how he believed the remarks were disrespectful and that he was not willing to accept them. He and the team refused to speak to Sky over the weekend in Mexico City. Having felt he had made his point he stated normal service would resume in Brazil. “We drew a line under it, so we just keep on going and I am looking forward to it,” he said.

Brazil plays host to the final sprint race meeting of the season. Qualifying will be held on Friday, with the sprint to decide the grid for Sunday’s GP taking place on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton dramatically missed out on a record eighth Formula one title last year when he was dethroned by Max Verstappen in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes official Toto Wolff has dismissed a suggestion Lewis Hamilton is in decline and says the seven-time Formula One (F1) champion has proved he is a “genius” this season.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton dramatically missed out on a record eighth F1 title last year when he was dethroned by Max Verstappen in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

The Briton is languishing in sixth place in the driver standings eight races into the 2022 season, with his team-mate George Russell fourth.

Mercedes sit third in the constructor standings, 108 points adrift of leaders Red Bull, and Hamilton suffered back pain due to his rattling car during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend.

Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, does not believe Hamilton’s high standards have slipped this year.

“No, I don’t think it’s like that. He is the best that has ever been,” he said when asked if Lewis Hamilton is in decline.

“Between Abu Dhabi in 2021, dominating the last third of the season, to four months later, you are not losing your ability.”

He added: “How they appear to me, both of them [Russell and Hamilton], it’s very professional.

“They have been given a car that is a bit sub-par, each of them tries to develop the car further, they have both gone [in] a different set-up direction, Lewis [during qualifying in Azerbaijan] again very experimental, but can be available in the long term.

“I think as long as the car is not good enough to really be racing at the front, the differences are small and I don’t think you can have a pattern saying ‘George is continuously outperforming Lewis’ or the other way around.”

Wolff pinpointed Hamilton’s recovery from making contact with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix to finish fifth as an example of Hamilton’s brilliance.

“He went as far as to say that in Barcelona, where Hamilton recovered from early contact with Kevin Magnussen to finish P5, the genius,” he said.

“We have seen Lewis in Barcelona, he was the genius that we know, so I think what I enjoy is them working together and trying to bring the car back to the front.”

Max Verstappen returns to the scene of his stunning teenage maiden Formula One triumph at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend as a battle-hardened world champion in pursuit of his second title.

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After his tumultuous title victory in Abu Dhabi last year, the 24-year-old Dutchman has become one of the world’s highest-paid sports stars and a leading figure in F1’s new generation of drivers.

But this Sunday, as always, he will shut out all distractions as he bids to complete his second hat trick of consecutive wins for Red Bull on a ­Montmelo circuit where 2021 title rival Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes has reigned supreme.

Six years on from his debut victory with Red Bull in Spain, when he became the youngest driver to claim an F1 win, Verstappen is seeking to trim 2022 series leader Charles Leclerc’s early-season advantage and to take the initiative in the title race.

“I have a lot of good memories at this track from my first win, when I was 18,” he recalled of the first of his 23 F1 wins.

“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum we have built up in the last few races and have a clean start to the weekend.

“We had an incredible week in Miami. I’ve had some time to rest with my family since then and now I’m looking forward to driving again.”

Like Verstappen, Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez has also been home, but not for a rest.

He returned to Mexico, for the arrival of baby son Emilio – a reason, he said, to register a memorable personal result on Sunday.

After a faltering start to the season, when Red Bull were hit by reliability issues, the team has recovered and, following successive wins in Imola and Miami, the Dutchman has cut Leclerc’s lead to 19 points after five of this year’s 22 races.

He has only once before delivered three straight wins – at last year’s French, Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix, a run that gave him title-winning momentum, albeit that the ­latter two races were both held at the team’s home Red Bull Ring circuit.

The 2016 Spanish race was notable also for the opening lap collision between Mercedes’ title rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton that effectively gifted Verstappen his maiden win.

If not for that crash, Mercedes may well have won, as they have at every other race held at the Circuit de Catalunya since 2014, seven-time champion Hamilton reeling off the last four to total five in seven visits.

This year, however, it is expected to be very different as Ferrari, hoping to recover their early dominance, aim to wreck Red Bull’s hopes and revive Leclerc’s title challenge.

Both teams, like the rest, will arrive in Catalunya with a major raft of upgrades to reduce weight, improve ­performance and help overcome the “porpoising” that has hampered many drivers’ efforts.

Ferrari have reportedly made significant changes to the floor of their F1-75 while Red Bull have lost a reported seven kilos.

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Mercedes, most afflicted by the bouncing sensation, may be set to revise their “no sidepods” car design in a bid to revitalize Hamilton and ­maintain George Russell’s promising progress.

Team boss Toto Wolff has stressed the team will remain faithful to the radical W13 design concept this weekend. ­After Barcelona, he said, “We’ve got to look in the mirror and say ‘did we get it wrong?'”

Hamilton may also hit trouble again if he insists on challenging the “bling” ban that distracted many in Miami where he was forced to remove most of his jewellery when racing.

The president of the ruling body, the International Motoring Federation, Mohammed Ben Sulayem has made clear he wants the 37-year-old Briton to obey the rules.

With the season-opening Bahrain GP this weekend, Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle gives his essential preview, covering Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen, George Russell’s hopes at Mercedes, Red Bull potentially leading a three-team battle and much, much more…


Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle believes Lewis Hamilton needs to “play Max Verstappen at his own game” and “get his elbows out” if he is going to defeat his rival for an historic eighth crown – but admits Red Bull enter an eagerly-anticipated new season as the team to beat.

The 2022 campaign, with its new rules and new cars, gets underway this weekend with the Bahrain GP, all live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday’s practice through to Sunday’s Grand Prix.


Brundle will be part of a bumper punditry team out in Sakhir, and in a Sky Sports exclusive has provided his essential preview ahead of the opener. His expert analysis includes insistence that Hamilton – after agonisingly and controversially losing out to Verstappen – should alter his racing style in order to get his own back on the young Dutchman.

“I think Lewis will come back with more determination than ever and I think he’s going to have to get his elbows out with Max,” said Brundle.

“In the end, Max’s aggressive driving won him the world championship as far as I’m concerned.


“Everybody is going to have to play Max at his own game if they want to beat him. Mercedes and Lewis will be energised by that, but they’re going to have to go racing in a different and more aggressive way and play the same game – because Max isn’t going to change.”

Also in his preview, Brundle discusses the pecking order – which he believes Red Bull are leading ahead of a rejuvenated Ferrari and a Mercedes team you simply can’t write off – and several other key topics going into the new season…

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Brundle was in Bahrain to watch the second and final test, and predicts Red Bull – who sped away from their rivals following upgrades on the final day – are leading the way.

“I’m pretty certain Mercedes were sandbagging but the car looked a bit of a handful so I can’t help but think it’s Red Bull from Ferrari,” he said. “The Red Bull just on raw pace, while the Ferrari looked very benign and very driveable which might come in extremely handy on race day.

“I think Mercedes will be very close to them.”

Lewis Hamilton

Indeed, Brundle daren’t write off Mercedes.

“It does seem like we might have a three-way fight this year. Ferrari, having not been in the title fight last year – and I think the same with McLaren too actually – have benefited. But then Red Bull appear to have aced the aero a little bit better for now.

“But let’s see what Mercedes do when it matters. I’m confident to say they haven’t got it right yet, but you do know that they will be there or thereabouts.

With what we’ve seen, the Mercedes was porpoising perhaps as bad as any team when they lowered the car, but that’s the kind of thing you can fix, and they might just fix it straight away.”

What about the rest of the pecking order?

Lewis Hamilton

“I put McLaren fourth, after Barcelona and because it’s quite clear their car doesn’t porpoise as much which means come qualifying and the race they’re going to be less compromised on ride height. That’s a guestimate, really, on the basis of assuming they sort their brakes out, they’re going to be there somewhere.

“Then I think it’s quite hard after that to really get a feeling for it. The Aston looked OK on track, AlphaTauri looked OK, the Alpine looks a bit of a struggle – they’ve got some work to do. And then Alfa Romeo and Haas kept showing signs of great speed.

“The Williams had a difficult test and the amount of times you saw that car off the road with locked up brakes was quite high.”

The major driver line-up change for this year comes at Mercedes, where young British star George Russell has finally earned his chance alongside his hero and idol Hamilton.

“George can challenge Lewis this season,” Brundle insists. “Watching the decision and patience you need to drive the cars – that’s going to be a key factor – George has got all the feel and touch and maturity he needs to make these cars sing.

“In my mind, Mercedes have the strongest driver pairing. George knows the team, he’s going home effectively, he knows what he’s stepping into. He will find Lewis’ relentless season-long, race-by-race, day-by-day, hour-by-hour commitment potentially soul-destroying, but I think he’s confident and talented enough to live with it.

“I see George as a fully-fledged Mercedes works driver from lap one on Friday in Bahrain.”

With Ferrari seemingly back in contention, Brundle believes the team have a “nice problem” with their talented and extremely evenly matched drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

“If the Ferrari can win races, then they’ll be struggling to manage those two. It’s another great driver pairing, and a nice problem to have but those two will be going at it hammer and tongs.

He added: “We have to assume Max will have the upper hand over Sergio Perez, while McLaren could be interesting. We haven’t seen Daniel Ricciardo much yet but I’m expecting him to be a renewed force against Lando Norris.

“Daniel needs a good start and a good season but sadly for him, he’s already on the back foot.”

Hamilton’s mindset: Don’t get angry, get even

Discussing last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi GP title decider and what it means for this year, Brundle said he “admires Lewis, Toto and Mercedes in the way that they’ve moved forward”.

“I suspect Lewis is thinking, don’t get angry, get even. I think they realise that dwelling on that is negative energy – it’s not going to change. They made their points, changes have been made and any energy thinking about last season and Abu Dhabi in particular is wasted energy.

“I think Lewis will come back with more determination than ever and I think he’s going to have to get his elbows out with Max. In the end, Max’s aggressive driving won him the world championship as far as I’m concerned.

“Everybody is going to have to play Max at his own game if they want to beat him. Mercedes and Lewis will be energised by that, but they’re going to have to go racing in a different and more aggressive way and play the same game, because Max isn’t going to change.”

What about the 2022 cars and racing?

“After observing the cars closely in Bahrain, I’m very excited,” said Brundle. “You can’t help but be sceptical beforehand because we’ve had ‘solutions’ before that really haven’t worked and improved the racing. But this is a major change.

“I think there is no doubt after watching the drivers jostling, listening to them, reading the press releases… the cars at this stage are at least going to follow each other a bit better. which puts them in play. And if they can follow better, they’re not sliding around as much and not damaging the tyres as much, which will also help.

“The cars also fundamentally look nice, they look purposeful. There’s still bits of pieces on them I don’t like, like the front mud guards, while the wheel covers also take away a bit of the theatre – but I can also understand how they’re absolutely fundamental to the new concept.

“So I think they look great, but they also look much harder to drive and that’s a good thing.
“The drivers will get frustrated, and you’re always looking for perfection as a driver – you’ve spent your whole life trying to achieve that. Making an error, especially under braking or getting a little bit scruffy on a kerb, I think you’ll get more pain. I think it’ll force the drivers to be more accurate on the race track.”

Brundle also believes we’re in for a more competitive and unpredictable season.

“I wouldn’t write off some of the midfield teams getting a great race car,” he stated.

“We could be back to the old days a little bit where a raw qualifying lap could be a completely separate thing to race pace.

“We’ve become used to in the last few years that if a car works in qualifying, it works in the race. I think we could see a separation from that. I’ve got a feeling, especially in these early races, someone with a good race setup will comfortably outperform their grid position.