Sebastian Vettel is excited to get the 2021 Formula One season underway with Aston Martin, with the former world champion seeing plenty of potential at his new team.

Vettel, a four-time F1 champion, left Ferrari at the end of the 2020 campaign, bringing an end to a six-season stint with the Italian manufacturers.

Charles Leclerc had usurped him as Ferrari's number one driver, and Vettel slumped to a 13th-placed finish in last year's drivers' standings, claiming just one podium finish.

Vettel has now switched to Aston Martin, who have rebranded the Racing Point team to make their F1 return after a 61-year break from the competition. 

The German made no secret of his disappointment at how his final season at Ferrari panned out but is anticipating an exciting debut year with Aston Martin.

"I am not happy with last year in terms of performance – partly my performance – but I accepted it," said Vettel at the unveiling of the AMR21 car on Wednesday, which also featured NFL great Tom Brady and Hollywood star Daniel Craig.

"There are things that didn't go well, but I am looking forward to this year.

"I go racing to win and obviously it's a very exciting project, a new start and a new chapter for the entire team. I'm very much looking forward to it.

"Winning is maybe a bit ambitious straight away, but it's everybody's goal, it's why we go racing.

"Even though I have raced for four Formula One teams and for many years, starting a new season with a new team still gives me a sense of excitement.

"I see potential. I think the team has always been very successful in the past with limited resources, now the regulations in F1 are changing, and with the new launch of Aston Martin coming back, a lot of talented people joining and coming together to this already good group already, I think it's [his arrival is] only an addition.

"So I hope that I can contribute as well, and I think if we keep sharing that joy and passion then good things will follow."

Vettel's Ferrari future was decided before the 2020 season – which was derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – had started, yet he claims to have had no doubt that Aston Martin was the right move. 

"As a driver, I have always kept my eye on the competition and this team has consistently impressed me with what they have been able to do without the biggest of budgets," he added.

"So, when Lawrence [Stroll] and Otmar [Szafnauer] approached me last year, and explained what their ambitions were, I was immediately very motivated to join the team.
 
"I love the history of motor racing and Aston Martin is one of the great names of the past, so it is fun to be part of their return to Formula One after an absence of 61 years.  
 
"I have not driven the car yet but I think it looks great. I am really looking forward to getting it out on the track. I am also looking forward to working with and getting to know better everyone in the team, including my team-mate Lance [Stroll]. We will certainly make a big effort to deliver some good results together and have fun doing it."

Toto Wolff admitted Max Verstappen is a driver who will be "on everybody's radar" but has vowed Mercedes will not rush to seduce the Red Bull star.

Mercedes team principal Wolff will be aware that reports have linked Verstappen with a possible future move to the Silver Arrows, possibly as a long-term replacement for Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton.

For now, though, Hamilton is going nowhere, having signed a contract for the upcoming 2021 season, and the British driver may yet remain for years to come.

After landing a seventh drivers' title last year to match Michael Schumacher's F1 record, there is no driver that Mercedes would take above Hamilton in the present time.

Wolff said: "The symbiosis that we have in the relationship, it's always that we have a mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future. That will be also the case in the discussions with Lewis going forward.

"Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody's radar in the future, but we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers."

Verstappen has finished third in the championship in each of the last two seasons, with the 23-year-old winning races at Silverstone and Abu Dhabi during the 2020 campaign.

He tallied 214 points to finish just nine points behind Mercedes' runner-up Valtteri Bottas in the championship.

Quoted widely after Mercedes unveiled their new W12 car on Tuesday, Wolff underlined how Mercedes are not blinkered about the team's future and the potential for a change of direction.

Bottas is also due to reach the end of his contract after the new campaign, meaning Mercedes currently have flexibility should they wish to reshape their driver line-up for 2022 and beyond.

"Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values, integrity and loyalty - but on the other side the young drivers are the future," Wolff said.

"Therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond."

Lewis Hamilton says his decision to only sign a one-year contract with Mercedes should not cause concern as he prioritises his drive for more diversity in Formula One.

It took until February before seven-time world champion Hamilton and Mercedes finally announced they had come to terms on a new contract.

The agreement was only for 2021, the last season before sweeping regulation changes come into the sport.

Hamilton, 36, insists there should be no doubts over his commitment.

The Briton also spoke of his passion to fight for change and equality in F1 and wider society.

That will serve as his main focus in a year where he could surpass Michael Schumacher outright with an eighth title.

"I'm kind of in a fortunate position where I've achieved most of the stuff I wanted to achieve up until this point, so there's no real need necessarily to plan too far ahead in the future," Hamilton said at the launch of Mercedes' new W12 car.

"I'm fully invested in this season and delivering. I still love what I do.

"We're living through an unusual period of time in life and I just wanted one year. Then we can talk about if we do more, and keep adding it [by] one if we have to.

"I chose to have a one-year deal, so I can see where we are at. It doesn't mean I'm not committed.

"What I'm really focused on - there was a lot of discussion around the diversity issue, what is important is that we are delivering."

Hamilton added: "I'm really proud of my team, I'm already seeing steps to see that progress. That's my driving force to make sure we continue to push for accountability.

"The main priority for 2021 - in the past it was about just winning championships. But now it's really pushing for making real change.

"Last year there was discussion about equality and inclusion and there was a lot of talk this year about pushing for diversity and really making sure that action is taken.

"That's at the core of the drive for me, but of course we exist to win. That is what all these guys and girls here are working towards, so that's my goal to deliver it for them."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff echoed the comments of Hamilton and is not concerned about the short deal.

Wolff said: "No doubt about his commitment. First of all, he enjoys racing a lot. We enjoy working with each other and we discussed that a lot.

"But he’s absolutely right. The times change, new priorities for all of us in terms of the way we live, our health, he is very passionate about his initiatives against racism and inequality.

"Then we have this massive regulatory change in 2022 that is going to reshape what Formula One will be.

"I don't think this will play a role, but I think it's fair for a driver who has won seven championships to have the flexibility to decide what he wants to do in future.

"We have agreed that we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year to avoid a situation like we had in 2020, to run out of time and be in the uncomfortable position that we have no time left before the beginning of the season."

The 2021 season is scheduled to get under way with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.

Charles Leclerc has been putting in the hours to ensure Ferrari bounce back from their worst season for 40 years.

In 2020, Leclerc finished eighth in the drivers' standings, with 98 points and two podiums to his name.

Even that fairly meagre return meant he fared better than Sebastian Vettel, who had 33 points and a solitary podium down in 13th.

The former world champion has joined Aston Martin for 2021 following the lowest points total of his career, with Carlos Sainz in place as Leclerc's new team-mate.

The Monegasque was cautiously optimistic at Friday's season launch, having left few stones unturned during the off-season, but he knows it is foolish to predict how a wounded Ferrari might fare against Formula One's other heavyweights.

"There has been a lot of work. We have been pushing quite a lot," he said.

"It always looks positive on paper but then we need to see what the others have done as a step.

"I have never been in [the] Ferrari [factory as much] as before this season. We have been doing quite a bit of tests with the old car. I feel very ready.

"I have been working in a similar way as in the past, trying to understand what my weaknesses were last year.

"I still believe tyre management is something I should push. I improved a lot last year and I hope there will be another step this year."

Last month, Leclerc was forced to put such intensive preparations on hold as he self-isolated having tested positive for coronavirus.

However, he offered assurances that there have been no lingering effects.

"COVID did not hit me that bad," said the 23-year-old. "I did some physical tests to make sure everything came back to normal and that is the case."

Having comprehensively out-driven Vettel as the younger man, Leclerc anticipates a different dynamic when Sainz – fresh from two seasons at McLaren – joins him on the grid for the 2021 opener in Bahrain on March 28.

"It is very clear we need to push for the team," he added.

"Carlos wants to beat me and I want to beat him too. We will try to be careful when we fight each other on track.

"What is most important is we separate what happens on the track and off the track. It is a fine line that every team-mate needs to find.

"Carlos is very competitive but he is also here for the benefit of the team, as I am. We will have to play it smart on that one."

Robert Lewandowski heads a stellar list of nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after a golden 12 months for Bayern Munich.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and tennis great Rafael Nadal are also in contention. Joshua Cheptegei and Armand Duplantis complete the male nominees.

Poland striker Lewandowski enjoyed a memorable 2020 for the German giants, with his impeccable performances helping Bayern to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble. 

Across the top-five European leagues, no player could match Lewandowski's 45 goals scored in all competitions from January 1 to December 31 with Cristiano Ronaldo his nearest rival on 41.

In that 12-month period, only Barcelona great Lionel Messi (115) and Juventus superstar Ronaldo (85) registered more shots on target than Lewandowski's 83, while a shot-conversion rate of 34.09 was the fifth highest among players to score at least 20.

Reflecting his all-round contribution, Lewandowski recorded 12 assists in the calendar year, with team-mate Thomas Muller leading the way on an impressive 21. 

Unsurprisingly, Lewandowski won a fifth Torjagerkanone (awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer) overall and a third in a row thanks to 34 Bundesliga goals in 2019-20, higher than an expected goals rate of 26.9. His 15 goals in the Champions League were also a competition high.

 

In a stacked deck, James is included after a year that saw him win a fourth career NBA title and first with the Lakers, while he also claimed a fourth Finals MVP award.

Across six games in the Lakers' 4-2 triumph over the Miami Heat, James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, while he shot 59.1 per cent from the field and drained 41.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Mercedes driver Hamilton won a seventh F1 drivers' title in 2020 to match the overall record of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

During another sensational season, the Briton reached 95 career race wins, which surpasses the previous benchmark of 91 set by Schumacher.

In a calendar year disrupted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal still had personal reason to celebrate after winning a record-extending 13th French Open title.

His triumph at Roland Garros means he now stands alongside Roger Federer on 20 grand slams – the most achieved in the men's game.

Uganda's Cheptegei broke both 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records in 2020, while Duplantis of Sweden broke the indoor and outdoor pole vault record.

Tennis' global superstar Naomi Osaka is nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

The Japanese was champion at the US Open in 2020, which took her career slam tally to three. She recently made that four by winning the first major of 2021 at the Australian Open.

Lyon captain Wendie Renard is in contention after helping her team to a fifth straight Women's Champions League title, while WNBA Finals MVP award winner Breanna Stewart is included after guiding the Seattle Storm to championship glory.

Cyclist Anna van der Breggen – who won both the road race and time trial at the World Championships – is up for the prize, as is skier Federica Brignone, the first Italian woman to win the overall World Cup.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei completes the women's nominees after winning the rescheduled London Marathon by more than three minutes.

Bayern, the Lakers and Mercedes are all up for the World Team of the Year Award, as are Liverpool, who won a first English top-flight title in 30 years.

The Kansas City Chiefs make the list after winning a first Super Bowl since 1970, while Argentina's men's rugby team are nominated after earning a first ever win over three-time world champions New Zealand.

Patrick Mahomes' role in the Chiefs Super Bowl win earned him a nomination for the World Breakthrough of the Year Award, with Iga Swiatek up for the prize after winning the women's singles at the French Open aged 19, the youngest slam winner since 1990.

MotoGP world champion Joan Mir, Tour de France victor Tadej Pogacar, US Open male champion Dominic Thiem and prodigious Barcelona talent Ansu Fati complete that category.

Australian star Daniel Ricciardo vowed to "close the gap" in the race for Formula One championship glory and the new McLaren driver is refusing to make any excuses.

Ricciardo enters his 11th season in F1 having switched from Renault to McLaren, but the 31-year-old does not expect the transition to hold him back.

Since entering F1, Ricciardo has claimed seven grand prix victories and 31 podium finishes, while he earned fifth place in the drivers' championship during the coronavirus-hit 2020 season.

After moving to McLaren to replace new Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. and pair up with the returning Lando Norris, Ricciardo has an eye on climbing the ranks.

"What I expect out of myself in 2021 is to really hit the ground running," Ricciardo said.

"Naturally it does take some time to learn a new team, a new car, but I guess I'm going to be hard on myself, not to give myself too much time.

"I think with Renault I was the same. I really wanted to be there by Melbourne, that first race, but naturally it did take a bit of time.

"I don't want to be naive but I also want to make sure I'm just leaving no stone unturned and really by the end of year I've had a big contribution to the team, moving forward and closing the gap."

Fernando Alonso had surgery on a jaw fracture after a road accident while cycling but is expected to be fit for the start of the 2021 Formula One season.

There were initially doubts the two-time F1 champion would be ready to make his return to the series after a two-year absence at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28 following the incident in Switzerland on Thursday.

Alonso underwent an operation on his jaw and is expected to remain in hospital until Sunday at the earliest.

However, Alpine have confirmed they do not expect the injury to have any impact on their preparation for the new campaign, with pre-season testing scheduled to take place at Sakhir from March 12-14.

"Following his cycling accident yesterday Fernando Alonso was kept under observation in hospital in Switzerland," read an Alpine statement issued on Friday.

"Medics discovered a fracture in his upper jaw and conducted a successful corrective operation. The attending medical team are satisfied with his progress.

"Fernando will remain under observation in hospital for a further 48 hours.

"Looking forward, after a few days of complete rest, he will be able to progressively resume training. We expect him be fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.

"Alpine F1 Team and Fernando thank you for your wishes and will issue further updates when appropriate."

Fernando Alonso is "conscious and well in himself" after the two-time Formula One world champion was involved in a road accident while cycling.

Alonso, 39, is set to return to F1 with the Alpine team this season, after a two-year absence, though there will now be doubts over his participation at the first race in Bahrain next month.

The Spaniard won successive F1 world championships in 2005 and 2006.

On Thursday, Apline confirmed in a statement that Alonso had been involved in an incident while cycling in Switzerland.

However, the statement did not confirm if Alonso was in hopsital.

It read: "Fernando is conscious and well in himself and is awaiting further medical examinations tomorrow [Friday] morning.

"Alpine F1 Team will not make any further statement at this point in time. Further updates will be given tomorrow."

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new contract to race for Mercedes in the 2021 Formula One season, it has been confirmed.

The reigning F1 champion will spend a ninth season with the Silver Arrows after winning a record-equalling seventh drivers' title in 2020.

Mercedes and Hamilton have agreed a deal that includes the formation of a joint charitable foundation with the aim of supporting greater diversity and inclusion in Motorsport.

Hamilton said: "I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team-mates. Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.

"I'm equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue.

"I'm proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can't wait to get back on the track in March."

Team principal Toto Wolff added: "We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process.

"Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.

"Lewis' competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners.

"The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it."

In a 2020 season that was truncated due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hamilton still made history by breaking Michael Schumacher's all-time F1 wins record with his 92nd victory at the Portugal Grand Prix.

This year he will hope to surpass Schumacher and become the first F1 driver in history to win eight world titles.

The 2021 season is scheduled to get under way with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new contract to race for Mercedes in the 2021 Formula One season, it has been confirmed.

Pierre Gasly has become the latest Formula One driver to confirm a positive test for coronavirus.

The Alpha Tauri driver confirmed he is self-isolating and "feeling ok".

Frenchman Gasly wrote on Twitter: "Hello everyone, I hope you're all safe and well.

"I wanted to let you know that I tested positive for COVID-19. I have told everyone I've been in contact with during these last days.

"I'm currently self-isolating and following the protocol set by the local health authorities. I'm feeling ok and will continue to follow my training plan from home while I remain in isolation. Take care."

Six drivers on the grid have now tested positive for coronavirus, with world champion Lewis Hamilton having been among those towards the end of the 2020 season.

Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll also missed races due to COVID-19 last year, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris of McLaren contracted the virus during the close season.

Jenson Button has returned to Williams in a senior advisory role after agreeing a multi-year deal.

Button was given his Formula One break by Williams 21 years ago when he was handed a drive for the 2000 season.

The 41-year-old Briton went on to be crowned F1 world champion during his time with Brawn in 2009 and retired in 2016 with 15 race victories to his name.

Button now returns to Williams, who were sold to American private investment firm Dorilton Capital last year as the Williams family ended their 43-year-old involvement in F1.

He will be tasked with passing on his experience at grands prix, while also attending team events in the United Kingdom.

Englishman Button said: "I am so delighted to once again be able to say that I've signed for Williams. Back when I was 19 it was a moment that changed my life and, despite the fact it was over 20 years ago, I already feel like I never really left.

"Sir Frank Williams showed faith in me which I will be eternally grateful for and I am incredibly excited to have the chance to come back and help the team as it strives once more for success."

Incoming Williams Racing chief executive Jost Capito said: "Bringing Jenson back on board is another positive step to help us move forward as a team both on and off track. Jenson has always been a friend of the team and so it is great to welcome him back into the Williams family.

"Back in 2000, Sir Frank saw the promising talent Jenson had as a driver and gave him his first opportunity in F1. He more than fulfilled that initial promise throughout a glittering career that culminated in world championship glory.

"More recently, he has shown his acumen in both the business and broadcasting worlds and remains a widely respected figure in the paddock."

Alpine have appointed Davide Brivio, the former boss of MotoGP team Suzuki Ecstar, as their racing director.

Renault announced the departure of team principal Cyril Abiteboul on Monday ahead of their rebrand to Alpine for the 2021 Formula One campaign, and now they have added new blood.

Brivio was linked to F1 after quitting his post with Suzuki Ecstar, who won the team and rider championships in last year's MotoGP season.

An Alpine statement read: "Davide Brivio joins Alpine F1 Team as racing director.

"We are delighted to confirm Davide Brivio will strengthen our team ahead of the 2021 Formula One season. His specific role and responsibilities will be announced in the coming weeks.

"Davide will report to the Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi.

"Davide joins Alpine F1 Team with a wealth of experience and success following more than 20 years in the MotoGP world championship.

"We look forward to welcoming Davide as we start the next stage of our Formula One journey."

Alpine's driver line-up is made up of Frenchman Esteban Ocon and former two-time champion Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has tested positive for coronavirus, the team have confirmed.

The 23-year-old was already isolating having been in close contact with someone who had contracted COVID-19.

Ferrari said Leclerc is isolating at home in Monaco and is displaying mild symptoms.

A team statement read: "Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver Charles Leclerc has tested positive for COVID-19.

"In accordance with the team's protocols, Charles is tested regularly and yesterday, the result from his latest test came back positive. 

"Charles notified us immediately and has informed everyone he has been in close contact with in the last few days.

"He is currently feeling ok with mild symptoms and is now self-isolating at home in Monaco."

Leclerc added on his Instagram stories: "Hello guys. I hope you are all staying safe.

"I want to let you know that I have tested positive for COVID-19. I am regularly checked according to my team's protocols.

"Unfortunately, I learned that I have been in contact with a positive case and immediately went into self-isolation, notifying anyone I had contact with. A subsequent test I took has come back positive.

"I am feeling okay and have mild symptoms. I will remain in isolation in my home in Monaco in compliance with the regulations set by the local health authorities.

"Stay safe and take care."

World champion Lewis Hamilton tested positive towards the end of the 2020 F1 season, while Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez have also previously missed time due to coronavirus.

Ferrari do not regret their failure to sign Lewis Hamilton for the 2021 season as they are confident Charles Leclerc can challenge the Formula One champion.

Hamilton has won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with Mercedes, although he has not yet committed to the Silver Arrows for the coming campaign.

A resolution is expected soon, but links to rivals Ferrari have never been far away.

A blockbuster move will not materialise on this occasion, however, as the Scuderia have secured Carlos Sainz Jr next to Leclerc in their 2021 line-up, replacing Sebastian Vettel.

And team principal Mattia Binotto is confident they have made the right move.

He told Sky Sports: "I don't think there will be regret because, at the end, when we took some decisions, we took them thinking they were the right decisions and today we have a fantastic driver like Charles, where we invested a lot as Ferrari.

"I think he's got a lot of talent. If he's got the right car, I'm pretty sure he can challenge Lewis Hamilton.

"We've made our choices and I think, together with Carlos, we are very strong. I don't think there will be any regret."

Although Leclerc - fourth two years ago with two wins to his name - would appear the obvious Ferrari contender, Binotto is not naming a "number one".

Sainz finished seven points better off than his new team-mate in 2020 while still with McLaren.

"There is not a number one and number two," Binotto said. "They will have equal opportunities - certainly at the start of the season. I'm pretty happy then that they are free to fight.

"I think what we have to do as usual is to optimise the team points, and when you optimise the team points, normally you are optimising the drivers' points as well. Team points is the number one.

"Later in the season, let's see how things will progress, let's see what objectives individual drivers can maybe achieve and if we need to adopt a different strategy, but at the start of the season, they will be free to fight."

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