Valtteri Bottas insists he has what it takes to beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who is celebrating a sixth Formula One world title.

Mercedes, who have won a record six consecutive drivers' and constructors' title doubles, are expected to be front-runners again in 2020.

That is the last year before new technical regulations come in for 2021, and Bottas, having finished behind Hamilton in all three of his seasons with the German manufacturer, is eager to pose a more consistent challenge to the Briton.

Bottas finished 87 points behind Hamilton this year but feels the four race wins and five pole positions he earned over the season proved he has what it takes.

"For 2020, there are no major regulation changes in Formula One so that means I think it will be even closer competition with many teams," Bottas said in quotes to Sky Sports at a PETRONAS event to celebrate the team's 2019 campaign.

"Other teams, drivers, will play a part in the fight as well but obviously Lewis always is a difficult driver to beat. 

"But I've been able to do it at times so I know I can do it."

The grid could have a very different look to by the time 2021 arrives, not least because Hamilton has been linked with a stunning move to Ferrari.

Now only one win away from Michael Schumacher's record of seven drivers' titles, Hamilton stressed it is key to appreciate the successes already achieved rather than look too far ahead.

"It's really, really important always to just be grateful for what I have at the moment," he said.

"Of course, we'll be in search for another championship, but in this sport you never know when that could be.

"It could be next year, it could be years. Some people don't even have one, so it's really important to be grateful for what we have."

Of the challenge ahead of him in 2020, Hamilton added: "Next year I think will be similar to this year. 

"However, I think the competition is probably going to step up. You have seen this year McLaren have picked up, Red Bull have picked up their pace, you have seen some more teams are coming into the spot. 

"It's a little bit easier to chase than it is to lead."

The 2019 Formula One season ended on Sunday with a familiar sight, Lewis Hamilton on a podium's top step.

Hamilton won his sixth world title this year, emerging victorious in 11 of the 21 races, including in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

It was also a fine campaign for Mercedes, who took the constructors' championship, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas finishing second in the final drivers' standings.

Here, with the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind the 2019 campaign.

 

10 - Hamilton became the first driver to win world titles with a span of more than 10 years. His first championship came in 2008 when he was driving for McLaren.

11 - With 11 race wins, Hamilton enjoyed his joint-best year having also taken the chequered flag that many times in 2014 and 2018.

19 - The world champion has now led from start to finish in 19 grands prix, the joint most of any driver in F1 along with Ayrton Senna.

17 - Hamilton had a place on the podium in 17 races in 2019.

13 - The Briton has recorded at least one pole position in each of the last 13 seasons (2007 to 2019), the joint-longest run in F1 history after Michael Schumacher's streak between 1994 and 2006.

61 - Hamilton has recorded 61 pole positions for Mercedes, more than any other driver for a single F1 team.

146 - In 146 grands prix, Hamilton has held the lead, more than any other driver in F1 history.

3 - Red Bull's Max Verstappen enjoyed his best year to date, winning three races across the calendar.

22 - It was a more challenging year for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who went 22 successive races between the Italian Grand Prix in 2018 and Singapore Grand Prix in 2019 without a victory - the worst run of his F1 career.

6 - Mercedes equalled Ferrari (1999-2004) as the team to have won the most successive constructors' titles.

As Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, it would be fair to wonder why he would ever contemplate the prospect of racing for a new team.

The Mercedes driver led from start to finish, recorded the fastest lap and won by a gap of over 16 seconds to Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

It was his 11th victory of 2019, matching his personal best total in a season, and was a win that came with his sixth Formula One drivers' title long since secured.

The final gap in the title race was a massive 87 points over team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen, the closest driver from an opposing team, ending up out of sight at 135 adrift.

Mercedes made an emphatic start with eight straight wins and while they were challenged by Ferrari and Red Bull in the middle of the campaign, they recovered to win five of the last six.

Hamilton was in a class of his own on race days, especially considering the pole he claimed at Yas Marina Circuit – a traditionally strong track for Mercedes – was his first in 10 races.

He goes into 2020, the final year of his current contract, as the clear favourite to triumph once more, with Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles now tantalisingly close.

Hamilton is loved by Mercedes, has the best car and a team-mate in Bottas who, unlike his spell alongside Nico Rosberg, has steered clear of controversy and would struggle to beat him over a 22-race slate.

Why then is the possibility of a move to Ferrari in 2021 even on the agenda? The next contract Hamilton signs could be his last and it is one that may prove legacy defining.

He is 34 but eager to continue for a few seasons yet, leading the sport into its new era of technical regulations, which come into play the year after next.

Hamilton's talent and achievements have not always been properly appreciated, nor his mental strength and competitiveness that often lifts him above rivals.

He has been booed by Ferrari supporters, while his personality has not always proved endearing to prospective admirers.

Earlier this year, Toto Wolff expressed his surprise that Hamilton is not more revered in his home country, the United Kingdom, in comparison to other sporting greats.

It is one of many factors that must make joining Ferrari, the sport's most popular team, tempting.

Ahead of the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, Mattia Binotto openly discussed his happiness at the possible availability of Hamilton.

Hamilton has repeatedly said he wants to see what close confidant Wolff does before deciding on his own future and explained after Sunday's win he would think about his options.

Asked about rumours he met with Ferrari president John Elkann, Hamilton said: "Everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private.

"But I think for many, many years, I've never, ever sat down and considered other options, because we've been just driving straight ahead into the path and journey that we've been on.

"It's only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last period in my career. I want to keep winning and being able to fight with these guys. I can't really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards."

With Sebastian Vettel's performances showing signs of decline it is Charles Leclerc, Ferrari's rising star, who would likely be Hamilton's team-mate. 

Leclerc said after the race he would welcome the challenge of having Hamilton in the same team, a move which could mean Verstappen – the other man set to lead F1's next generation – could fulfil his mooted move to Mercedes as their new number one.

Verstappen could alternatively continue to lead Red Bull if they show sufficient progress next year, but either way the 2021 grid would be a fascinating picture, with Alex Albon, Lando Norris and George Russell the other young stars in the mix for top drives.

It remains the most likely scenario that Hamilton remains with Mercedes and helps them to extend their unprecedented run of six consecutive driver and constructor doubles. He added to his comments on Ferrari by saying he still loves life with the team.

It would undoubtedly be a risk to leave that comfort and winning culture to join Ferrari, who have not produced a drivers' title since 2007, while pitting himself directly against rising star Leclerc.

But Hamilton must ponder how complete his career would be if he joins and wins with Ferrari.

The Briton has openly wondered how it would feel to have the Ferrari faithful roaring him on at Monza and ending the Scuderia's title drought would see his popularity rocket.

He timed his difficult decision to leave McLaren well in 2013 and another opportunity now presents itself.

Hamilton could end his career having seen off a daunting team-mate in Leclerc, surpassed Schumacher's now attainable records of world titles and race wins while winning the championship with a third different team.

If he does that, he would have a compelling case to stand clear of Ayrton Senna and Schumacher to be considered as the greatest driver of all time.

Fernando Alonso has confirmed he will race in the Indy 500 next year, but has left the door open on a return to Formula One in 2021.

The 38-year-old, a two-time F1 world champion, intends to return to Indianapolis as he once again tries to become just the second man after Graham Hill to win motorsport's triple crown of Le Mans, F1's Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500.

Alonso first won in Monaco in 2006 and has added two Le Mans victories over the past two years, along with the World Endurance Championship and the Daytona 24 Hours Classic.

However, success at the Indy 500 has provided elusive, with Alonso leading through 27 laps in 2017 but retiring 24 laps from the end due to engine failure.

"I will definitely do Indy. Let's see how the next weeks unfold," he told BBC Sport.

"Indy is the only one missing. If I do that after winning Le Mans, WEC, Daytona, there is nothing more I could ask. Definitely I will try again."

Beyond that, Alonso admitted he could return to F1.

A world champion in 2005 and 2006, Alonso has not raced in the sport since the 2018 season but a comeback in 2021 is possible should he decide he is missing the thrill of F1 racing.

"First I want to do Dakar and Indy and then see if I'm missing F1," he added.

"This year, it was nice to be out of the F1 bubble but my friends are saying, 'Now you are out of F1 it is the time to enjoy life a bit'. And I say that what makes me happy is to race.

"F1 is still a possibility. The 2021 rules are quite interesting. Maybe it will move things around a bit and make the cars easier to race. If it turns out I miss F1, I am open to coming back.

"Also the driver market is very open for 2021, so there is no hurry to make a decision."

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will start the 2020 Formula One season as equals, according to Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.

Binotto accepted the picture has changed after a campaign that saw Leclerc finish ahead of the four-time world champion in the drivers' standings, claiming seven pole positions and two race victories.

Vettel, by contrast, had two poles and one race win, finishing 2019 in fifth place, 24 points adrift of his younger team-mate.

Tension between the two drivers over strategy simmered during the season and flared up as recently at the penultimate race of the year in Brazil, where a collision between them led to a double retirement.

But Binotto vowed they would be free to battle each other next year, praising Leclerc for his superb start to life with the Scuderia.

"Obviously now we just finished the season and there will be time from now to Australia, but when we started this season, the situation was quite different," Binotto told Sky Sports.

"We had a rookie and an experienced driver. If you look at the last races they were free to race and I think that is where we start from [in 2020].

"Charles surprised everybody, not only myself. He is very fast, he has proved to manage the pressure and proved to manage the entire season.

"He's good in battling, he's good in racing, so we are very happy with him. His season has been outstanding. 

"Starting seven times on pole, two victories, on his very first year and finishing ahead of Sebastian in the championship, it's still an achievement."

Ferrari ended second in the constructors' championships but only three race wins seemed like a low return for a car that was quickest on multiple circuits, as emphasised by their qualifying results.

"We did our best each time but obviously we are unhappy for the performance of the car and unhappy for some mistakes we did, for reliability problems we had, and maybe some decisions," said Binotto.

"We've now got some time ahead and we are trying at least to create some solid foundations with the team, with our organisation, and eventually try to challenge the others in a better way next year."

The first of 22 races on the 2020 schedule will be the the Australian Grand Prix on March 15.

Lewis Hamilton says he loves Mercedes and has not held talks with Ferrari but the Formula One champion is open to considering his future for 2021.

Murmurings of a blockbuster switch from Mercedes to rivals Ferrari emerged this year as Hamilton cruised to his sixth drivers' championship, a third in a row.

The Briton is set to line up with the Silver Arrows once again for the next campaign, yet the possibility of a move at the end of 2020 remains.

And the subject was brought up at a post-race news conference as Hamilton reflected on his season-ending victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 34-year-old suggested Mercedes chief Toto Wolff's future could impact his own, although he insisted any decision would be based on his continued desire for success on the track.

Asked if he had met with Ferrari president John Elkann, Hamilton replied: "Well, naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private with whoever it is you end up sitting with.

"But I think for many, many years, I've never, ever sat down and considered other options, because we've been just driving straight ahead into the path that we've been on and the journey that we've been on.

"And to be honest, I still think we're on that path and I think there's very little that's going to shift it from that.

"But I know Toto is also looking at his options in terms of his future, and only he will know what is the best thing for him and his family. So I'm waiting to see what he's doing with that.

"I love where I am, so it's definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but of course I think it's only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want if it is the last period or stage in my career.

"Actually, I want to keep winning, I want to keep being able to fight with these guys as well. I can't really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards."

Scuderia star Charles Leclerc was asked if he would welcome Hamilton as a team-mate the season after next.

He replied: "Well, of course. At the end, we are in Formula One and we want to fight against the best.

"I've had a big opportunity this year to have Seb [Vettel] next to me, who is a four-time world champion, and I've learned a lot from him.

"You can always learn from this type of champion, so, yes, of course [I would welcome Hamilton]."

Charles Leclerc kept his third-placed finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but Ferrari were fined €50,000 for "an inaccurate fuel declaration" for the 22-year-old's SF90.

Stewards highlighted a discrepancy in the car ahead of Sunday's race, although the investigation was delayed until after the event.

Leclerc subsequently finished third, behind Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The FIA then discovered there had been a difference of 4.88 kilograms between what Ferrari declared and what it had measured for Leclerc's car.

It was deemed Ferrari had breached the rules but only the team were sanctioned, with Leclerc remaining in P3.

Sebastian Vettel does not believe Ferrari's 2019 season was as bad as their massive gap to Mercedes made it look.

The Scuderia were widely expected to mount a serious challenge to the continued dominance of the Silver Arrows this season.

However, Charles Leclerc and Vettel finished fourth and fifth in the drivers' championship, again won by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes won the constructors' championship by 235 points from Ferrari, who were victorious in only three races as Hamilton prevailed in 11 and Bottas took the chequered flag in four.

Four-time world champion Vettel crossed the line fifth in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which was won comfortably by Hamilton from pole.

Vettel - whose sole triumph came in Singapore - told reporters: "We didn't have the year we were hoping for full stop. The reasons are clear, the lessons are clear and it's up to us to take them on board.

"As a team we must perform stronger, and as a individual I can do better it wasn't a great year from my side.

"I don't think it was as bad it looks as there were many small things...

"But I know that I can do better and that's for sure the target for next year and hopefully we get a stronger package to fight at the front with Mercedes and Red Bull."

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton says he feels "privileged" to be the subject of a challenge from Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, yet the Red Bull and Ferrari men are aiming for better in 2020.

Hamilton won the final grand prix of the season in Abu Dhabi, finishing the campaign 87 points clear of Mercedes team-mate and nearest contender Valtteri Bottas in the drivers' championship standings.

Yet Verstappen and Leclerc, both 22, joined Hamilton on the podium on Sunday and look to represent the greatest threat to his crown heading into next year.

The Briton, now a 250-race veteran, is relishing the test as he enjoys taking on the sport's top prospects.

"These guys, there's a lot yof oungsters coming through," Hamilton said, referring to his two rivals.

"It's great to be in a period of time where there's lots of youngsters coming through, and I'm privileged to be here while they come through."

Verstappen finished the season third in the standings, 135 points back, with Leclerc fourth and a further 14 behind the Dutchman.

A true title challenge has not quite yet materialised for the more experienced Red Bull man, but he said: "To be P3 in the championship was a nice ending.

"We are all working hard, but it's good to take some time off and be with family and friends and come back stronger next year."

Leclerc pipped Ferrari colleague Sebastian Vettel in the table in his first year with the Scuderia.

He added: "I'm extremely happy about this year. I've learned a huge amount thanks to Seb.

"It's been a great year, a realisation of the dream since I was child to be with Ferrari and in Formula One, and it's up to me to get better and give them the success they deserve."

Lewis Hamilton ended another title-winning Formula One season by cruising to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In his 250th grand prix, Mercedes' six-time world champion qualified on pole for the first time since July's German Grand Prix and eased clear of the field to claim an easy victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.

It marked Hamilton's 11th triumph of the campaign in a race where there was little on the line for most on the grid.

Max Verstappen was second to ensure he finished third in the drivers' championship, with Charles Leclerc completing the podium, though Ferrari were due to meet with the stewards after the race over a fuel discrepancy in his car.

Even if his third-place finish does not stand, Leclerc will still end the season higher up the standings than Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who took sixth in the race.

Valtteri Bottas, who already had second in the championship secured, started from the back of the grid but worked his way up to fourth.

Due to a technical issue, DRS was not available until lap 18, though overtaking was not an issue for most, and Leclerc got past Verstappen soon after a start in which Hamilton never came under threat.

Verstappen was not satisfied with his engine power throughout the race, but it was he and Leclerc who produced the most entertaining battle of the race on lap 33.

It ended with the Red Bull driver getting his revenge on Leclerc, who was unable to provide a response.

Bottas ran out of laps to catch Leclerc and pip him to the third spot on the podium, with the Finn also denied the fastest-lap bonus point by Hamilton. Alex Albon was fifth, ahead of Vettel, with Sergio Perez seventh and Lando Norris eighth.

Nico Hulkenberg could not finish his final race for Renault in the points despite going into the last lap in 10th. Carlos Sainz took the last points place as Hulkenberg ended up 12th.

Lewis Hamilton is relishing another battle with Max Verstappen as he looks to claim an 11th Formula One victory of a 2019 campaign that concludes with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Sunday's race will see Mercedes bid for a sixth consecutive race win at Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton having come out on top in three of the last five editions.

The world champion earned the 88th pole position of his illustrious career in qualifying, the first time he has topped the grid in his last 10 attempts.

Hamilton was ecstatic to end that barren run in the 21st and final race of the year and has put himself in prime position to add a win which would equal the personal best season tally he previously recorded in 2014 and 2018.

Valtteri Bottas qualified second but will start at the back after taking a host of engine penalties, meaning Verstappen, who won in Brazil last time out, will renew his combat with Hamilton from Interlagos on the front row.

Asked about continuing their scrap, Hamilton said: "Absolutely, yeah. 

"I think we are in a slightly better position this weekend. Obviously, Max is continuing to drive well, but I'm looking forward to battling with him for sure.

"It's been such a long slog trying to get this pole position. I don't think my qualifying has been terrible but it's just not been at my usual standard perhaps, so of course it's incredibly satisfying. 

"Obviously that's not even half the job done. We've got to battle with the Ferraris and the Red Bulls but I think we put ourselves in the best position possible, so incredibly happy. 

"We just really tried to see what we could pull out of the car this weekend. It's well suited to the track and it's been feeling good."

Verstappen vowed to challenge Hamilton but is aware he faces a tough task due to Mercedes' strength at this track.

"I don't think it's going to be easy, but we are going to give it a good try as a team, try and put them under pressure and see what happens," said the Dutchman, who was 0.360s off Hamilton's track-record pole time.

"We always know that Mercedes are very quick on the long runs. You have to be realistic and I think Mercedes is very quick. But there's still a lot of chances for Sunday.

"Qualifying was pretty decent. We seem to lack a bit of grip compared to [Mercedes] and they are especially very quick in the last sector. They are always very dominant here on this track but we tried to be as close as we could."


LECLERC WILL TAKE RISKS

In the last 10 races in Abu Dhabi, where overtaking is difficult, only once has a driver starting behind the front row won, when Kimi Raikkonen triumphed from fourth in 2012.

The all-Ferrari second row of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel therefore have their work cut out after suffering more frustration following their crash in Brazil.

Leclerc, following Vettel, could not cross the line in time to set a final flying lap in Q3. He initially blamed his German team-mate for driving slowly, though the four-time world champion was also hindered by traffic.

The Monegasque, trailing Verstappen by 11 points in the fight to finish third in the drivers' championship, has vowed to take chances, though he also has fifth-placed Vettel just 19 behind him.

Asked if he could win, Leclerc said: "Yes, definitely, and I will take quite a bit of risk at the start. 

"I need to take some risk; I need to finish in front of Max for the championship and in the end I will give it all.

"We'll analyse it [qualifying] and try to understand for it to not happen again, because it's a big shame."

Three-time Abu Dhabi winner Vettel, who will start on soft tyres in contrast to mediums for the two Mercedes, Red Bulls and Leclerc, also had his say on the disappointing qualifying finish.

The German, who arrived to the circuit late this week after the birth of his third child, said: "Alex Albon was backing up because he had a McLaren in front of him. I don't know who was in front of the McLaren or whether the McLaren could be closer.

"It was just a pity because my tyres were very cold to start with and I lost it straight in the first corner and Charles didn't even start the lap."

Team boss Mattia Binotto conceded Ferrari had "screwed up" trying to take a risk by being the last cars out to take advantage of improving track conditions.
 

BOTTAS SETTING NO LIMITS

Bottas, meanwhile, insisted anything was possible after a retirement last time out ended a run of four straight podiums.

"Everything is always possible," said the Finn. "There's no point for me to set any limit really. Take every opportunity there will be and for sure there will be some. 

"We've seen crazy races this year – look back two weeks in Brazil. So anything is possible. Look forward to coming up and taking those opportunities and most importantly having fun in the car.

"We'll find the fighting spirit. I believe. Anything is possible. We do have a good car and normally Sunday is better than Saturday for us so we'll give it all I have for sure.

"We've had many ideas for the strategy and obviously it's going to be a challenge, coming up from there – but I do look forward to it. I'm sure it can be fun trying to come up."
 

LAST HURRAH FOR HULKENBERG?

The performance of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg will also be closely watched.

Replaced by Esteban Ocon for 2020 and with all other drives now taken, the German will start what may ultimately prove his last F1 race in ninth position as Renault look to hold off Toro Rosso for fifth in the constructors' championship.

"When I got in the car, it was business as usual," said the 32-year-old, who aims to return in the future. 

"We still have the job in the constructors, which is very important. I just want to live it, enjoy it, get it done."
 

THE GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
6. Lando Norris (McLaren)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
8. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
10. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Valtteri Bottas
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 387
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-73)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 260 (-127)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-138)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-157)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 701
2. Ferrari 479 (-222)
3. Red Bull 391 (-310)
4. McLaren 140 (-561)
5. Renault 91 (-610)

WEATHER FORECAST 

Sunday's race is expected to be hot, with temperatures of up to 27 degrees Celcius, with no threat of rain or high winds.

Lewis Hamilton said he has "always appreciated" Ferrari after their team principal Mattia Binotto said they would be "happy" if the reigning Formula One world champion became available to sign following next season.

Six-time world champion Hamilton is under contract with Mercedes for 2020 but his future beyond that became a topic of discussion this week when he suggested his next move may depend on what his team's chief Toto Wolff does.

Binotto then admitted the possibility of Hamilton becoming available for 2021 "can only make us happy" in a public flirtation with the 34-year-old Briton.

Those comments were warmly received by Hamilton, who claimed his first pole position in 10 grands prix in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

"I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these 13 years," he told reporters.

"I honestly don't remember them ever mentioning me ever so thank you, I'll take it, doesn't really mean anything, it's all talk.

"It's taken all these years for him to recognise maybe, but I'm grateful."

Ferrari have not had a driver win the world title since Kimi Raikkonen did so in their car in 2007, and their 2019 campaign has been blighted by Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel's struggle for supremacy.

Hamilton insisted his focus was on ending the season in style on Sunday before he discussed his contract with Mercedes, though he did reveal his admiration for Ferrari, F1's most successful team.

"It's positive," he said of the compliments.

"I think it's never a waste of time to ever being nice to someone.

"It has been a long, long time and a team that I've always appreciated over the years, so to earn their respect from someone from there who's obviously very high up is obviously not a bad thing.

"I think they've got two great drivers as is so who knows what the driver market's going to be doing over the next year.

"I'm not really focused on that right this second: trying to make sure I finish off strong. I've got this incredible group of people who hire me where I am and I feel like I just continue to owe it to them to give my heart to them and my energy 100 per cent to them, particularly as I'm still in contract and negotiations haven't started yet.

"I honestly don't know how the next phase of the months is going to go when it comes to contract. It's very odd that you have to do it almost a year before it ends and it can't be done towards the end but that's just the way it goes, but we shall see."

Lewis Hamilton revelled in an "extra special" pole position in the final grand prix of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi as he ended his qualifying drought.

The world champion had not claimed pole since the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in July.

However, he ended his wait in some style at the Yas Marina circuit on Saturday, his time of one minute and 34.779 seconds setting a new track record.

His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was second, though he will start from the back due to a grid penalty.

Hamilton, who will instead have Max Verstappen for company on the front row, said afterwards: "It was such a long slog trying to get this pole position in and we just kept out heads down and the guys have done a great job.

"Yesterday was quite wobbly so I had to re-compose myself and had to come back today and re-focus. I managed to dial in the car with the hard work of the engineers.

"Valtteri 2.0 has been rapid, especially this weekend. To end the qualifying season with a pole and to say goodbye to this car with a pole, is extra special."

Bottas added: "As a team it has been a really strong day, we've had good pace, it didn't feel as good today as yesterday but I think Lewis made some good improvements.

"In any case I'm going to start last and we will find the fighting spirit tomorrow. I believe, anything is possible, we have a very good car. Sunday is normally stronger for us and we'll give it all we have."

 

Lewis Hamilton claimed his first pole position in 10 grands prix as he topped the timesheets with a scintillating effort ahead of the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton had not secured pole since the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim but he set a new track record of one minute and 34.779 seconds at the Yas Marina Circuit.

His performance led a Mercedes one-two, though his team-mate Valtteri Bottas - who was 0.194s behind - will start from the back of the grid due to a penalty for going over the engine limit.

Max Verstappen will instead join Hamilton on the front row after he qualified in third for Red Bull, with his team-mate Alexander Albon classified in sixth. 

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth in the classification and will share the second row, though their qualifying debrief will likely be dominated by discussion over the former not crossing the line in time for a final flying lap.

Vettel was ahead of Leclerc on the track but driving slowly, preventing the Monegasque a run at a potential spot on the front row.

"We are not going to make it - Seb is slowing down," Leclerc said over team radio.

Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren, producing a superior qualifying result to team-mate Carlos Sainz - who was ninth – to win their qualifying battle 11-10 for the season.

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo qualified eighth, with Nico Hulkenberg rounding off the provisional top 10 for the French team in his last race for the team.

Racing Point's Sergio Perez was 11th and will move into the top 10 as a result of Bottas' penalty.

 

Sebastian Vettel conceded he had a lucky escape after spinning out of control during Friday's first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel lost control on Turn 19 - a corner team-mate Charles Leclerc later had difficulty on - at the Yas Marina Circuit towards the end of FP1.

The rear of Vettel's car turned into the barrier, with the German subsequently losing some track time at the start of the second practice, for which his Ferrari was fitted with a new gearbox as a precautionary change.

"I knew that going in I would have to catch the rear, it didn’t quite work, so it was a bit unfortunate. But there was no damage other than the rim, so I got lucky," Vettel said.

"It was a bit of a surprise, I didn't expect to actually spin."

Leclerc also had trouble on Turn 19 in FP2, clipping the barrier while on a simulation lap on soft tyres and - like Vettel - the youngster was surprised at how quickly he lost control on the corner.

"The whole third sector is pretty difficult because it's overheating in the rear, but especially this corner," Leclerc said.

"As soon as you go a bit too wide, you lose a bit of grip, and I've been surprised by that."

The Ferrari duo finished in P3 and P4 behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who was given a reprimand for his collision with Romain Grosjean during practice.

"The day started actually pretty badly for us. It was one of the hardest sessions of the year in terms of balance and overall quite a messy session," Leclerc said.

"But we worked very well between the sessions, and we gained quite a lot of performance for FP2. FP2 was pretty positive."

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