Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will each start from the back of the grid at the Belgian Grand Prix after receiving penalties following power unit changes.

Verstappen leads Ferrari rival Leclerc by 80 points in the Formula One drivers' championship, having won eight of the 13 races so far this season.

However, the Red Bull man, who came from 10th on the grid to win the Hungarian Grand Prix prior to the mid-season break, will have to fight his way through the field to triumph at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.

Verstappen won in Belgium last year in a race reduced to two laps behind the safety car because of a deluge that made racing unsafe.

The Dutchman, who was born in Belgium under two hours away from the circuit, has had all the components of his power unit replaced.

Leclerc, meanwhile, has taken on a fifth power unit of the season as well as a new gearbox.

Joining the title rivals at the back will be McLaren's Lando Norris, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, Haas driver Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo.

Norris, Ocon and Bottas have seen their teams opt to change their engines, while Schumacher is taking on a new control electronics unit.

The grid shake-up could put Mercedes in position to claim their first win of a difficult season, while Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez and Leclerc's fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz will each fancy their chances of winning for the second time in 2022.

Alfa Romeo have announced they will end their title sponsorship with Sauber at the end of the 2023 Formula One campaign.

The Italian manufacturers returned to the F1 paddock in 2018 with a technical and commercial partnership, with an extension in 2021 including 'multi-year assessments'.

Last month, Alfa Romeo opted to remain on the grid for the 2023 season but have now announced it will be their last.

In a statement, they said: "Since the economic and industrial turnaround of the brand will be achieved in 2022, Alfa Romeo will now evaluate among the many opportunities on the table, and decide which will be the best one to sustain the long term strategy and the positioning of the brand."

Alfa Romeo's exit paves the way for Audi's introduction, with confirmation on Friday they would join in 2026 as an engine supplier – though the wider expectation is that they will bring the four rings to the paddock as a team, with reports indicating an agreement with Sauber is 75 per cent complete.

Sauber's future on the grid in the period between the end of the sponsorship with Alfa Romeo and any potential deal with Audi is unclear, however, though they have previously raced under their own name.

Prior to the start of the agreement with Alfa Romeo, Sauber raced under their own name from 2011, and have extensive history in F1 from 1993 including partnerships with BMW, Mercedes and Red Bull.

Alfa Romeo currently sit sixth in the constructors' championship with 51 points, having finished ninth with just 13 points in 2021.

Lewis Hamilton has reiterated he is not thinking about retiring from Formula One as he intends to "cause havoc" with Mercedes in the second half of the season.

Mercedes' 2022 campaign thus far has been one of disappointment, with the team struggling with porpoising and finding themselves off the pace of rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.

A turbulent season follows on from a disruptive end to the 2021 campaign, after Max Verstappen's controversial title win resulted in persistent speculation that Hamilton could walk away from F1.

Hamilton soon put that to rest by returning for the campaign to drive alongside new team-mate George Russel, but disappointing results again led to further debates about the future of the 37-year-old.

The British driver sees things differently, however, as he is still "in love" with the sport and has not considered an exit.

"There's still plenty to achieve here, personally. Maybe not that many records, but still a lot of ground to cover with the team," he said at a press conference ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

"I am still deeply in love with the sport. And I particularly like the direction and the things that we're doing within it. But of course there's lots more outside that's continuing to grow as well.

"So it's an exciting time. We have been improving. We have had this consistency in recent races and great progress the team is making."

Hamilton also detailed Mercedes' intentions for the second half of the season with an appearance at a race event, where he told a crowd they are looking to cause "havoc" in the second half of the campaign.

"We've had this really strong run and we hope to continue it forward. We plan to, we're going to manifest it, we're here to cause havoc in the second half of the season," he said.

Audi's entry into Formula One in 2026 has been officially announced, with the German manufacturers joining as a power unit supplier.

Owned by the VW Group, Audi's move into F1 alongside sister company Porsche has been widely reported this year but finer details were scarce.

On Friday, ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Audi's entry was made official from the 2026 season and they will announce who they are lining up with later this year.

Audi's entry comes after new power unit regulations were announced earlier this month, which were specifically designed to make entry to F1 possible and attractive for newcomers.

"I am delighted to welcome Audi to Formula 1, an iconic automotive brand, pioneer and technological innovator," F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said.

"This is a major moment for our sport that highlights the huge strength we have as a global platform that continues to grow.

"It is also a big recognition that our move to sustainably fuelled hybrid engines in 2026 is a future solution for the automotive sector. 

"We are all looking forward to seeing the Audi logo on the grid and will be hearing further details from them on their plans in due course."

Further announcements from Audi may see them take over an existing team on the grid, with the desire for the famous four rings to become prominent in the sport, and it has been reported an agreement with Sauber, racing as Alfa Romeo, is '75 per cent' complete.

In contrast, sister company Porsche are widely expected to partner with Red Bull and are not set to introduce a branded team.

BREAKING: Audi will join Formula 1 in 2026!#F1 pic.twitter.com/fRnPvmSwU2

— Formula 1 (@F1) August 26, 2022

Daniel Ricciardo will only remain in Formula One "under the right circumstances" and would only return to the circuit with a team that will help him fight to get back on the podiums.

Ricciardo was contracted to McLaren until the end of the 2023 season, but the agreement was cut short following underwhelming results amid continuous struggles with the car.

Alfa Romeo, Haas, AlphaTauri and Williams have vacant driver spots for the next grid, though, as the Australian's future team and position remains unclear.

The 33-year-old is yet to reveal his intentions, but wants to remain competitive in whichever team he signs for, and is even considering a break if no one can offer the right seat on the grid.

"I want to get back to winning, I want to get back to fighting for podiums and wins," he told Sky Sports F1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. 

"That's what gives me the most happiness. One thing that has remained unchanged for me is I've never wanted to be a driver just to be on the grid.

"Of course, I love this sport and I love everything that comes with it. But at this point in my career, it's just about winning.

"Under the right circumstances, the right opportunity, absolutely it's where I want to be, but obviously I might not have every option available."

Ricciardo has history with Alpine – the former Renault team he left in 2020 for rivals McLaren – and speculation persists as to whether he would return to his former team under their new name.

That largely depends on the ongoings between Oscar Piastri and McLaren, who are embroiled in a battle with Alpine to secure the driver's signature.

Asked if he would consider a return to his former side under a new guise, Ricciardo responded: "Yes. I don't know how else to say that. I'd say, if it's right.

"Obviously, it was tough because we made the announcement [joining McLaren] before racing had even started in that year. It was Covid and there was a lot going on.

"For sure, it was a little bit awkward for a bit, but once we were racing and had the year we had, I think everyone saw I was dedicated to make the most of that year.

"We'll see what feels right and is right, but it's purely going to be on where I feel I can be the most competitive."

While talks continues as to who Ricciardo will sign with, he admits he has received numerous offers, but will not be rushed into a decision.

"I don't want to make rash decisions, I want to get racing then see what feels right once I get the helmet back on," he added.

"I haven't signed anything. At this moment, I'm a free man so to speak."

Ricciardo also explained how he was targeting a team who were competitive immediately.

"When you understand a team a little bit more and if what you see is inspiring and motivating, you can quickly change your thought process [on a long-term project]," he continued.

"But I won't lie, I would like results quicker rather than later. But I am very open to what the future may hold, so I'm not going to sit here and shut anything down."

Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali hinted the Belgian Grand Prix could remain part of the sport's calendar beyond this year amid speculation the Spa race is set to be cut.

Belgium will host the first race since late July on Sunday, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull looking to consolidate strong leads at the top of the standings.

Several changes to the F1 calendar are planned ahead of the 2023 season, with the maiden Las Vegas Grand Prix set to take place alongside returns for races in China and Qatar.

The Belgian Grand Prix, which has been a fixture in the calendar for several decades, had been slated as one of the races that could make way, but Domenicali insists such a decision is yet to be taken.

"You never saw something [from] me saying that Belgium will be the last year," he said.

"I would be prudent on that comment, I would say, I would be very prudent. That's the only thing I would say. It's true that we are working and discussing with other promoters to see if they're ready for a full commitment already.

"There has been always a point that we have discussed to find the mix of the races where we're going to have at least one third in Europe, one third in the Far East area, and the other one in the Americas and Middle East. So we want to be balanced.

"Of course, we're talking about a business where investment, the financial contribution, is very important, but we have always said that the traditional races, the races that we know cannot bring the money that the others are bringing, have full respect from us.

"There is a lot of respect for these places. But if you recall, Belgium, there were some periods where it was not in the calendar, and they came back again. The memory sometimes is short. It's a great place, no doubt about it. And that's why we are discussing."

Meanwhile, Domenicali revealed talks are ongoing concerning the future of the French Grand Prix, and said a race in Germany could be set to return to the calendar. 

"We are talking with the French federation, and with the government, because more and more the future also is related to promoters that see that as investment for the country, for the community," he added.

"So the discussions are very, very open for a great future. 

"We really hope that Germany can be back around the table. But one thing is to say is we'd like to have the [German] Grand Prix. The other thing is to put on the table the things that are needed to discuss about the Grand Prix.

"So hopefully soon – with something that could happen soon – they will have a different situation to discuss with us."

Formula One's midseason break delivered drama that the title race so far perhaps had not.

The first half of the campaign had its own intriguing narratives, with Ferrari's frequent collapses and Mercedes' unprecedented struggles, but those strands only served to allow Max Verstappen to build a healthy lead at the top of the standings.

Attention has turned to those in the midfield in recent weeks, though, with Sebastian Vettel's imminent retirement prompting a series of developments that have not yet slowed.

Alpine have been at the heart of the drama, losing Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin in Vettel's place and then failing to secure Oscar Piastri as his replacement.

Piastri instead seems set for McLaren, who have announced Daniel Ricciardo will be leaving the team.

For Alpine then, there will be some relief that focus can now return to the track at the Belgian Grand Prix, with Verstappen set to resume his role at centre stage.

Qualifying key to Red Bull repeat

For those hoping to reel in Verstappen's 80-point lead, they will hope to get more opportunity to attack him than at Spa in 2021, when he started from pole and completed just two laps behind a safety car to claim victory amid a deluge at the circuit in Stavelot.

That result actually continued a recent trend in Belgium, where recovering from a poor qualifying session has proven increasingly tricky.

The past seven winners of the Belgian GP have started from the front row of the grid, with Verstappen among six of those to line up on pole.

Repeating the feat has not been quite so straightforward, however, as Verstappen will be looking to become the first driver to win this race from pole in consecutive entries since Ayrton Senna did so a remarkable four years in a row between 1988 and 1991.

Senna had five Belgian GP wins in total, behind only Michael Schumacher (six). Lewis Hamilton (four) will be bidding to join the Brazilian this weekend.

In-demand Fernando on top form

Alonso will hope his shock move to Aston Martin does not knock his final season with Alpine off course, as the Spaniard had refound form before stunning his team during the break.

The two-time world champion has earned points in each of his past eight races for his best run since another sequence of eight in 2018.

Alonso has not finished in the points in more than eight straight races since 2014, when he put together 15 in a row – the last of them being in Belgium.

But perhaps this could instead be a strong weekend for Alonso's future employers and the man he will replace.

Vettel's best qualifying performance at Aston Martin was fifth at Spa in 2021, finishing fifth on race day, too. Only in Azerbaijan last year (second) has he enjoyed a better result with the team.

McLaren have announced that Daniel Ricciardo will be leaving the team at the end of the 2022 season, freeing up a spot for Oscar Piastri.

The Australian was contracted with McLaren until the end of the 2023 season but, amid disappointing results, that agreement has been cut short and Ricciardo's final race for the team will be in Abu Dhabi later this year.

Ricciardo's frustrating spell at McLaren will be a disappointment for all parties and comes following an equally frustrating stint at Renault, where he moved after his time with Red Bull.

It remains to be seen whether Ricciardo will continue in Formula One, with the 33-year-old stating he will announce his next move in due course.

"Regardless of what this next chapter brings, I have no regrets and am proud of the effort and work I gave McLaren, especially the win in Monza, last season," he said.

"I've enjoyed working with everyone at McLaren both trackside and back in Woking [at the factory] and will be giving my all on and off track as we enjoy the remainder of the season together.

"I've never been more motivated to compete and be a part of a sport that I love so much and look forward to what comes next."

Ricciardo has been consistently outperformed by team-mate Lando Norris this season and his position was clearly under threat, with McLaren widely reported to have an agreement in place with Piastri.

The battle for Piastri has seen McLaren tussle with Alpine, who announced during the season break that he would drive for the team in 2023, though that was later denied on social media by the driver himself.

While an agreement between the teams will have to be reached, it is expected Piastri will indeed wear the orange of McLaren as he has no desire to race for Alpine, who have also lost Fernando Alonso for next season.

Mercedes driver George Russell has claimed there is "no doubt" that Ferrari and Red Bull "pushed the regulations" during the first half of the Formula One season.

The British driver has seen Mercedes unable to compete with their rivals in the opening months of his stint with the team, having moved from Williams, but the German manufacturers hope for improvement when the season resumes this week.

A new technical directive has been put in place, starting on Sunday in Spa, aimed to crack down on porpoising – with Mercedes among those to have struggled with bouncing throughout the season.

Russell believes that the change could prove to be beneficial to Mercedes and the rest of the pack in the bid to close down on the front two teams, but warned there are no guarantees.

"Spa is going to be interesting. There's changes to some little regulations, which may bring other teams towards us," he told Sky Sports.

"There is no doubt that Ferrari and Red Bull have pushed the regulations in that regard, and we've respected it as the regulation was intended.

"There's no guarantees it will bring them closer to us. Every car is different, but it's not going to help them that's for sure."

Russell currently sits fourth in the driver standings, 100 points behind leader Max Verstappen, while Mercedes are third out of the constructors.

We back. pic.twitter.com/4b9QRyBDTg

— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) August 23, 2022

Toto Wolff says it has been like "Groundhog Day" for Mercedes during a difficult 2022 Formula One season.

The Silver Arrows' run of eight consecutive constructors' titles appears to be coming to an end as they are third in the standings behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

Mercedes have not won a race this year, with George Russell fourth in the driver standings and Lewis Hamilton back in sixth.

Having dominated the sport so long, the Brackley-based team have struggled to adapt following the introduction of new technical regulations.

Mercedes team principal Wolff says it has been a rough ride this season.

"The truth is, it's just so painful and it's so difficult to live by your values and your doubt," Wolff told Autosport.

"You oscillate from depression to exuberance, and then the next day the other way around. And in a way that when you kind of think nothing that you do works, [it is] a bit of Groundhog Day. 

"Then you make steps forward by looking at things and finding out they don't function at all, and then you know what doesn't go, and you go the other way and it functions. 

"All the things I've preached, all the things that you read in books that it's so hard, that it is so important to lose in order to thrive. It's just lived in real life so far."

The F1 season resumes with the Belgian Grand Prix next week following a break.

The FIA World Motorsport Council has approved power unit regulations set to come into effect from the 2026 season, as part of a number of announcements made on Tuesday.

Key points from the new regulations are an increase in electrical power and the use of 100 per cent sustainable fuels, a key step in F1's plan to become carbon neutral by 2030.

F1 also stated that the regulations will be 'attractive' to new power unit manufacturers, with the Volkswagen Group already having confirmed that Porsche and Audi will be coming to the grid in the coming years.

While Porsche is set to partner with an existing team, widely expected to be Red Bull, Audi will bring the brand to the field and could take over from a current team – though there have been some pushes for the number of teams on the grid to be increased from 10.

Elsewhere, the WMSC also approved technical regulation changes for 2022 and 2023 – including the controversial directive regarding a counter to the 'porpoising' that has plagued several teams this season.

Red Bull and Alpine had opposed such proposals but it has been announced that, from the resumption of the season in Belgium later this month,' there will be changes to redefine the stiffness requirements of the plank and skids around the thickness measurement holes on the cars'.

From 2023, the floor edges will be raised by 15mm, the diffuser will be raised and stiffness increased, while an additional sensor will be mandated to monitor the porpoising phenomenon more effectively.

After Zhou Guanyu's horror crash at the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, changes were made to the safety standards surrounding roll hoops on F1 cars, including a rounded top, with further regulations planned for 2024 to ensure future cars can resist more significant loads.

Lewis Hamilton has opened up on his emotions following the controversial end to the 2021 Formula One season, admitting his "worst fears came alive" in Abu Dhabi.

The Mercedes driver was at the tail-end of a fierce battle with Red Bull's Max Verstappen for the championship in last year's finale, knowing a record eighth world title would be clinched if he finished ahead of his rival.

On lap 53, Hamilton led but drama would soon erupt as Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barrier at the exit of turn 14 and the safety car was deployed.

Under FIA guidelines, lapped cars are allowed to overtake behind the safety car but that guidance was not followed by race director Michael Masi, who instead only allowed the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to move through.

Verstappen, having pitted, then completed an overtake of a defenceless Hamilton at the restart to clinch his maiden title.

The controversy that followed rumbled on for months, with Masi departing his role prior to the start of the 2022 season, and Hamilton has now spoken about his feelings regarding the incident.

"You see things start to unfold and my worst fears came alive," he told Vanity Fair.

"I was like, there's no way they're going to cheat me out of this. There's no way. That won't happen. Surely not.

"I don't know if I can really put into words the feeling that I had. I do remember just sitting there just in disbelief. 

"And realizing I've got to undo my belts, I've got to get out of there, I've got to climb out of this thing, I've got to find the strength. I had no strength.  And it was one of the toughest moments, I would say, that I've had in a long, long time.

"I knew what had happened. I knew what decisions had been made and why. Yes, I knew that something wasn't right."

Ahead of the 2022 season, questions were raised whether Hamilton would return to the grid, and he admits that he considered retirement.

"I, for sure, considered whether I wanted to continue," he confirmed.

Hamilton did return, racing alongside new teammate George Russell, but has not been able to compete for the crown, instead encountering numerous issues with Mercedes unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the start of the season.

Better fortune was found ahead of F1's summer break, with back-to-back podium finishes for both drivers, but Hamilton remains 112 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings.

Charles Leclerc acknowledged it is more difficult to get over his own mistakes than those of his Ferrari team, and still wants to make the most of the remainder of the Formula One campaign.   Two early season victories gave Leclerc a 46-point lead over Red Bull's Max Verstappen after the first three races of the campaign, but just one win for him since has seen his Dutch rival open up an 80-point gap at the top of the drivers' championship.   On several occasions, Leclerc has been unable to see out a victory, with his engine failing twice and questionable strategies from Ferrari also appearing to cost him, while he also crashed out when leading the French Grand Prix last month.   Speaking to BBC Sport, Leclerc said he was happy that Ferrari were finally back fighting at the front, after seeing Red Bull and Mercedes dominate in recent years, but conceded further improvement is needed.   "First of all, it was amazing to see that we finally got back to fighting for wins," he said.   "On the other hand, we haven't managed to maximise all the potential we had. And this is not great. We still have the second part of the season to catch up, I hope, and I will push at the maximum. But the last few races have been a bit difficult."   Leclerc finished sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, with Verstappen winning again heading into the mid-season break, with the next race in Belgium in late August.   "We want to do absolutely everything to get better in every single thing we do, and obviously looking at the first part of this season, there have been some strategy problems, there have been some reliability problems and there have been driving mistakes," Leclerc added.   "On reliability and strategy, we are working extremely hard to get better. And after a mistake, we always go through exactly the same process, which is to try and analyse from where the mistakes come, why did we take the wrong decision at a certain point of the race, in order to go forwards. As soon as we understand a mistake, then we can move on."

Leclerc outlined his process when he costs himself in a race.

"I'm extremely tough with myself," he added. "So it is much more difficult to deal with my own errors than whenever it is the team, even though we are obviously one team and we lose and we win together.

"I'm always harsher whenever it's me who does the mistake, and obviously France was one of those which hurt quite a bit.

"But whenever I go through this tough time, I go through the same process as I was saying before, trying to analyse what was wrong. And it's mostly mentally.

"To speak about it seems quite easy, but it is not always easy to pinpoint exactly what was going on in your head at that moment. But I think this is a strength of mine and helps me to improve as a driver every time I make a mistake."

When asked about his aims for the rest of the season, Leclerc said: "To try and grow from the mistakes of the first half, but try and perform as well as the first half because the performance I've given, I'm extremely happy about. And this I want to keep.

"So there won't be any significant change. We just need to try and work as a team to put a weekend together for the nine remaining races and see where we end up."

Alex Albon will keep his Williams seat beyond this season after signing a multi-year deal with the team, it was revealed on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Thai-British driver joined Williams for 2022 and has secured all three of the team's points so far this season – finishing 10th in Australia and ninth in Miami.

Formerly of Red Bull, Albon's initial deal with Williams was for a single season, but the team confirmed he will return to the grid next year, as well as for future seasons.

"It's really exciting to be staying with Williams Racing for 2023 and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve as a team in the remainder of this season and next year," Albon said.

"The team is pushing hard to progress, and I am really motivated to continue this journey and further develop our learnings together."

Albon could still have a new team-mate for the 2023 season, with Nicholas Latifi's contract expiring at the end of the season.

Williams' announcement comes in what has been a dramatic seven days in F1, which started with the announcement of Sebastian Vettel's retirement at the end of the season.

Fernando Alonso was then confirmed to be Vettel's replacement at Aston Martin, with Alpine later stating Oscar Piastri would step into the vacancy – though the Australian denied those claims.

It has been suggested Piastri is in negotiations with McLaren for a seat alongside Lando Norris for 2023, which in turn would leave Daniel Ricciardo seeking a new team.

Australian Oscar Piastri has refuted an announcement from Alpine that he will race for them in Formula One next season.

The stunning move came on Tuesday as Alpine reserve driver Piastri shot down the team's assertion he would be taking the seat of Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.

Piastri, last year's Formula 2 champion, has been linked with Williams and McLaren recently, but Alpine have been determined to keep him.

However, the 21-year-old said in a statement posted on Twitter: "I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year.

"This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year."

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer has claimed Piastri does have "a legal contract" for next year with the Renault-owned marque, seemingly putting him in direct conflict with the young driver.

The disagreement will need to be resolved, with Szafnauer having told motorsport.com "I'm not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all."

He added: "Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means."

This situation has been brought into the spotlight amid Alpine's need to find a replacement for Alonso, who has agreed to succeed retiring former four-time champion Sebastian Vettel with Aston Martin.

The drama comes as Formula One enters its short mid-season break.

German great Vettel will retire from Formula One at the end of the season, with Szafnauer indicating he was expecting Alonso to commit to a new Alpine contract until news came through of Aston Martin's move for the Spanish veteran, who won the 2005 and 2006 world titles.

In Alpine's now-contradicted statement about the appointment of Piastri, Szafnauer described the youngster as "a bright and rare talent".

He added: "Through our collaboration over the past four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver who is more than capable of taking the step up to Formula One."

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