Lando Norris fears Max Verstappen’s “boring” dominance of Formula One is forcing fans away.

Verstappen became the first driver this century to start the season with five consecutive pole positions after a crushing performance in qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, 26, saw off Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 0.322 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit to take top spot, after he earlier raced from fourth to first in the 19-lap sprint race.

Remarkably, since Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 world championship in Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull driver has won 37 of the 48 races staged, and he is firmly on course to wrap up his fourth title in as many seasons.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already said that Verstappen will not be caught – despite there being 20 races of this record-breaking 24-race season left.

And speaking ahead of the fifth round of the campaign in China, Norris, considered to be Verstappen’s best friend on the grid, said: “It is frustrating for people watching but it has always been like this.

“Now, we are seeing more dominance than ever, so it is never going to be the best to watch and the only exciting races have been the ones that Max is not in.”

Asked if he was concerned Verstappen’s stranglehold on the sport could be a turn-off for fans, Norris replied: “Of course it is going to be. Of course it is going be. There is no way you can say it won’t be.

“If you see the same driver winning every single time without a fight then of course it does start to become boring and that is obvious.

“You have got one of the best drivers ever in Formula One, in one of the most dominant cars and it is a combination that is deadly. If Max wasn’t there and you had two (Sergio) Perezs it wouldn’t be the case.”

Verstappen struggled for speed in the early stages of Saturday’s sprint race but he caught, and overtook, Lewis Hamilton on the ninth lap and then pulled out an eye-watering two seconds on the Mercedes driver in just one lap. He took the chequered flag 13 sec clear.

Fernando Alonso was the closest non-Red Bull finisher to Verstappen in qualifying but the Spaniard was almost half-a-second back.

Norris, 24, continued: “Am I surprised how far Red Bull is ahead? No. When you know how tricky it is to get it right, then it makes sense. They are just smart people.

“You hope teams plateau and we are starting to get there but at the same time to suddenly jump and catch them (Red Bull), it just doesn’t work like that.”

Mercedes, behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Norris’ McLaren in the constructors’ standings, are a team far removed from the one which dominated the sport.

Hamilton will start 18th in China on Sunday, with team-mate George Russell only eighth on the grid.

Norris, who qualified fourth, added: “If you look at how dominant Mercedes have been in the past, you would have expected more from them. I did, especially how much over the last few years they have said: ‘ah, now we have got it’, and they never seem to.

“We have had that, where we have hit another roadblock, so it is tricky. But they were almost more competitive last year than they are now and you just wouldn’t expect that from them. But it shows how complicated this sport can be.”

Fernando Alonso will remain in Formula One beyond his 45th birthday after agreeing a new multi-season deal with Aston Martin.

Double world champion Alonso, who will be 43 in July, had been linked with Mercedes and Red Bull – as replacements for Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen respectively.

But Aston Martin announced on Thursday that Alonso, whose current deal had been due to expire at the end of the year, has agreed new terms to remain with them until at least the end of 2026.

Both Mercedes, searching for a replacement for the Ferrari-bound Hamilton, and Red Bull – with Verstappen said to be unsettled at the scandal-hit Red Bull team – had been tracking Alonso’s next move.

And Alonso admitted: “I did speak with other people. It is normal when you enter negotiations that you need to balance the market and listen to everybody else.

“I will not be specific as to which team I spoke with because this is not important. When teams are searching for a driver, they touch base with everyone just to know their position. They always want to know everything and for me it was the same.

“Maybe more time was needed (by them), while with Aston Martin there was a clear desire to work together so that is why it was very easy to stay. I felt the most wanted by them. All the other conversations were just light, and never came to any conclusions.

“I will not wait to see if there is something happening and I can jump in. I will dictate my destiny, whether that is for good or for bad.”

Alonso will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix, and his new deal is set to make him comfortably the oldest F1 driver of the modern era.

Michael Schumacher was 43 when he retired for a second time in 2012, while Kimi Raikkonen was a year younger when he walked away from the sport in 2021.

“I love driving too much that I cannot stop at the moment,” added Alonso. “I breathe Formula One, I live Formula One, and I train and eat to drive Formula One cars.

“The moment hasn’t arrived that I need to change my lifestyle. I will not be happy sitting at home and watching Formula One races because I still feel I should be there.

“If one day I feel I am not motivated, or I am not in good shape, or I am not fast and sharp, I will be the first one to raise my hand and we will find a solution with Aston Martin.

“But I don’t see that coming for the next few years. Japan (on Sunday) was one of my best races ever, and that happened five days ago. Lewis will also be 40 in January, so at least I will not be the only one next year who is over 40.”

Alonso took the last of his two world titles in 2006, and has not won a race in more than a decade.

But the former Ferrari and McLaren man is still considered as one of the brightest stars of the F1 field.

Last year, in his first season at Aston Martin, he helped to transform the British team from also-rans to frontrunners. He took eight podiums and finished fourth in the championship.

Although Aston Martin have not been able to maintain that form, there is hope that the next major regulation change in 2026, which will see them partner with Honda – the Japanese manufacturer that has powered Red Bull to its recent successes – will allow Alonso to compete at the sharp end of the grid once more.

Alonso continued: “We have achieved so many highs here in such a short space of time. It is probably unprecedented in Formula One.

“This is only the beginning of the journey, so it could not be the end for me and Aston Martin.”

Fernando Alonso will remain with Aston Martin beyond this season after signing a new ‘multi-year’ deal with the British-based Formula One team.

Double world champion Alonso, who will be 43 in July, had been linked with Mercedes and Red Bull – as possible replacements for Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen respectively.

But Aston Martin announced on Thursday that Alonso, whose current deal had been due to expire at the end of the year, has agreed a contract extension.

“I am here to stay,” said Alonso via an Aston Martin press release. The team did not mention the length of the new deal.

Team principal Mike Krack said: “Securing Fernando’s long-term future with Aston Martin is fantastic news.

“We have built a strong working relationship over the last 18 months and we share the same determination to see this project succeed.

“We have been in constant dialogue over the last few months and Fernando has been true to his word: when he decided he wanted to continue racing, he talked to us first. Fernando has shown he believes in us, and we believe in him.

“Fernando is hungry for success, driving better than ever, is fitter than ever, and is completely dedicated to making Aston Martin a competitive force.

“This multi-year agreement with Fernando takes us into 2026 when we begin our works power unit partnership with Honda. We look forward to creating more incredible memories and achieving further success together.”

Alonso, who has won 32 races, will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix, and his latest deal will take him beyond his 45th birthday.

Both Mercedes, searching for a replacement for the Ferrari-bound Hamilton, and Red Bull – with Verstappen said to be unsettled at the scandal-hit Red Bull team – had been tracking Alonso’s next move.

But the Spaniard will enter into at least a third season with Aston Martin, with ambitious owner Lawrence Stroll determined to turn the Silverstone-based team into championship contenders.

Alonso took the last of his two world titles in 2006, and has not won a race in more than a decade.

But he is still considered as one of the stars of the F1 field, and last year helped to transform Aston Martin from also-rans to frontrunners. He took eight podiums and finished fourth in the championship.

After the opening four rounds of the new campaign, Alonso is eighth in the standings.

Max Verstappen stormed to pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix as his dominance in qualifying continued.

The world champion has locked out the first spot on the grid this season and there was no answer to his pace at Suzuka.

His time of one minute 28.197 beat Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez into second place by just 0.066 seconds, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was the best of the rest.

Verstappen’s run of pole positions now stretches back to the last race of last season and he is now toasting a third pole in Japan.

The Dutchman never looked like being beaten and was quickest across all three qualifying sessions – as well as Saturday morning’s final practice.

He is aiming to get back on track after retiring in Melbourne and the rest of the field will be concerned that he could drive off into the distance from the start.

“It was quite close at the end,” Verstappen said of his latest pole lap.

“Overall this track is sensitive with the tyres and when you want to go to the limit it doesn’t always work out but what is important is being on pole. Overall, a very good day, a good starting position tomorrow and of course tomorrow is what counts.

“It is great as a team to be P1 and P2, hopefully we can keep that going tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz won in Australia last time out and will start Sunday’s race fourth for Ferrari, with the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso fifth.

Oscar Piastri was sixth-fastest in the second McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell down in seventh and ninth, respectively.

Charles Leclerc is sandwiched between the pair, with home favourite Yuki Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.

Tsunoda scraped into the final session, eliminating RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo at the end of Q2 to the roar of the Suzuka crowd.

Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon also failed to make it through and will start 12-15th, respectively.

Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu were knocked out in Q1.

Max Verstappen set the pace in first practice for the Japanese Grand Prix as Willams endured another Friday session to forget.

Reigning champion Verstappen retired in Melbourne a fortnight ago but still leads the way in the drivers’ standings and the Red Bull driver was once again topping the timesheets.

Verstappen’s time of one minute 20.056 seconds was enough to see him go quickest at Suzuka, with team-mate Sergio Perez his closest challenger 0.181 seconds back.

A red flag half way through the session stopped running for 11 minutes as Logan Sargeant crashed off at turn two – further adding to the Williams woes.

Sargeant sat out the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago as team-mate Alex Albon took his car after destroying his own in a practice crash and the team currently have no spare chassis.

Albon went 12th fastest after the action restarted, while Verstappen assumed his usual position as the car to beat.

Carlos Sainz, who won in Australia last time out, was third-fastest for Ferrari ahead of the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, while the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was sixth.

Local favourite Yuki Tsunoda was ninth for RB behind both the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri – whose team-mate Lando Norris rounded out the top 10.

George Russell believes it would have “opened a can of worms” if Fernando Alonso had not been hit with a hefty penalty following the Mercedes driver’s dramatic late crash at the Australian Grand Prix.

Alonso was handed a 20-second time penalty after Russell’s car ended up on its side having rebounded off the wall in his pursuit of the double world champion in the closing stages in Melbourne two weeks ago.

Following a post-race investigation, Alonso was found to have breached Article 33.4 of the sport’s regulations – effectively finding the Aston Martin racer guilty of driving erratically and in a manner that could be deemed as dangerous.

Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, Russell revealed the pair had bumped into one another in a coffee shop recently but did not discuss the issue – Alonso jokingly said: “I didn’t get my coffee, that was the least that could have happened.”

Russell, though, did double down on his criticism of Alonso’s driving in Australia, and felt the Spaniard overstepped the mark of fair racing.

“I think it was a bit of a strange situation that happened – I said at the time, I was totally caught by surprise,” he said.

“If it were not to have been penalised it would have opened a can of worms for the rest of the season and in junior categories saying you are allowed to brake in a straight.

“Every driver is open to change a line, break earlier, power through the corner, do whatever. But when we start breaking in the middle of a straight, down-shift and accelerating, up-shifting again, then breaking again for a corner. I think that goes beyond the realms of adjusting your line.

“We’ve got so many duties to take care of when we’re driving… if you add into the mix that you’re allowed to break in the middle of a straight to get a tactical advantage. I think that is maybe one step too far.”

Alonso, meanwhile, continued to defend his actions and said there would have not even been a topic of debate on his driving style had Russell not ended up in the wall.

Asked if the incident would have been been forgotten had there not been an accident, he replied: “Oh 100 per cent.

“I was a bit surprised by the penalty in Melbourne but there’s nothing we can do, we have to accept it and move on and concentrate on here, but I think it will not change much on how we drive, how we approach racing.

“There is no obligation to drive 57 laps in the same way. Sometimes we go at a slower pace, to save fuel, to save tyres, to save battery.

“So all those things are completely normal and it was, it is and it will be forever in motorsport. So we had one penalty, probably a one-off that will never be applied ever again.”

Where the pair – as well as a host of other drivers – did agree was on the need to address what has become a dangerous corner on the Albert Park track.

“We lost two points or whatever it was for the team but I think the big thing is turn six in Australia is not the safest corner at the moment on that track. That’s probably for me a more important point to change for next year,” said Alonso.

Russell was in agreement, adding: “The corner is amazing, probably one of the best corners on that circuit. So I wouldn’t want to see that corner change. But it is true. If you hit that wall, you just bounce back into the track. I think everything is correct, just the position of that wall.”

Fernando Alonso's legacy in Formula One will be defined by questions about what might have been, according to former Force India driver Paul di Resta.

However, Di Resta hopes Alonso will not call time on his glittering career for some time yet, as the 42-year-old begins his second season with Aston Martin. 

Alonso impressed en route to a fourth-placed finish in the drivers' championship last year, securing eight podium finishes in his first campaign with the team.

The two-time world champion's future has been a subject of speculation throughout the offseason, with the Spaniard touted as a candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes when he joins Ferrari in 2025. 

Ahead of Saturday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Alonso said he is yet to decide whether he will race at all next year, and Di Resta would be disappointed if F1 lost one of its biggest characters.

Di Resta also believes Alonso will look back upon his short-lived move to McLaren in 2007 – and his subsequent switch back to Renault – with a few regrets. 

"I've got a huge amount of respect for him. I wish he hadn't taken that [break] when he disappeared out of Formula One for a couple of years," Di Resta told Stats Perform.

"I think the biggest thing with Fernando is what could have been, with the championships he probably should have won and the ones he came close to. 

"Some of the choices he made, moving to teams… I'm sure he's not scared to talk about that. I think he's just a born racer, absolutely committed to it. 

"His spatial awareness, in race starts or on the first lap, wheel to wheel, there's probably not many people like it. 

"I will miss watching him. I hope he's around for a long time and I think he's showing that age is not a thing, he can still grab great results. 

"I think he's happier than he's ever been, less emotional, he sees the journey for what it is, he probably sees the end is closer in that sense and he's milking everything he can from it.

"I just love to see [Max] Verstappen, [Charles] Leclerc, Alonso, Hamilton in different teams going against each other, and I think people definitely respect what he's done, and he draws a lot of attention, and attention is a great thing for the sport."

While reigning world champion Verstappen is expected to dominate again in 2024, Alonso is among a group of drivers looking to take race wins off Red Bull. 

McLaren's Lando Norris is another with lofty ambitions for the new season, and Di Resta thinks the 24-year-old has a big future ahead of him.

"I'd be surprised if he doesn't win a world championship, given his ability," he said. "I think the key for him will be reading where the best place to be for the future is, whether McLaren are back to being a consistent team to deliver a world championship. 

"I think Lando definitely is up to that. Oscar [Piastri], he did a very good job for a rookie last year. He was a bit short of Lando in the races if you're being honest. 

"In qualifying, he definitely had the measure and had the speed, so I'm expecting him to push Lando even more and I'm expecting him to be even closer to Lando. 

"They've got great foundations and great team spirit to move forward. They will get into battles and you can see there's some frustration in their races with strategy and how it's going to play out, but Lando is very comfortable and I think he's probably in the top three picks within the grid."

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was shocked to finish fastest in practice for Saturday’s Formula One curtain raiser in Bahrain.

The seven-time world champion has not won a race for more than two years, but he led a surprise Mercedes one-two under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit on Thursday night.

Hamilton finished two tenths clear of team-mate George Russell, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third.

On yet another explosive off-track day for Red Bull, Max Verstappen bemoaned the handling of his machine. He finished sixth.

The Silver Arrows went under the radar at last week’s test in the Gulf kingdom, but they were quietly optimistic heading into Thursday’s running – and the second session belonged to the team that once dominated the sport.

“This has been a crazy Thursday,” said Hamilton, 39. “I don’t understand it, and it is a shock to see us where we are, but we will take it for now.

“We cannot get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our head down and keep working on the setup.

“But I am much happier with the car. I have a better feel of it approaching the corners, and there are other areas that have been fixed and improved.

“It feels like a race car and the last two cars didn’t feel like that. It is a really good platform to work from. We have to keep our heads down and keep on chasing.”

Hamilton is gearing up for his final season with Mercedes after he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to join Ferrari in 2025.

Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles. But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

However, Hamilton, in his radically revised car – after the design concept which failed so spectacularly for the past two seasons was abandoned – will take faith from an encouraging day.

But Hamilton expects Verstappen, who has raced to the past three world championships, will still be the one to beat.

“I think we are going to be in the mix,” added Hamilton. “We are there or thereabouts with Ferrari and maybe Aston Martin and McLaren.

“It is going to be close, but if Max is out in front he will drive off as he has done for the past couple of years.”

Verstappen had been regarded as the heavy favourite heading into Saturday’s curtain-raiser in the Gulf kingdom.

But he struggled in the first running and then failed to match the speed of the Mercedes cars later in the day.

“Everything is s***,” yelled Verstappen over the radio. “Like miles off.”

However, the 26-year-old remained confident he would be in a strong position for the 57-lap Grand Prix.

“It is very close and maybe some people around us have turned up the engine in terms of top speed,” he said.

“I’m not too worried about the gap to first, for example. It is going to be close in qualifying. I was happier about the long run for the race.”

Lewis Hamilton raised hope of taking the fight to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after finishing fastest in practice.

The seven-time world champion led a Mercedes one-two under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz fourth.

World champion Verstappen finished sixth, nearly half-a-second back for Red Bull.

Verstappen had been regarded as the heavy favourite heading into Saturday’s curtain raiser in the Gulf kingdom.

But the Dutch driver bemoaned the handling of his machine in the first running and then failed to match the speed of the Mercedes drivers later in the day.

The Silver Arrows went under the radar at last week’s test in Bahrain, but they were quietly optimistic heading into Friday’s running – and the second session belonged to the team that once dominated the sport.

Hamilton, who has not won a race for two years, was back at the top of the order as the seven-time world champion enjoyed a two-tenth margin to team-mate George Russell, with Alonso 0.286 seconds off the pace.

Red Bull’s preparations for the new season have been overshadowed by claims of “inappropriate behaviour” made against its team principal Christian Horner.

The 50-year-old was cleared to remain in his role on Wednesday following an investigation by the racing team’s parent company GmbH.

But the world champions were surprisingly off the pace in both sessions here. With Verstappen appearing to be in trouble, team-mate Sergio Perez was only ninth in the order.

“Everything is s***,” yelled Verstappen over the radio during the first session. “Like miles off.”

Earlier in the day, Daniel Ricciardo finished fastest.

The Australian – driving for the newly rebranded RB team – saw off Lando Norris by just 0.032secs, with Oscar Piastri third in the other McLaren.

Ricciardo was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2022, but he was handed a lifeline by Red Bull’s junior team midway through last season. He finished 11th in the day’s concluding running.

Fernando Alonso believes he is an “attractive” candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – but has denied holding talks with the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton, 39, is entering his final season with the team which carried him to six of his seven world championships after agreeing a shock move to Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s departure from Mercedes will create a vacancy alongside George Russell, while Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also due to have a seat available with Sergio Perez’s contract expiring at the end of the season.

Alonso’s two-season deal with Aston Martin is up for renewal in 2025. It is understood the British team are keen to retain the double world champion’s services.

“I am aware of my situation which is very unique,” said Alonso, who won back-to-back world championships with Renault in 2004 and 2005.

“There are only three world champions on the grid and I am the only one available for 2025, so I am in a good position.

“On a move to Mercedes, there has been nothing at all. I know the driver market has started earlier this year, but this will not affect me in terms of preparing for the season.

“If I want to keep racing beyond this year, the first and only talk at the beginning will be Aston Martin. I trust this project and that will be my first priority.

“But if we cannot reach an agreement I know that I am attractive to other teams. I will not stay in Formula One just to have fun. I am not that kind of person and not that kind of driver. Let’s see what the options are.”

Commenting on Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, Alonso, who drove for the Italian team between 2010 and 2014 but fell short of winning the title, added: “It was a surprise, I will not lie, not because the change itself but from the outside it seemed like he was very linked to Mercedes and very loyal to Mercedes.

“Ferrari is a special team but it is more special when you win. Maybe Lewis can bring that extra fight for the championship because the car is there.”

Alonso finished fourth in last year’s drivers’ championship as his Aston Martin transformed from also-rans to frontrunners.

Alonso scored six podiums in the opening eight rounds and might have ended his 10-year wait for victory had his team’s strategy been more on point at the rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix.

The Silverstone-based team’s form fell away in the second half of the year but Alonso continued to out-perform his machinery, taking further podiums in the Netherlands and Brazil.

He ended the year 132 points and six places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll – son of the team’s fashion billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll – and was voted third, behind Max Verstappen and Hamilton, by his fellow drivers and finished runner-up to Verstappen in a poll of the grid’s team bosses.

Alonso, 43, in July will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix and the evergreen Spaniard raised the prospect of competing deep into his forties.

He added: “A few years ago I would say 41 or 42 is the limit, but after last year I saw I was motivated, performing well, and I was thinking I could race a few more years.

“Now, this winter, I have exceeded expectations in terms of the physical tests, so if I am motivated and ready to commit, I can race until 48, 49 or maybe even 50.”

Pre-season testing starts in Bahrain a week on Wednesday ahead of the first race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

Fernando Alonso could be the ideal 'short-term fix' for Mercedes as they look to replace Lewis Hamilton, particularly after Lando Norris signed a new long-term contract with McLaren.

That is according to former Force India and Williams driver Paul di Resta, who even believes an ambitious swoop for three-time world champion Max Verstappen is not out of the question.

Seven-time drivers' champion Hamilton has activated a break clause in the two-year contract extension he signed with Mercedes last year, and the 2024 season will be his last with the team before he makes a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

For Mercedes, attention has turned to the candidates to replace Hamilton. Carlos Sainz – who will leave Ferrari to make room for Hamilton at the end of this year – has been touted as a possible target, though other names are also in the frame.

Norris was long thought to be a natural fit if either Mercedes or Red Bull found themselves with an empty seat, but the 24-year-old penned a "multi-year" extension with McLaren last month.

Di Resta thinks Norris would have been the go-to name for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, but with his future seemingly secure, long-term options appear thin on the ground.

"Where do they go? They found themselves a bit stuck because I think it was unexpected," Di Resta told Stats Perform of Mercedes' driver hunt. 

"When you look at the driver market, I was surprised to see Lando sign with McLaren for as long as he did, given there were Red Bull seats and potentially a Mercedes seat coming up. 

"The obvious choice for me, if I was Toto, would have been to go for Lando. Last year, I actually think he was next-best to Max in terms of the performance and where he was. 

"I think he was a step up even from Lewis over the course of the year, in what he was able to achieve. He had it under control, so that would have been where my attention went. 

"You can see Lando doesn't turn up to odd events and excel, he is very consistent over the course of the year and I think he's ready to fight for championships, but obviously that's gone." 

Some believe Mercedes could promote 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli from their junior team, but Di Resta thinks it is too soon for the teenage prodigy, suggesting two-time world champion Alonso – who is contracted to Aston Martin until the end of this year – as an alternative. 

"They need a short-term fix, they probably need a good name," he continued. "I wouldn't be surprised if Fernando fit that bill for the next year or two, until they reassess where they are if they're bringing through some young guys. 

"I've heard people talk about Antonelli, I can't see how he's ready, I can't see if somebody like that is ready to go up against Max and Lewis. 

"With the weight of a manufacturer like that on top of you, you don't want to hit that too hard too soon, you want to build the foundations of how you go about your Formula One racing first."

Di Resta does not expect Mercedes to rush their search for a successor, and he even suggested they could enquire about Verstappen's availability, pondering whether the Dutchman has a similar break clause to that recently activated by Hamilton.

"They've got some time. I don't think it's a decision they can rush into," Di Resta said. 

"At the start of the season, we're already talking about next year, but you never know, you could go and chase Max!

"I'm sure somebody like Max could equally have an option like Lewis had got, because when they are like Lewis, Max and Fernando, they mean as much as the team does."

Lewis Hamilton may have endured a strained relationship with former team-mate Fernando Alonso, but Paul di Resta does not expect a repeat when he links up with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton stunned Formula 1 fans earlier this month with the announcement that he will leave Mercedes for Ferrari after the 2024 season.

Hamilton has failed to win a race since Red Bull's Max Verstappen beat him to the title in contentious circumstances in 2021, and the move to Maranello surely offers the 39-year-old his last chance to pull clear of Michael Schumacher by winning a record-breaking eighth crown.

Hamilton will take Carlos Sainz's seat with the Scuderia, racing alongside Leclerc, who finished second in the drivers' championship back in 2022.

The Brit memorably clashed with fellow big name Alonso when the duo were team-mates with McLaren for the 2007 season, but Di Resta does not foresee a similar feud developing with Leclerc.

"I don't think you will see fireworks. I think they've both got tremendous respect for each other," the former Force India driver told Stats Perform.

"They're both fast. They're both very clean drivers. I think how they go about their racing is different to how others would go about it. 

"I think Charles has proven he's definitely one of the fastest guys that can pull a lap out of a car. Can he do that over the course of every Grand Prix? 

"I think you can see that probably only Max and Lewis have been able to do that recently. Fernando is probably another one out there, with that extra bit where you can pull race wins out of nothing.

"I'm interested to see whether Charles can go on top of it, maybe Charles will lift himself with the pressure, but there's one thing for sure, it's going to be the hardest team-mate that he's had to go up against.

"I'm sure Lewis doesn't fear going up against Charles. I think the biggest thing is getting that Italian culture around them, but Lewis has been around this business a long time and he knows this."

Reports have suggested Ferrari are also looking to bring in Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington to help him settle, and Di Resta would not be surprised if other staff members follow Hamilton in leaving Mercedes.

"I'm also interested to see what personnel he's going to take with him to make him feel comfortable. He's already talked about the engineer," Di Resta said. 

"Are there other people he's talked to? Maybe that was the key to getting [Ferrari chairman] John Elkann and [team principal] Frederic Vasseur to make it happen."

Lewis Hamilton can bounce back from a difficult three years to win a record-breaking eighth Formula One drivers' championship, eclipsing Michael Schumacher's achievements.

That is the view of 1978 champion Mario Andretti, who does not believe Hamilton has made a mistake by committing his future to Mercedes.

Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record haul of seven world titles in 2020, but he has failed to surpass the German great amid three years of dominance from Max Verstappen.

Having edged out Hamilton for the 2021 title in controversial circumstances, Verstappen has dominated the last two seasons while his rival has struggled. 

Verstappen clinched his third straight title with six races to spare by finishing second in the sprint race in Qatar last Saturday, and the Dutchman followed that up with another triumph on Sunday – his 14th victory in 17 Grands Prix this year.

While Verstappen holds an unassailable lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the drivers' standings, Hamilton has found himself battling Fernando Alonso for a top-three finish, having ranked sixth last year.

Despite rumours linking him with Ferrari, Hamilton extended his contract with Mercedes until 2025 in August, and Andretti believes the 38-year-old made the correct decision. 

Asked if Hamilton needed to move to boost his chances of winning another title, Andretti told Stats Perform: "Why would he go anywhere else? 

"With Mercedes, that is probably the best possibility to resume his winning ways and win another title. No question. He's young enough. 

"He certainly still has the desire to be at the top. After being a multi-time world champion, you don't lose that ability.

"Right now, he equalled a record that I thought would never be approached, not in my lifetime anyway. He's still young enough that he could go for the eighth title. 

"It's going to take a long time for anyone to reach that and surpass that. So yeah, he's definitely one of the greats, for sure, deservedly so."

Hamilton sits 11 points clear of old rival Alonso in the standings ahead of next week's United States Grand Prix, with the Spaniard enjoying a resurgence since leaving Alpine for Aston Martin ahead of the 2023 season.

Having won four IndyCar championships during his own career, Andretti has a particular admiration for Alonso, who himself competed in the IndyCar Series during a two-year stint out of F1.

"Oh, Fernando is timeless," Andretti said. "I just love to see how much energy he still has and how much desire is still within him. 

"After taking a sabbatical from Formula One, I thought, 'I don't know, he'd better be careful about coming back'. Here he is, coming back as strong as ever. 

"I think he brought Aston Martin to a level that they almost did not expect. They certainly are giving him equipment which is capable, but he's taking it there.

"Fernando's legacy is that of a very ambitious driver, to try to conquer different disciplines. He ventured into IndyCar at Indianapolis. I respect somebody like that. 

"That's pure love for driving and the sport, to be curious like that, not just to drive, but to try to win in a category that's not your speciality."

A furious Lance Stroll shoved his British personal trainer and then stormed out of a television interview following his dismal qualifying session for the Qatar Grand Prix.

After he failed to make it out of Q1 – finishing more than a second behind Fernando Alonso in the other Aston Martin – Stroll took aim at his performance coach, Henry Howe.

Stroll ignored Howe’s request to exit the front of the garage. Howe attempted to restrain Stroll only for the Canadian to angrily push him out of the way.

Stroll, 24, then faced the media and provided six words to three questions about his performance which leaves him 17th on the grid.

Asked to describe his emotions, Stroll replied: “S***.” Quizzed on what is not clicking for him behind the wheel Stroll added: “I don’t know.”

And when he was challenged as to how he would handle the remainder of the weekend, Stroll simply said: “Keep driving,” before he walked off.

Stroll, the son of Aston Martin’s fashion billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll, has been blown away by team-mate Alonso this season.

Alonso, who qualified fourth for Sunday’s race here, has scored 174 points to Stroll’s 47.

He has claimed all of Aston Martin’s seven podiums this year while Stroll has managed only three points from his last seven appearances.

Fernando Alonso believes Lewis Hamilton can still win an eighth world championship – but has warned that Max Verstappen is ready to break the British driver’s records.

Hamilton will head into Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix on a 30-race losing streak following Mercedes’ failure to provide him with a winning machine.

He is already 75 points behind Max Verstappen in the standings, with the Dutchman on course to secure his third world title in as many years.

Hamilton, 38, said he was “counting down the days” until the arrival of Mercedes’ upgrade, but following its debut at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, he admitted here in Spain that the new design has not provided him with the step forward he was hoping for.

He also revealed it will be a “long process” to dethrone Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull team.

However, in an interview with the PA news agency, Alonso, who at 41 is the only driver older than Hamilton on the grid, said: “Lewis will be in contention for the eighth title.

“I don’t know if that will be next year, or in the future, but he will have another chance of winning the championship, that is for sure.

“Mercedes are a very strong team, and Lewis is a very strong driver. He doesn’t forget how to drive from one season to the next.

“The Mercedes car is not an easy one to drive and it is not a fast car, but you see every weekend that Lewis is always there – fourth, fifth, fourth, and he was second in Australia. He is driving on top of the car.”

Hamilton’s rival Verstappen took his maiden Formula One win on his Red Bull debut in Spain seven years ago.

On Sunday, a fifth victory of the year would put him on 40 victories for his career, leaving him just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s tally, and with only Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) ahead of him.

On Thursday, Verstappen, 25, said Red Bull has the speed to win the remaining 16 races and complete an unprecedented clean sweep and Alonso believes the Dutch driver could eclipse Hamilton’s win record and the seven championships he shares with Schumacher.

“Until the regulations change in 2026, Red Bull will contend for the championships so there will be many chances for Max to win races,” said Alonso.

“He is young, the calendar is longer than ever before, with 24 opportunities to win every year, so he can break the records along the way.

“But there are also no guarantees. When I won two championships [in 2005 and 2006], I thought I would win a few more and have a lot of wins, so Max cannot relax because things can change quickly.”

For Alonso, his home race this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of his 32nd and last win in the sport.

However, the Spaniard is enjoying a career resurgence following his transfer from Alpine to Aston Martin, finishing on the podium at five of the first six races and earning a new fan base along the way. And he still hopes he could yet be a contender for this season’s crown.

“Things can change rapidly so I will not give up on the title until it is mathematically impossible,” said Alonso, speaking at ‘IL PITSTOP’ – an immersive Aston Martin garage experience from Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%

“We have a low chance and we have to be realistic about that. Max is showing great performances and no weak points.

“But we need to challenge him closer to see if he makes any mistakes because at the moment life is too easy for Max.

“We have a new generation of younger fans who didn’t see me stepping on the podium before. They probably thought you lose performance and ability with age and I was just a driver from the past.

“But eventually they see the car – as we repeat many times but sometimes you need to prove it once again – is the most important thing in Formula One, and they suddenly see you are a good driver.

“My popularity is on a high, and for Aston Martin and the sport in general, too, so we have to ride this wave.”

:: IL PITSTOP is designed to reimagine the perfect pitstop, where fans can soak up the atmosphere and excitement of a race while also taking the chance to pause and enjoy a Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%. The custom-designed build features the AMR23 replica car, a bespoke viewing gallery, team radio, and an elevated and unique sampling experience of Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%.

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