Lando Norris said it was “about time” after he claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 24-year-old started the race in fifth but took the chequered flag with a seven-second advantage over Max Verstappen, who had taken pole position.

Norris capitalised with a timely pit stop behind the safety car following a crash between Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant, who was unable to finish the race.

Verstappen had led for the first 29 laps despite missing the chicane on lap 21 and hitting a bollard, but when the race restarted with 27 remaining, he struggled to keep pace with Norris, who was the quickest car on the track.

Charles Leclerc rounded out the podium, pipping his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz to third, with Sergio Perez just beating Lewis Hamilton to a top-five finish.

After getting his first win in his 110th F1 race, Norris was quick to praise his team for their hard work in the process.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: "About time! What a race. It's been a long time coming. Finally, I've managed to do it.

"I'm so happy for my whole team. I finally delivered for them. Long day, tough race. Finally, on top, so I'm over the moon.

"Thanks to McLaren, everyone. I'll give a shout-out to my mum and dad, of course.

"I'm just proud. A lot of people doubted me along the way. I've made a lot of mistakes over my last five years in my short career, but today we put it altogether.

"This is all for the team. I stuck with McLaren because I could believe in them and do believe in them. Today we proved exactly that." 

Max Verstappen continued to be critical of his own performance despite taking pole position for the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who won the sprint earlier on Saturday and had on Friday claimed pole in qualifying for that event, recorded a best time of 1:27.241 round the track in the final qualification session for Sunday's race.

The reigning Formula One world champion will share the front row with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who like in the sprint, came second.

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz pipped Red Bull's Sergio Perez to third, while Lando Norris rounded out the top five.

Verstappen, though, was not particularly thrilled with his drive, continuing the trend after both qualifying on Friday and the sprint race.

He said: "We definitely improved the car a bit but I don’t know what it is but every single year we come here I find it extremely difficult to be very consistent with the car and tyre feeling over one lap. It’s super hard to make sure that Sector One feels good and Sector Three at the end of the lap to make that happen together is incredibly tough.

"Again today it was really about finding that balance, I think we did ok, it wasn't the most enjoyable lap out of my career especially with how slippery it is and you aren't very confident on the lap but we are on pole."

Leclerc said: "I felt so much on the limit. It was very close until Q3, where we started to push for the last one or two tenths. We started to lose the tyres in sector two and three, overheating them quite a bit. That's where we lost a little bit of time.

"However, the race is long and this morning we showed a good pace, so I hope tomorrow we can put Max under a bit more pressure."

Lewis Hamilton recovered from a 20-second penalty in the sprint race to qualify in seventh, one place behind Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen claimed victory in the sprint race ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen clinched pole for the sprint in Friday's qualifying session, and capitalised on that effort to finish ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on Saturday.

The Dutchman had to see off an early push from Leclerc, but ultimately had too much.

Sergio Perez, Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate, recovered from an early mistake to finish third.

Daniel Ricciardo took fourth, having fended off the challenge of both Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri.

It was a bad drive for Lewis Hamilton, who was penalised for speeding in the pit lane, dropping him from eighth down to 16th.

Adrian Newey acknowledged Lewis Hamilton's interest in working with him at Ferrari came as a flattering compliment for the outgoing Red Bull designer.

Hamilton will complete his switch to Ferrari next season as the Italian team managed to convince the seven-time world champion to leave Mercedes.

Newey will also be on the move early next year and is free to join a rival team ahead of the 2026 season.

Hamilton said working with Newey would be a "privilege", with one of the best designers in Formula One history at the top of his list of people to work with.

Those comments did not go unnoticed by Newey, who spoke to Sky Sports about a potential link-up with Hamilton ahead of the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

"F1 is all-consuming. I've been at it for a long time now," Newey said of his decision to leave Red Bull after joining the team in 2006.

"2021 was a really busy year because of the tight battle with Mercedes, through the championship and at the same time, putting all the research into the RB18 [the 2022 car].

"There comes a point where I just felt, as Forrest Gump said, 'I'm feeling a little bit tired'.

"It's very kind of Lewis to say that. I'm very flattered. At the moment, it's just take a bit of a break and see what happens next."

Newey's decision to part ways with Red Bull was announced on Wednesday, though the acclaimed designer says it has been on his mind for a while.

"A little while now. I guess over the winter a little bit," Newey said when asked about his intentions to depart.

"Then as events have unfolded this year, I thought, I'm in very lucky position where I don't need to work to live. I work because I enjoy it.

"I just felt now is a good time to step back a bit, take a break and take stock of life.

"Then maybe at some point I will stand in the shower and say 'right, this is going to be the next adventure'.

"But right now, there is no plan."

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen was surprised to claim pole position for Saturday's sprint race at the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.108 seconds faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Friday's qualifying session.

That is despite the Dutchman believing his drive had not gone well at all.

"To be honest, it felt really terrible," said Verstappen, who holds a 25-point lead at the top of the F1 drivers' championship.

"Maybe that last session was just incredibly difficult to get the tyres to work. I didn't really improve a lot on the soft but somehow we were first.

"Practice felt really nice, it felt like the car was in a really good window but in qualifying it didn’t feel like that anymore. I was really not happy.

"In Q3 I saw I was only going 0.2secs faster and I was sliding around, no grip and they told me it was P1 and I thought it must be a joke but we'll take it."

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez qualified third for the sprint, which will take place ahead of the main qualifying session for Sunday's race.

Lewis Hamilton says it would be "a privilege" to work with Adrian Newey if the designer chooses to join Ferrari following his departure from Red Bull.

Newey, who has been with Red Bull since 2006, will leave the team in early 2025 and is free to join a rival team ahead of the 2026 season.

Ferrari are thought to be favourites to get his signature ahead of the impending arrival of seven-time world champion Hamilton.

Asked about the possibility of pairing up with Newey, who is widely regarded as the greatest designer in Formula One history, Hamilton said: "If I was to do a list of people I would love to work with, he would absolutely be at the top of it.

"Any team would be fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him.

"Adrian has got such a great history and track record. He's obviously done an amazing job through his career and engaging with teams and the knowledge he has. I think he would be an amazing addition.

"Ferrari have already got a great team. They are already making huge progress and strides – their car is quicker this year.

"He [Newey] would be a privilege to work with."

Newey informed Red Bull he wanted to leave after a tumultuous period behind the scenes for the Formula One constructors' champions.

At the start of the season, controversy surrounded team principal Christian Horner as he was accused of engaging in inappropriate controlling behaviour towards a female member of staff, accusations he denied and was cleared of following an independent investigation. 

World champion Max Verstappen said he does not blame Newey for leaving Red Bull.

"I would have preferred, of course, for Adrian to stay," Verstappen told Sky Sports.

"But at the end of the day, and that's what I also said to Adrian, you have to do what you think is best for yourself, because at the end of the day, F1 is a bit of a shark tank. And I think it's very important that you do think about yourself, that you make the right decisions for yourself and your family.

"So I also don't blame him. If someone wants to leave, you go and pursue other goals or things in life, so that's absolutely fine."

Red Bull have confirmed chief technical officer Adrian Newey will leave the team in early 2025, with the legendary designer free to join a rival outfit ahead of the 2026 season.

Newey informed Red Bull he wished to leave after a tumultuous period behind the scenes for the Formula One constructors' champions.

At the start of the season, team principal Christian Horner was accused of engaging in inappropriate controlling behaviour towards a female member of staff, accusations he denied and was cleared of following an independent investigation. 

The controversy surrounding Horner even led to suggestions three-time world champion Max Verstappen could leave the team, with Mercedes linked with a huge move for the Dutchman.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Newey – who has been with Red Bull since 2006 and is widely regarded as the greatest designer in Formula One history – will leave the team.

In a statement, Red Bull said Newey will "step back from design duties to focus on final development and delivery of Red Bull's first hypercar, the hugely anticipated RB17".

Newey said: "Ever since I was a young boy, I wanted to be a designer of fast cars. My dream was to be an engineer in Formula One, and I've been lucky enough to make that dream a reality. 

"For almost two decades it has been my great honour to have played a key role in Red Bull Racing's progress from upstart newcomer to multiple title-winning team. 

"However, I feel now is an opportune moment to hand that baton over to others and to seek new challenges for myself."

Newey has played a key role in all six of Red Bull's constructors' championships and is certain to attract interest from several teams. 

Reports suggest the 65-year-old will not have to serve a period of gardening leave and will be able to join another team in the first quarter of 2025, allowing him to oversee development of a 2026 car.

Though it is not thought that Newey has already agreed to join another team, Ferrari are seen as favourites for his signature as they bid to partner him with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc riding for Ferrari will be "great to watch", according to Nico Rosberg, who expects a "tough battle" between two Formula One drivers on a similar level.

Mercedes and Hamilton will part ways after 12 seasons together as the seven-time world champion prepares to join Ferrari.

Leclerc got the nod ahead of current team-mate Carlos Sainz to remain with the Italian team, with the Ferrari driver ready to join forces with Hamilton in 2025.

"We're all looking forward to that dynamic," Rosberg, who partnered Hamilton at Mercedes from 2013 to 2016, told Sky Sports.

"Charles doesn't seem like someone who goes into conflict too much with his team-mate, so that will make it easier, maybe it won't be too extremely spicy."

Hamilton has failed to finish ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell in any of his first five 2024 grand prixs.

Yet Rosberg has no doubt over his quality, nor his soon-to-be partner Leclerc, who he ranks just behind Max Verstappen.

"Charles is probably the second-best qualifier out there after Max Verstappen, one could possibly say at the moment, so it will be a tough battle for both," Rosberg added.

"I think the level could be pretty similar, so it will be great to watch."

Ferrari's decision to move on from Sainz may come as somewhat of a surprise, given the team have featured on the podium at four of the five races this season.

Whereas Hamilton's switch comes after Mercedes failed to engineer a car capable of competing with the likes of Red Bull, though choosing Ferrari caught the eye.

"It came as a huge surprise," Rosberg said. "No one expected it. But If you look at the grand scheme of things, then why not?

"It's towards the end of his career. They are two legendary teams and I know Lewis has always been a big fan of Ferrari, so why not make that switch and have a different experience of driving in red once?

"At the moment, it seems in performance terms to be the right decision for him, which maybe he's made an amazing move like he did 12 years ago by moving from McLaren for Mercedes.

"McLaren was winning races and Mercedes was nowhere, and the moment he moved, McLaren went backwards and Mercedes started winning races. Maybe he can get the same timing done again."

Christian Horner has knocked back criticism that Max Verstappen’s stranglehold on Formula One is “boring” by describing his star driver’s unstoppable form as a “golden moment”.

Verstappen claimed his fourth win from the five rounds so far this season with a commanding drive at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to establish a 25-point championship lead.

The Dutch driver has failed to triumph at only two of the last 23 races staged in the sport, and he is the overwhelming favourite to secure a fourth world crown in as many seasons.

Speaking prior to Sunday’s race, Lando Norris, who finished runner-up to Verstappen in Shanghai, admitted that seeing the “same driver win without a fight is boring”, and a “turn-off” for fans.

But addressing claims that Verstappen’s dominance is damaging the sport, Red Bull team principal Horner said: “You have to appreciate success. Max is a special talent and this is a golden moment for him.

“As we have seen with every single driver in the past, it doesn’t last forever. It is about enjoying the moment and being in the moment and there are no guarantees we can give him a car like this for the next five years.

“Max is just a metronome. The pace he showed last year, he has continued that through.

“And since the last Chinese Grand Prix in 2019, he has won 50 per cent of all the races. He has won 21 out of the last 23 races. He is in fantastic form, at one with the car and the team and enjoying his racing.”

Verstappen also won the first sprint round of the season in Shanghai.

The dash to the chequered flag took place before qualifying for Sunday’s main event in a rejig this year.

Verstappen, 26, has often criticised the format, and although he agreed the new schedule is better than in previous years, he urged F1 bosses not to increase the number of sprints – which is set at six this season.

“The sprint format was more straightforward that it has been but let’s not overdo it,” said the triple world champion.

“We are already doing 24 races in a season and six of these sprint events, too. I guess it sells better and the television audience numbers increase, but it also increases the pressure on the mechanics to ensure everything is tip-top.

“So, we have to deal with it, but let’s not now think that we need 12 of these (sprints) because it will take its toll on people in the sport.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident Lewis Hamilton’s morale will not plummet despite his continued worst start to a Formula One season.

Hamilton fought back from his lowly 18th grid slot to finish ninth in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

But the British driver, in his final season with Mercedes before his blockbuster transfer to Ferrari, leaves Shanghai only ninth in the standings after failing to finish inside the top six at either of the opening five rounds.

Indeed, Sunday’s result marked the third time he has crossed the line in ninth this year. Hamilton also trails team-mate George Russell 5-0 in qualifying.

But Wolff said: “Lewis is a pro and he has behaved that way, trying to keep his morale up and the morale of the team up, even if the results have not come his way. I have no doubt this will last.”

Hamilton has now gone 50 races and 868 long days without a victory and he was exposed to yet another sobering afternoon in his uncompetitive Mercedes.

Following his worst qualifying result in seven years, Hamilton started on the quickest, but less-durable soft rubber, but just two laps into this 56-lap affair, his complaints began.

“I am making no ground on this tyre,” he said after dropping from 18th to 19th.

Hamilton made the first of his two pit-stops on lap nine and rejoined back in 19th, 53 seconds off Max Verstappen’s leading pace.

“That was the worst tyre, man,” said the despondent 39-year-old.

Hamilton was soon back on the intercom. “I can’t even catch him (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon), man,” he said. “This car is so slow.”

Hamilton’s fortunes improved on lap 21 when he stopped for a second time, with the virtual safety car (VSC) deployed after Valtteri Bottas broke down.

And as the marshals struggled to shift Bottas’ stricken Stake, the VSC was upgraded to a full safety car, promoting Hamilton up the order.

He would be 12th at the restart, but he was still bemused by his unruly machine.

“The car is just sliding around everywhere,” he said. “It just feels like something is broken. It is really bad.”

Daniel Ricciardo suffered floor damage after Lance Stroll thumped into the back of his RB, elevating Hamilton into 10th before he swatted Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg aside.

Hamilton was then up to eighth as Fernando Alonso made a maverick third stop for tyres. But the 42-year-old took advantage of his fresh rubber to blast back through the field, relegating Hamilton back a place with seven laps remaining.

The seven-time champion took the chequered flag nearly one minute behind Verstappen.

“This is the worst season so far, as I mentioned at the last race,” said Hamilton. “It definitely wasn’t better than expected because we expected to finish there today.

“I have never had so much understeer in my life. I thought I damaged my car because there was debris on the track at one point, but it was just the way I set the car up.

“We finished second in the sprint race yesterday and, with better decisions on setup today, we would have been where George finished. We have to keep fighting.”

Max Verstappen powered to another dominant win in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix – as Lewis Hamilton complained his car was “slow” and “broken” after he finished ninth.

Verstappen emerged unscathed from two safety car periods to secure his 38th win from the last 49 staged in Formula One on his unstoppable march towards a fourth straight championship.

But for Hamilton, now 50 races and 868 long days without a victory, this marked another sobering afternoon in his uncompetitive Mercedes.

McLaren’s Lando Norris delivered an impressive performance to finish second, one place ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz fourth and fifth for Ferrari.

George Russell could manage only sixth for Mercedes as the grid’s once-dominant team endured another race to forget.

F1 is back in Shanghai following a five-year absence, and it was a venue that Hamilton once ruled, winning a record six times here.

But the sport has a new king now, with Verstappen securing his fourth win from the opening five rounds – his only downfall in Australia when his Red Bull engine expired. For Hamilton, hampered by starting only 18th, his worst-ever season continued.

As Verstappen blasted away from his marks to convert his pole position into an all-too predictable early lead, Hamilton was evidently struggling for speed in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started on the quickest, but less durable soft rubber, but just two laps into this 56-lap affair, his complaints began.

“I am making no ground on this tyre,” he said after dropping from 18th to 19th. Hamilton made the first of his two pit-stops on lap nine, and re-joined back in 19th, 53 seconds behind Verstappen.

“That was the worst tyre, man,” said the despondent 39-year-old after switching to the medium rubber.

Up front and Fernando Alonso, who moved from third to second following a fine move around the outside of Perez at the opening bend, was starting to slip down the order.

On lap five, Perez sailed past the evergreen Spaniard, before Norris swooped ahead at the penultimate corner two laps later.

Back to Hamilton, and he was now 15th after making his way ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda at the first bend. But his mood had not improved.

“I can’t even catch him (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon), man,” he said. This car is so slow.”

Speed has not been a problem for Verstappen since he denied Hamilton a record eighth crown at the 2021 decider in Abu Dhabi.

Temporarily demoted to third by virtue of changing tyres earlier than his competitors, the Red Bull star breezed past Leclerc on lap 16 before re-taking the lead from Norris three laps later.

Hamilton’s fortunes improved on lap 21 when he stopped for a second time with the VSC deployed after Valtteri Bottas broke down. And as the marshals struggled to shift Bottas’ stricken Stake, the VSC was upgraded to a full safety car, promoting Hamilton up the order. He would be 12th at the re-start, but he was still bemused by his machine.

“The car is just sliding around everywhere,” he said. “It just feels like something is broken. It is really bad.”

In came the safety car on lap 26, but it was back out moments later after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll clumsily thudded into the back of Daniel Ricciardo, and Kevin Magnussen punted Yuki Tsuonda off.

Ricciardo suffered floor damage, elevating Hamilton into 10th and a single-point paying position before he swatted Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg aside for ninth on lap 41.

Hamilton was then up to eighth as Alonso made a maverick third stop for tyres. But the 43-year-old took advantage of his fresh rubber to blast back through the field, relegating Hamilton back to ninth with seven laps remaining. Alonso would cross the line in seventh.

Verstappen took the chequered flag 13.7 sec clear of Norris to extend his championship lead to 25 points with Hamilton – almost one minute behind his one-time rival – still searching for a top-six finish this season.

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.”

Lewis Hamilton insisted he is “mentally very strong” after his worst qualifying in nearly seven years which was labelled a “disaster” and “unnecessary” by former rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton will line up in 18th position for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after his troubled start to the new season took another desperate twist in Shanghai.

Earlier on Saturday, Hamilton rolled back the years to lead the sprint race for eight laps before he had to settle for second after he was overtaken by eventual winner Max Verstappen.

But four hours after a result Hamilton described as his “best in a long time”, the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his speediest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone, leaving only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams’ Logan Sargeant behind him on the grid.

An exasperated Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton’s fate was confirmed.

“Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Hamilton last suffered such a lowly grid spot when he crashed out of qualifying in Brazil in 2017.

“That is seriously painful,” said Rosberg, who endured a fractious relationship with Hamilton as they duelled for the title.

The German, who eventually beat Hamilton to the championship in 2016 before retiring only days later, added in commentary for Sky Sports: “It was really unnecessary to push the limit and as a seven-time world champion that is a mistake which should be avoidable.

“He broke three metres too late, and he had the brake balance too far forward. He lost at least four tenths which easily would have put him in Q2. That’s a disaster.”

Aside from his strong showing in Saturday’s 19-lap dash to the chequered flag – assisted by his impressive display in Friday’s rain-hit qualifying session – this has been Hamilton’s worst-ever start to a season.

The British driver, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, failed to finish inside the top six at the opening four rounds of the campaign. And his bleak result leaves him staring at another underwhelming race.

Addressing Rosberg’s remarks, Hamilton said: “It wasn’t one of my best qualifying laps. I don’t blame anything on the team.

“I’m very strong mentally. It’s not great, it’s not a mind-f*** at all. S*** happens, you know.

“Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. This car is on a knife edge so it can easily do what we did.”

Mercedes are desperately out of sorts and far removed from the all-conquering team which carried Hamilton to six of his seven record-equalling titles.

Russell will be the lead car when the lights go out for Sunday’s 57-lap race. He qualified only eighth.

Over at Red Bull, it was business as usual as Verstappen followed up his convincing sprint win with a fifth straight pole.

The Dutchman, who is on course to take his fourth championship in as many seasons, saw off team-mate Sergio Perez as Red Bull secured a front-row lockout. It also marked the team’s 100th pole in F1.

Verstappen finished 0.322 seconds clear of Perez, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third, half-a-second back.

Lando Norris, who dropped from pole to finish a disappointing sixth in the sprint race, qualified fourth, one position ahead of Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished sixth and seventh respectively for Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton’s troubled start to the new season took another desperate twist on Saturday after he qualified a lowly 18th for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton earlier in the day had led the sprint race in Shanghai for eight laps before he had to settle for runner-up after he was overtaken by eventual winner Max Verstappen.

But less than four hours after Hamilton’s drive to second place – a result he described as his “best in a long time” – the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his speediest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone, leaving only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams’ Logan Sargeant behind him on the grid.

An exasperated Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton’s fate was confirmed.

“Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton, 39, over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Aside from his strong showing in Saturday’s 19-lap dash to the chequered flag, this has been Hamilton’s worst-ever start to a season.

The British driver, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, failed to finish inside the top six at the opening four rounds of the campaign. And his bleak result in qualifying here leaves him staring at another underwhelming result.

Carlos Sainz, the man who is giving up his seat at Ferrari for Hamilton next year, brought out a red flag in Q2 after he lost control of his Ferrari.

The Spaniard dropped his rear wheels on to the gravel on the exit of the final corner, sending him backwards into the wall on the opposing side of the track.

Sainz broke his front wing but he was able to limp back to the pits.

Max Verstappen denied Lewis Hamilton the first sprint win of his career after passing his rival to win in China on Saturday.

Hamilton started second, and rolled back the years at the Shanghai International Circuit by beating pole-sitter Lando Norris off the line, and taking control of the 19-lap charge to the chequered flag.

But Verstappen, who started fourth, ended Hamilton’s dream of re-entering the winner’s enclosure for the first time in 867 days when he blasted past the Mercedes driver on the ninth lap.

Verstappen crossed the line 13 seconds clear of Hamilton with Sergio Perez taking third.

Hamilton joined Norris to form an all-British front-row in something of a topsy-turvy grid following yesterday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

The seven-time world champion was quicker away from his marks than Norris, and as they entered the first corner, he was fractionally ahead of his compatriot.

Hamilton hugged the inside line of the long, right-handed first bend, with Norris desperately trying to remain at least on level terms.

But off the racing line, Norris struggled for grip, and he slid off the track, dropping back down the field to seventh.

Hamilton, who has endured the worst-ever start to a season in his misfiring Mercedes machine, was back in the lead of an F1 race, with Fernando Alonso tucked in behind and Verstappen being forced to fend off Carlos Sainz.

“Why is my battery flat,” yelled Verstappen as he struggled to make any impression on Alonso ahead.

For a moment, it looked as though Hamilton could be in a position to take the victory – his first of any sort in F1 since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on December 5, 2021, only for Verstappen to sensationally unlock the speed in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

On the seventh lap, Verstappen passed Alonso at the penultimate corner and then set about closing the 1.8-second gap to Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was immediately on the radio. “This thing won’t turn in the low-speed corners,” he bemoaned, with Verstappen taking a second out of his lead in just one lap.

At the start of lap nine, Verstappen was crawling all over the back of Hamilton’s mirrors in scenes reminiscent of their championship battle for the ages back in 2021.

Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington came on the intercom to tell Hamilton that Verstappen was behind.

“Leave me to it, man,” snapped Hamilton. “I can see him.”

Verstappen moved into Hamilton’s tow on the 210mph drag to the last-but one corner before jinking to the right of the Mercedes and launching his Red Bull up the inside.

Hamilton was unable to afford any sort of resistance and Verstappen made the move stick. He then demonstrated the speed of his Red Bull by establishing a two-second lead in just one lap.

Further back, and Alonso, 43 this summer, was commendably keeping a gaggle of faster cars behind.

But his resistance ended on a fascinating 16th lap which saw him go wheel-to-wheel with the Ferrari of Sainz.

Alonso and Sainz even banged wheels through the seventh corner with Perez able to sneak ahead of the duelling duo. Charles Leclerc followed through, too, as Alonso lost three places in one lap before diving into the pits with a front-right puncture. He later retired the car.

Sainz then appeared to force team-mate Leclerc off the road as they battled for fourth position in the closing stages.

“What the f***,” yelled Leclerc who managed to pass his team-mate a few corners later to finished fourth. Sainz crossed the line in fifth with Norris sixth.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton said he was pleased with the result.

“This is the best result I have had in a long time so I am super happy,” he said.

“This is a huge step and a huge improvement. The rain helped yesterday. The race was tough and if I started further back I would have struggled to make progress.”

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