Ex-Formula One world champion Jenson Button is getting back behind the wheel after entering next year’s World Endurance Championship.

The 43-year-old, who won the F1 title in 2009 with Brawn and competed in over 300 grands prix, has signed up with Hertz Team JOTA and will drive a Porsche 963 in the top hypercar class.

Button competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race earlier this year and appeared in the 2018-19 WEC for SMP Racing, but has now agreed to commit to a full eight-date season.

He told www.fiawec.com: “I’m excited to be racing with Hertz Team JOTA in the 2024 World Endurance Championship alongside my team-mates Oliver Rasmussen and Phil Hanson. Both already have a lot of experience in endurance racing and that is key.

“Endurance racing is about teamwork and there is no better team than Hertz Team JOTA to be taking on the big manufacturers in hypercars. I’m already looking forward to the first race in Qatar but also know there’s a lot of work to be done so that we arrive prepared.”

Frederic Lequien, chief executive of WEC, welcomed the addition of a high-profile competitor to his roster.

“It’s an honour to have Jenson Button – a hugely successful driver across many racing disciplines – competing full-time in the WEC next year,” he said.

“With nine manufacturers in the hypercar category next year including star names such as Jenson confirmed on the grid, everything is now in place for the WEC to have its most spectacular season yet.”

Lewis Hamilton demanded change at the very top of Formula One after lambasting the FIA’s investigation into his boss Toto Wolff and wife Susie as “unacceptable and disappointing”.

Hamilton was speaking at the federation’s prize-giving gala in Baku an hour after Wolff revealed Mercedes are considering taking legal action against the FIA following its compliance inquiry into claims of an alleged conflict of interest with Susie, who is the managing director of the F1 Academy.

A day after the FIA announced its controversial investigation into the Wolffs, the sport’s nine other teams said they had not complained and, on Thursday night, the FIA said there was “no ongoing investigation” before closing the case.

On another day of twists, the FIA’s president Mohammed Ben Suleyam had been due to face the media, but he was pulled from his press conference after the federation said he was hospitalised with concussion following a fall several days ago.

The FIA said Ben Suleyam, 62, who is set to appear at the prize-giving ceremony on Friday night, will make a “full recovery”.

“It has been a challenging week, and a disappointing week to see that the governing body has sought to question the integrity of one of the most incredible female leaders we have ever had in our sport in Susie Wolff without questioning and without any evidence,” said Hamilton. “And then just saying ‘sorry’ at the end. That is unacceptable.

“We have a lot of great people in the sport doing amazing work and there is a constant fight to improve diversity and inclusion within the industry.

“But it seems there are certain individuals in the leadership of our sport that every time we try to make a step forward they try to pull us back and that has to change.

“This is a global sport and we have such an incredible opportunity and natural responsibility to be leaders of change. We need to make some changes to make sure we are all pushing in the right direction.”

Forty-eight hours after the FIA said its compliance department was “looking into” the allegations which arose in Business F1 magazine, the federation said on Thursday that it “can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual”.

But team principal Wolff, who has overseen six of Hamilton’s record-equalling seven world championships, said Mercedes are in an “legal exchange with the FIA”.

“We understand that there is significant media interest in the events of this week,” said the Austrian, 51, in a statement.

“We are currently in active legal exchange with the FIA. We await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights.

“Therefore we ask you for your understanding that we will not be commenting officially for now, but we will certainly address the matter in due course.”

Susie Wolff, who in her role as boss of the all-female F1 Academy reports to F1 CEO Stefano Domenical, had already vehemently denied the allegations – calling them “intimidatory and misogynistic”.

However, on Friday she took another swipe at the FIA shortly before her husband’s statement was released.

“When I saw the statement issued by the FIA yesterday evening, my first reaction was: ‘Is that it?’,” she said on social media.

“For two days, insinuations have been made about my integrity in public and through background briefings, but nobody from the FIA has spoken to me directly.

“I might have been collateral damage in an unsuccessful attack on somebody else, or the target of a failed attempt to discredit me personally, but I have worked too hard to have my reputation called into question by an unfounded press release.

“We have come a long way as a sport. I was extremely thankful for the unified support of the Formula 1 teams. I have worked with so many passionate women and men at F1 and the FIA, who have the very best interests of our sport at heart.

“However, this episode has so far taken place without transparency or accountability. I have received online abuse about my work and my family. I will not allow myself to be intimidated and intend to follow up until I have found out who has instigated this campaign and misled the media.

“What happened this week is simply not good enough. As a sport, we must demand, and we deserve, better.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is an “active legal exchange with the FIA” after the governing body launched an investigation into claims of an alleged conflict of interest with his wife, Susie.

The FIA has since dropped the controversial probe, which arose after a report in Business F1 magazine claimed that other team principals were concerned Wolff was benefiting from information shared by his wife, who is the managing director of the F1 Academy.

A day after the FIA announced its compliance inquiry, the sport’s other nine teams said they had not complained about the relationship between the Wolffs and, on Thursday night, the FIA said there is “no ongoing investigation”.

But on Friday the saga took another twist, when Wolff, who has overseen six of Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling seven world championships, said Mercedes are considering legal action.

“We understand that there is significant media interest in the events of this week,” said the Austrian, 51.

“We are currently in active legal exchange with the FIA. We await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights.

“Therefore we ask you for your understanding that we will not be commenting officially for now, but we will certainly address the matter in due course.”

Forty-eight hours after the FIA said its compliance department was “looking into” the allegations, the federation said on Thursday that it “can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual”.

But Susie – who had already vehemently denied the allegations – calling them “intimidatory and misogynistic” – took another swipe at the FIA shortly before her husband’s statement.

Susie, who, in her role as boss of the all-female series, reports to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, said: “When I saw the statement issued by the FIA yesterday evening, my first reaction was: ‘Is that it?’

“For two days, insinuations have been made about my integrity in public and through background briefings, but nobody from the FIA has spoken to me directly.

“I might have been collateral damage in an unsuccessful attack on somebody else, or the target of a failed attempt to discredit me personally, but I have worked too hard to have my reputation called into question by an unfounded press release.

“We have come a long way as a sport. I was extremely thankful for the unified support of the Formula 1 teams. I have worked with so many passionate women and men at F1 and the FIA, who have the very best interests of our sport at heart.

“However, this episode has so far taken place without transparency or accountability. I have received online abuse about my work and my family. I will not allow myself to be intimidated and intend to follow up until I have found out who has instigated this campaign and misled the media.

“What happened this week is simply not good enough. As a sport, we must demand, and we deserve, better.”

Mercedes driver Hamilton is due to face the media later on Friday at the FIA’s prize-giving gala in Baku.

The FIA has dropped its investigation into a potential conflict of interest between Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife Susie Wolff after concluding they did not share confidential information.

A report in Business F1 magazine said there was concern among other Formula One team principals that Toto Wolff was benefiting from information, via his wife, which was not being shared with them.

Susie Wolff, who is F1 Academy managing director, vehemently rejected the allegations after the FIA announced on Tuesday its compliance department was “looking in to the matter”.

The governing body concluded no wrongdoing has taken place and announced there is no ongoing investigation involving any individual.

“Following a review of Formula One Management’s F1 Code of Conduct and F1 Conflict of Interest Policy and confirmation that appropriate protective measures are in place to mitigate any potential conflicts, the FIA is satisfied that FOM’s compliance management system is robust enough to prevent any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information,” read a statement.

“The FIA can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual.

“As the regulator, the FIA has a duty to maintain the integrity of global motorsport. The FIA reaffirms its commitment to integrity and fairness.”

In her role at the all-female F1 academy, to which she was appointed in March, Susie Wolff reports directly to F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

A social media post from her on Tuesday read: “I am deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised by the public allegations that have been made this evening.

“It is disheartening that my integrity is being called into question in such a manner, especially when it seems to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour, and focused on my marital status rather than my abilities.

“Throughout my career in motorsport, I have encountered and overcome numerous obstacles and I refuse to let these baseless allegations overshadow my dedication and passion for F1 Academy.”

She continued: “In the strongest possible terms, I reject these allegations.”

Christian Horner maintains Red Bull did not raise any official complaint with the FIA over allegations F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff and her husband, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, shared confidential information.

A report in Business F1 magazine said there is concern among other Formula One team principals that Toto Wolff has had access to information, via his wife, which is not being shared with them that he is using to his benefit.

In her role at the all-female F1 academy, to which she was appointed in March, Susie Wolff reports directly to F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

The FIA announced on Tuesday that its compliance department was “looking in to the matter”.

Susie Wolff issued a statement on social media saying she was left “deeply insulted” by the allegations, which she rejected “in the strongest possible terms.”

Horner has dismissed suggestions Red Bull instigated the action from the FIA and pointed to the team’s involvement with the Academy as well as praising the “great job” done by Susie Wolff.

“We have a big rivalry (with Mercedes) on track, but we haven’t raised any official complaint, either about Susie or Toto or Mercedes to the FAI,” Horner said on Sky Sports News.

“In fact, Red Bull has been the team which has got most involved with Formula One Academy from its inception, to the point that between the two Red Bull owned teams we will be entering three cars.

“We have been working closely with Susie, who has been doing a great job on Formula One Academy.

“I think we, like others, were quite surprised at the statement that came out last night, but it certainly wasn’t instigated or required or set off by Red Bull.”

Pressed again over any possible involvement across the organisation’s group, which also includes the AlphaTauri F1 team, Horner said: “We have not raised any official complaint or made any requests to the FAI or to FOM (Formula One Management).

“Indeed, we have been working very closely with Susie on the Formula One Academy – we are the only group that is going to be entering three cars in the academy for 2024.

“It is great work that they are doing with the academy and we are certainly exited about that.

“As far as the other teams, I can’t talk on behalf of others. This is an FAI thing, they have taken this action and, as I say, (it is) certainly nothing to do with Red Bull.”

Later on Wednesday, other F1 teams also went on record to distance themselves from the reported allegations.

A statement from Ferrari read: “We can confirm that we have not made any complaint to the FIA regarding the allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed between an F1 team principal and a member of FOM staff.

“We are pleased and proud to support F1 Academy and its managing director through our commitment to sponsor an entrant in our liveries from next season.”

Using the same wording in statements posted on social media, McLaren, Williams and Haas also rejected suggestions the team had been involved.

Mercedes also released a statement in response, which said it “wholly rejected” what had been alleged.

A statement from Formula One, meanwhile, said it had “complete confidence” the allegations were wrong.

“We have robust processes and procedures that ensure the segregation of information and responsibilities in the event of any potential conflict of interest,” the statement added.

“We are confident that no member of our team has made any unauthorised disclosure to a team principal and would caution anyone against making imprudent and serious allegations without substance.”

F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff has rejected allegations that she and her husband, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, have shared confidential information.

A report in Business F1 magazine said there is concern among other Formula One team principals that Toto Wolff has had access to information, via his wife, which is not being shared with them that he is using to his benefit.

In her role at the all-female F1 academy, to which she was appointed in March, Susie Wolff reports directly to F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

The FIA announced on Tuesday that its compliance department was “looking in to the matter”.

Susie Wolff said in a post on social media: “I am deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised by the public allegations that have been made this evening.

“It is disheartening that my integrity is being called into question in such a manner, especially when it seems to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour, and focused on my marital status rather than my abilities.

“Throughout my career in motorsport, I have encountered and overcome numerous obstacles and I refuse to let these baseless allegations overshadow my dedication and passion for F1 Academy.”

She continued: “As a woman in this sport, I have faced my fair share of challenges but my commitment to breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations to succeed remains unwavering.

“In the strongest possible terms, I reject these allegations.”

The FIA’s statement said: “The FIA is aware of media speculation centred on the allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed to an F1 team principal from a member of FOM (Formula One Management) personnel. The FIA compliance department is looking in to the matter.”

Mercedes released a statement which said it “wholly rejected” what had been alleged.

“We note the generic statement from the FIA this evening, which responds to unsubstantiated allegations from a single media outlet, and the off-record briefing which has linked it to the team principal of Mercedes-AMG F1,” it said.

“The team has received no communication from the FIA compliance department on this topic and it was highly surprising to learn of the investigation through a media statement.

“We wholly reject the allegation in the statement and associated media coverage, which wrongly impinges on the integrity and compliance of our team principal.

“As a matter of course, we invite full, prompt, and transparent correspondence from the FIA compliance department regarding this investigation and its contents.”

A statement from Formula One said: “We note the public statement made by the FIA this evening that was not shared with us in advance.

“We have complete confidence that the allegations are wrong, and we have robust processes and procedures that ensure the segregation of information and responsibilities in the event of any potential conflict of interest.

“We are confident that no member of our team has made any unauthorised disclosure to a team principal and would caution anyone against making imprudent and serious allegations without substance.”

Formula One will again hold six sprint weekends in 2024 with discussions ongoing about potential tweaks to the format.

The sprint weekends will be at the returning Chinese Grand Prix followed by races in Miami, Austria, Austin, Brazil and Qatar.

A number of drivers and team principals, including Red Bull boss Christian Horner, have called for changes to the sprint format.

It is likely that qualifying for the sprint will return to being held on Friday ahead of the sprint race on Saturday, which will be followed by qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix.

Other options may be considered to shake up the format, with changes to rules over parc ferme conditions – where alterations to the car are prohibited – and even a move to reverse part of the grid order for the sprint among possible options.

F1 bosses are keen to retain the sprint and believe having meaningful action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a grand prix weekend bring benefits for TV audiences and fans in attendance.

Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of Formula One, said: “I am delighted to announce six exciting venues for next season’s F1 sprint events, including two new hosts China and Miami, both of which will be fantastic additions and provide great racing for all our fans at the race and watching at home.

“Since its creation in 2021, the sprint has been consistent in delivering increased audiences on TV, more on track entertainment for the fans at events and increased fan engagement on social and digital platforms, and we are looking forward to the exciting events next year.”

A decision on how the sprint format will look next season is likely to be made in January.

Speaking in November, Horner said: “I think it’s clear that the sprint needs to evolve a bit. I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest.

“But I think the sprints in some cases have been slightly underwhelming – there’s no pit stop, it tends to stay in grid order and it’s a little bit like getting a medal for a long run.

“I think there can be a little bit more racing introduced, but then you’ve got to look at the consequences of that, if you were to reverse the grid, if there were points involved etc, etc.”

Formula One’s newly crowned world champion Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport on this day in 2016.

Mercedes driver Rosberg had claimed his maiden title at the season-deciding race in Abu Dhabi just five days earlier – and then made the shock revelation at a press conference in Vienna ahead of the FIA’s official prize-giving awards ceremony.

The German, 31, confirmed he took the final decision to walk away from the sport in the hours after his championship triumph.

Rosberg began his grand prix career with Williams in 2006 and competed in more than 200 races.

He joined Mercedes in 2010 and partnered compatriot Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion, before Lewis Hamilton, his long-term rival, joined the team from McLaren in 2013.

Hamilton beat Rosberg to the drivers’ championship in both 2014 and 2015, with the German finally ending his long-running losing streak by claiming the 2016 title at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Following his shock revelation, Rosberg later posted a message on Facebook giving more details behind the decision.

“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” he said.

“Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it.

“I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.

“I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years, and they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before.

“Of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target.”

The German later returned to motorsport after establishing Rosberg X Racing to compete in the all-electric off-road racing series Extreme E, with the team winning both the 2021 constructors’ and drivers’ titles.

Williams have confirmed that American rookie Logan Sargeant will remain with the team next season.

The British outfit’s move to retain Sargeant, 22, for a second campaign completes the 20-driver grid for 2024.

Sargeant, who scored just one point during a difficult first season, will race alongside Alex Albon after the London-born Thai’s seat had already been confirmed.

“I am thrilled to be continuing with Williams Racing for the 2024 season,” said Sargeant.

“It has been an incredible journey with the team so far and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue developing as a driver within such a talented and dedicated group.

“We have exciting plans for the future and I can’t wait to contribute to the team’s success in the coming year.”

Sargeant claimed his maiden point in Formula One – the first American to score in the sport since Michael Andretti 30 years ago for McLaren – after Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified from the United States Grand Prix in Austin in October.

Albon finished the year with an impressive 27 points to help Williams land seventh in the constructors’ championship, the team’s best result for six seasons.

“I am pleased to continue our journey with Logan into 2024,” said team principal James Vowles.

“Logan has demonstrated immense skill whilst under the pressure of the world stage, making him a perfect fit for our team.

“We have great confidence in his abilities and believe that together we can achieve even greater success in the upcoming season.”

The Formula One season will start in Bahrain on March 2.

Formula One boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem has defended historic sexist remarks on his personal website in which he allegedly said he does “not like women who think they are smarter than men” – and revealed that he was subjected to a racist slur as he campaigned to become FIA president.

In a PA news agency interview, the 62-year-old Emirati – elected to the biggest job in motor sport in December 2021 – vehemently denied claims of misogyny and said he had been the target of an “inhuman” smear campaign.

Ben Sulayem also compared Lewis Hamilton’s contentious championship defeat in 2021 to England’s 1966 World Cup final win against West Germany, following Sir Geoff Hurst’s controversial ‘offside’ goal, while reiterating his belief that Michael Masi – the man accused of denying Hamilton a record eighth world title – could return to the sport.

In January, Ben Sulayem was quoted on an archived version of his old website saying that he does “not like women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth”. At the time, the FIA said the comments, which date back to 2001, “do not reflect the president’s beliefs”.

But personally addressing the remarks for the first time, Ben Sulayem told PA: “What did I say, if I said it? Let’s assume it was (me). I tell you exactly what it said. It says: ‘I hate when women think they are smarter than us’. But they hate when men think they are smarter than them.

“Did I say we are smarter? No. Did I say they are less smarter? No. For God’s sake, if that is the only thing they have against me, please be my guest, you can do worse than that.

“People can go back and see what has been said, and if I have said anything against women. In 117 years of the FIA, I am the only president who brought in a female CEO (Natalie Robyn).

“I made the commission for EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion), and I brought a woman in (adviser, Tanya Kutsenko).

“There is disrespect to women if you say we have to have 30 per cent (female staff). You bring them in on merit and credibility. And that is why they are there.

“Look at Bernie Ecclestone’s wife. (Fabiana Ecclestone, Vice-President for Sport in South America). She is one of the most active. They said that I brought her in because of the support from Bernie. But Bernie doesn’t have any connection with any votes. He has no power over them.”

Ben Sulayem took the unprecedented decision to relinquish the day-to-day running of F1 in February after he clashed with the sport’s American owners Liberty Media over the introduction of an 11th team and questioned the valuation of the sport.

A month later his son, Saif, died in a road traffic accident in Dubai. In April, further allegations emerged after the Daily Telegraph reported that Shaila-Ann Rao – the FIA’s former interim secretary general for motorsport – wrote a letter to the governing body accusing Ben Sulayem of sexist behaviour.

“When we opened a position as CEO, Shaila-Ann wanted to be the CEO,” continues Ben Sulayem. “I could not get involved. I said, ‘Shaila, you are good, go through with the process’. We had 150 applications, and everybody went through that process.”

Ben Sulayem then reaches for his phone to reveal a WhatsApp message he claims to be from Rao thanking him for hosting her at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this season.

He adds: “I don’t want to do any comment. But that is from September. Sexism, please! Do they have anything else? Why don’t they come and confront me?”

Ben Sulayem continues: “The attack on me earlier this year was inhuman, with the tragedy that I had. I would love that if I did these things that I was accused of, you sit with me, challenge me and confront me. But don’t fabricate and throw things at me, and then when I tell you to prove it, you run away and don’t come back. That is not the way.”

Asked if he was being targeted, the former rally driver, who is midway through a four-year term, replies: “Yes. Because I am doing the right thing.

“Imagine in my campaign, in Europe, that someone said to me: ‘Don’t ever think we will accept our president of the FIA to be an Arab Muslim with the name of Mohammed’.

“I laughed because I knew how to beat him – by winning. But my Christian team were so upset with him. I said, ‘no, leave it, please, this is something I expect from them’. But can we go back to work? And work for the passion that we love, which is motorsport, and improve it?”

Ben Sulayem succeeded Jean Todt five days after Hamilton was sensationally denied a record eighth world title at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Race referee Masi’s failure to imply the correct rules left Hamilton at the mercy of Max Verstappen. The Dutchman took the championship in the desert before quickly racking up another two titles in his all-conquering Red Bull. Hamilton has not won a race since.

A subsequent FIA investigation blamed “human error” before Masi was removed from his post. However, the governing body stopped short of a public apology to Hamilton.

“I always apologise, but I cannot apologise for something which was done before my time,” said Ben Sulayem. “OK, I will do the apology, but I will bring Michael Masi again. Do you think that is right?

“The poor guy is a person who has been attacked and abused. Michael Masi went through hell. Hell! And if I see there is an opportunity that the FIA needs, and Michael Masi is the right person, I will bring him.

“I even had people threatening me to kill me because I had the power to change it (the result). But I said to them: ‘Sorry, the World Cup of 1966, England against Germany, was that correct? Did they change it? No.’ Did they give it to Germany? Nein.”

Max Verstappen completed the most dominant season in Formula One history with victory in Abu Dhabi.

After a 19th win in 22 races, the PA news agency looks at how the triple world champion compares to the sport’s all-time stars.

Among the greats

Verstappen’s third world championship win put him in elite company as only the 11th driver with a hat-trick of titles to his name.

Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton share the record of seven crowns apiece, with Juan Manuel Fangio their nearest challenger on five.

Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel won four apiece, with Verstappen alongside Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet Sr and Ayrton Senna on three.

Only five drivers – Schumacher, Hamilton, Fangio, Vettel and now Verstappen – have won three in consecutive years. He has the chance next season to match all but Schumacher with a fourth straight title, the German having won five in succession from 2000 to 2004.

Verstappen has also moved third all-time in terms of race wins. His 53rd, at the season’s penultimate race in Las Vegas, drew him alongside Vettel for that position and in only 184 races compared to the German’s 299.

Abu Dhabi made it 54 out of 185 and means only Hamilton and Schumacher have won more races – Hamilton has 103 from 331 starts, despite now having gone two seasons without a win, while Schumacher finished with 91 in 306.

Record breaker

Verstappen set a notable record during the season with 10 consecutive race wins up to and including September’s Italian Grand Prix.

That beat Vettel’s run of nine in a row in 2013, also with Red Bull, while Verstappen’s Abu Dhabi win in 2022’s final race and Sergio Perez’s early-season contributions ensured the team won a record 15 in succession.

The Dutchman’s 19 wins broke his own single-season record of 15, set last year. Only 14 F1 seasons have even had 19 or more races in total.

While the length of the season and the modern scoring system are both significant factors, his points tally of 575 is a huge record – again, his own 454 last season was the previous best. Unsurprisingly that brought with it a record winning margin, both outright (290 points) and by percentage with more than double the points of second-placed team-mate Perez (285).

Verstappen also clinched the title with six grands prix remaining, equalling Schumacher’s record from 2002.

His 86.4 per cent win rate was another record, shattering the 75 per cent mark set back in 1952 – F1’s third ever season – when Alberto Ascari won six of the eight races contested.

He is the first driver to lead 1,000 or more laps in a season – smashing Vettel’s record of 739 in 2011 and equalling the combined total of McLaren’s dominant 1988 pairing of Senna and Prost.

Verstappen was the only driver to complete every lap of this season, adding two second places and fifth in Singapore to his 19 wins.

Max Verstappen admitted he was left feeling emotional after bidding farewell to the Red Bull machine that carried him to the most dominant Formula One season ever seen.

Verstappen ended his crushing championship campaign with his 19th win of the year in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, becoming the first driver to lead 1,000 laps in a single season.

The all-conquering Dutchman has won 17 of the last 18 races – which included a record streak of 10 straight victories – and wrapped up his third successive world title with six rounds to spare.

He failed to win on just three occasions, out-scoring Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull by 290 points – the equivalent of nearly 12 Grand Prix victories.

“It has been an incredible season and I was emotional on the in-lap back to the pits because it was the last time I will sit in a car which has given me so much,” said the 26-year-old.

“It will be very hard to have another season like this and we know that. Of course, you always want to do better and we are working hard for next year to have a very competitive car.

“All the other teams out there want to try and beat us next year, but we are ready for the battle.”

Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull until 2028 and, without a major regulation change until 2026, he could be untouchable for the next two seasons.

His 54th career win at the Yas Marina Circuit moved him to a standalone third in the all-time list, with only Lewis Hamilton’s 103 wins and Michael Schumacher, on 91 now, ahead of him.

Red Bull only failed to complete a perfect season following one off-colour weekend in Singapore.

“To win 21 out of 22 races is insanity,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

“For Max to have led over 1000 laps out of 1300, to win 19 races and break so many records along the way, this car will go down in history for a considerable point of time as the most successful in Formula One.

“But nothing stands still in this sport and I am sure concepts will converge, and stable regulations will concertina the grid, so I don’t think we will ever be able to repeat the season we have just had.”

Following a mammoth nine-month campaign, Verstappen will open his bid for a fourth consecutive title in Bahrain in 96 days.

Lewis Hamilton’s boss Toto Wolff has conceded Mercedes will have to scale Mount Everest to topple Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team next season.

Mercedes clung on to second place in the constructors’ championship by the skin of their teeth – and a £10million cash boost – as Verstappen ended the most dominant season in Formula One history with another victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, taking his 19th win from 22 rounds, finished 17 seconds clear of team-mate Sergio Perez. But, mercifully for Mercedes, the Mexican driver was demoted to fourth following a five-second penalty for a collision with Lando Norris.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was elevated to second with Mercedes’ George Russell third. Lewis Hamilton finished ninth in the other black-liveried machine.

Had Perez outscored Russell, Mercedes and Ferrari would have been tied, with the Prancing Horse second in the team standings by virtue of Carlos Sainz’s win in Singapore.

But following Perez’s sanction, Mercedes ended the campaign three points clear of Ferrari to land a £105million reward, rather than £95m.

However, it marked a second straight season without a victory for Hamilton – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

They finished an eye-watering 413 points behind Red Bull, who have long since turned their focus to next year’s machine. Last season, Mercedes were 244 points behind the world champions.

“Red Bull won by 17 seconds today, and haven’t touched the car since July or August, so you can pretty much guess where they’re going to be next year,” said a despondent Hamilton.

Picking up the baton, Wolff added: “From Lewis’ perspective, he had a bad weekend. Fact. But that doesn’t do anything on him being the greatest driver in the world.

“If we are able to give him a car, he will be fighting for a world championship. I have no doubt. But it is clear if you have a car like we have now, you are not at ease with it.

“Red Bull started the new regulations in 2022 with a massive advantage and they have been able to maintain it.

“We have a lot of respect for their achievements – from the engineering side, and the driver – and beating them under the current regulations is against the odds. Mount Everest is in front of us.”

Hamilton and Mercedes will hope a brand new design will fire them back to winning ways following their no-sidepod flop abandoned on the eve of the opening race in Bahrain.

Wolff continued: “We had to be honest that this car was never going to be good enough to fight for a world championship. We took the decision in April to go back to the drawing board and come up with something different for next year.

“We are changing the concept. We are moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow, literally every component has been changed because only by doing that do we have a chance. You could get it wrong also. Everything is possible.”

Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven world championships. But the 38-year-old will head for the off-season wondering if he will ever win again, let alone mount a season-long championship challenge.

With only minor tweaks to the sport’s technical rulebook before a complete overhaul in regulations in 2026, Hamilton has already expressed his fear that Verstappen will be untouchable for the next two years.

Wolff added: “We have a board in our factory that shows all the world constructors’ championships since 1958. The table runs until 2050 so there are 27 open. And I would like to look back in 20 years and see many more Mercedes stars.

“I hate retrospective views. But when we look back and consider the decade we had – second, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, third, second – and when you look at it from that perspective, you say, ‘that was OK’.

“But from a micro-view there is one guy (Verstappen) that has won 19 races, and that of course, is not good enough.”

Mercedes clung on to second place in the constructors’ championship by the skin of their teeth – and a £10milllion cash boost – as Max Verstappen ended the most dominant season in Formula One history with another victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen failed to triumph at just three of the 22 rounds staged, and his latest win takes him to 54 for his career, leaving only Lewis Hamilton (103 wins) and Michael Schumacher (91) ahead of him.

The Dutchman finished 17 seconds clear of team-mate Sergio Perez but the Red Bull driver was demoted to fourth following a five-second penalty for a collision with Lando Norris.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was promoted to second with Mercedes’ George Russell third. Lewis Hamilton finished ninth in the other black-liviried machine with Mercedes three points clear of Ferrari in the standings to land a £105million reward, rather than £95m.

However, it marked a second straight season without a victory for Hamilton – a losing streak of 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

Norris finished fifth for McLaren, one place ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri.

Verstappen has been in a class of one this season and Sunday’s 58-lap race round the Yas Marina Circuit never looked anything other than a Red Bull triumph – the team’s 21st of their all-conquering year – after he resisted a first-lap attack from Leclerc.

Leclerc tried and failed on three occasions to fight his way past Verstappen only for the triple world champion to keep him at bay on each occasion.

Behind, and Norris was on the move, making his way up to third ahead of Piastri and Russell.

Further back and Hamilton, who started 11th, was up two places to ninth, but by the end of the third lap he was in 10th as Perez swept by.

With Leclerc in second, and Russell and Hamilton fifth and 10th, Ferrari held second spot. But Russell was soon on the move to hand the initiative back to Mercedes.

On lap 11 he got ahead of Piastri after sling-shotting ahead of the Australian’s McLaren, and then three laps later, he took advantage of a slow pit stop for Norris to take third.

But in the other Mercedes, Hamilton feared he had sustained damage to his front wing after he biffed Pierre Gasly’s Alpine.

A check from Mercedes suggested otherwise, and team principal Toto Wolff was on the intercom to provide his star man with a pep talk.

“Lewis, you were the second quickest car on the last lap,” he said. “You are quick.” Moments later, the Austrian was back on the radio to tell Hamilton he was the speediest out there.

Wolff’s encouragement seemed to work. On lap 25, Hamilton was up to eighth after he passed Daniel Ricciardo before a second stop dropped him back down the order and in a duel with old foe Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton made his way ahead of Alonso only for the Spaniard to fight back past. Hamilton then accused Alonso of brake-testing him.

Carlos Sainz’s poor qualifying session left him 16th on the grid, but a desperate one-stop strategy saw him exposed to Alonso and then Hamilton as they moved by for eighth and ninth.

Advantage Mercedes. But Perez then threatened to provide a sting in their tail by hunting down Russell in the battle for third. If Perez finished ahead of Russell, the Silver Arrows would lose second spot.

With four laps to go, Perez fought his way past the English driver.

Perez took Leclerc on the last lap, but finished only 3.9 sec clear of Russell – dropping Perez to fourth – as Mercedes breathed a sigh of relief.

Lewis Hamilton said he could not wait for the season to end after he qualified only 11th for Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi – leaving Mercedes on the backfoot to salvage second in the Formula One world championship.

As Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the final race of his all-conquering campaign – with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc runner-up and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri third – Hamilton was left staring at another abysmal performance in his underperforming machinery.

Indeed, Hamilton, six tenths behind Verstappen and a third-of-a-second back from team-mate George Russell, who qualified fourth, even claimed there was something wrong with his car.

His failure to progress to Q3 means the fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship, worth nearly £10million, hangs in the balance.

The Silver Arrows head their Italian rivals by just four points ahead of Sunday’s race in the desert. And Leclerc finished ahead of both Russell and Hamilton to hand Ferrari the initiative.

“I don’t have any answers,” said Hamilton, who gloomily predicted his Q2 demise here 24 hours previously.

“It is just a very unpredictable car and it has been all year. I wouldn’t say I am relieved, but I am definitely happy it is nearly over.”

Hamilton’s comments were echoed by Toto Wolff.

“I’m fed up with having explanations as to why it didn’t go well,” said the Mercedes team principal.

“I’m happy that this was the last qualifying of the season and we will be back with a new car.”

Hamilton’s poor result came after it emerged that his father – and one-time manager Anthony – had enquired about a seat for his son at Red Bull.

Hamilton has recorded just one podium in his last six appearances following Mercedes’ tumble down the grid and he faces an uphill task to salvage a respectable result at the Yas Marina Circuit.

“There is something not right with this car, mate,” said the 38-year-old on the radio as he shook his head.

“The car is more inconsistent than ever before,” he later explained. “It is up-and-down from the moment you hit the brakes, the moment you turn, the moment you hit the apex, it is massively out of balance and hard to predict what is going to happen.

“George and I set our cars up the same, but they don’t read the same so there is something not right on our side. I have been off all weekend and struggled. Eleventh…it takes some good going for me not to get into Q3.”

Hamilton is third in the individual standings, 317 points Verstappen, with the Dutchman the overwhelming favourite to claim a remarkable 19th victory from the 22 rounds.

Mercedes are a staggering 430 points behind the Dutchman’s Red Bull team, who have won every race bar one this year.

Mercedes were handed a minor boost after Carlos Sainz was a surprise eliminated in Q1. Sainz bemoaned traffic for his lowly 16th grid slot.

But Leclerc’s improvement on his final run, to finish just 0.139 seconds behind Verstappen, provides the Prancing Horse with a spring in their step.

“The target is to beat Mercedes, so I hope Carlos gets a good start and joins me in the fight,” said Leclerc.

“Let’s look to put both of our cars in front of Mercedes because finishing second in the constructors is all that matters to me.”

Elsewhere, Lando Norris qualified a disappointing fifth after he got out of shape on his last lap.

“I don’t know why it happened,” he said. “I’ve not done that all weekend so it’s frustrating. I’m just doing a s*** job on Saturday.”

Asked if he was being too hard on himself, the 24-year-old replied: “Not at all. I was fighting for second and I end up fifth because of a stupid mistake. I’m too soft on myself.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.