Lewis Hamilton found comfort in digging deep from "the bottom of the barrel" after doubting his ability before his historic British Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

The seven-time world champion had not triumphed in Formula One since December 2021 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but ended a 945-day wait for success with a record-extending win at Silverstone.

Mercedes driver Hamilton held off a late charge from championship leader Max Verstappen, clinching his ninth win at this event and breaking the record for the most F1 victories at a single race.

Having struggled throughout the last three years, an emotional Hamilton acknowledged the challenging period had taken its toll.

"It's so tough, I think for anyone, but the important thing is how you continue to get up and you've got to continue to dig deep even when you feel like you're at the bottom of the barrel," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"There have definitely been days between 2021 and here where I didn't feel like I was good enough or I was going to get back to where I am today.

"But the important thing is I had great people around me, continuing to support me. My team, every time I turned up and saw them putting in the effort really encouraged me to do the same thing.

"Otherwise, my fans, when I see them around the world, they have been so supportive. So a big, big thank you to everybody."

This victory marked Hamilton's final home race as a Mercedes driver, as he prepares to join Ferrari at the end of the season.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff cut another emotional figure after a fitting farewell at Silverstone.

"Fantastic. You couldn't have written it better for our farewell at the British Grand Prix. That was great," Wolff said on Sky Sports.

"He had some difficult times recently. Then, some faultless driving in various conditions. 

"I really enjoyed us bouncing back. We were one and two for a long time in the dry. Performance-wise, it looks like we are coming back."

Mercedes' improvements have been impressive in recent weeks, and the team have now won back-to-back races for the first time since 2021 between Sao Paulo and Saudi Arabia (all three won by Hamilton).

That pair of victories are their only two this season, however, as Mercedes remain fourth in the championship, behind leaders Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has refused to rule out meeting with Max Verstappen to discuss a potential switch from Red Bull, though he says the Silver Arrows are also looking at other drivers.

Verstappen looks unlikely to be denied a fourth straight world championship after starting 2024 with four wins from six races, though he was beaten by Lando Norris at Sunday's Miami Grand Prix.

However, the Dutchman's future has become a subject of discussion amid a difficult period for Red Bull behind the scenes.

Team principal Christian Horner was accused and later cleared of engaging in controlling behaviour towards a female employee earlier this year, while chief technical officer Adrian Newey is stepping back from his role and will be free to join another team in early 2025.

While Verstappen's contract with Red Bull runs through 2028, reports have suggested he could follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton and exercise a break clause to push through a huge move.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz has also been linked with Mercedes after seeing the Scuderia promise his 2025 seat to Hamilton, and Wolff says the team have plenty of irons in the fire.

Asked if he was keen to meet with Verstappen, Wolff said: "There's always plenty of meetings. I can't really say about the second driver. I think we've talked about the possibilities. 

"I want to be fair to these guys and not make it look like we are playing chess with humans, because we are not doing that.

"I think we want to take our time, see where Max's thinking goes, and at the same time monitor the other drivers. Carlos was very strong in Miami again and that's why we are a little bit on observation mode at the moment."

Verstappen has said the strength of teams' cars after regulation changes are implemented in 2026 will inform any decision on his future, and Wolff says the Dutchman is right to bide his time. 

"I was him I wouldn't leave, at least for 2025, but he's the leading driver, he's the top guy at the moment and that's why it's for him to take those decisions," Wolff said.

"There may not be any decisions to take, maybe everything continues like it is, but that is then also guidance for us."

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’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.

Toto Wolff made a U-turn on his decision not to attend the Japanese Grand Prix as it would have been the “wrong choice” given Mercedes recent troubles.

The Mercedes team boss was scheduled not to be at Suzuka this weekend and the PA news agency understands that was planned before the start of the new season and not as a result of the team’s poor performance at the Australian Grand Prix.

Neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell finished the race in Melbourne, with Russell’s fifth-placed finish in the season-opener in Bahrain the best result for the team so far this year.

Having dominated the sport between 2014 and 2021, Mercedes have struggled since new regulations arrived the following year and have won just one race in that time.

Wolff changed his mind on attending the race in Suzuka – where Russell and Hamilton finished fourth and fifth in first practice before a rain-affected second session – and explained the call on Friday afternoon.

“I had planned not to come to Japan, because there’s so much on back in Europe, things to do,” he said.

“But then I felt not coming to Japan was the wrong choice. I think it’s important to be with the race team…it does me good also, to be close to the action.

“We’re experimenting with a few things and then being part of the team really gives me energy and I hope the other way around, too. So that’s why I decided against staying in Europe.”

Speaking on Thursday, Hamilton was asked about the tough times of both drivers not crossing the finish line last time out.

“I think it’s all about perspective. I think for us of course we’ve not started the season where we wanted to be,” he said.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve seen in the past – last year for example – how things can switch with certain teams.

“I think we’ve just got to learn as much as we can, take as much as we can from the data, remain positive, continue to work hard and I always say it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up.

“We will just continue to chase and fight and hope we can be fighting at the front at some stage.”

Wolff, too, was keen to be optimistic when asked about the struggles of the season so far.

“We are a sports team, we’ve won eight times in a row, and that hasn’t been done before. But you have periods where you struggle, like any other sports team, and you can’t win every time.

“That’s why this is a super challenge and it’s not a race, it’s not one single season, and then you come back out on top, but it’s the third one in a row.

“But I remain absolutely convinced that we will be looking back in a few years and saying that was so tough, but so important for the development of the team.”

Hamilton, who has won six of Mercedes’ seven consecutive drivers’ championships, is leaving to join Ferrari next season.

He has tipped Sebastian Vettel as an “amazing option” to take his seat at Mercedes after the four-time world champion revealed he has been considering returning to F1 after leaving in 2022.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Vettel admitted he has been talking to Wolff – who was full of praise for the former Red Bull and Ferrari man, before confirming he has whittled down the options for 2025 to two or three drivers.

“Sebastian is someone you can never discount,” he said.

“His track record is phenomenal, and sometimes maybe taking a break is also good to evaluate what’s important for you and re-find your motivation.

“We haven’t taken the decision yet and it is not something we plan to do in the next few weeks, the driver market is very dynamic and some of the really good guys are about so sign for the other teams.”

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has hinted he could be tempted to make a Formula One comeback after revealing he has been talking to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Mercedes are searching for a new driver for 2025 and beyond after Lewis Hamilton announced in February he was quitting for Ferrari after 11 years with the Silver Arrows.

Vettel, who won his four drivers’ titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, left F1 at the end of the 2022 campaign after six years at Ferrari and two with Aston Martin.

Now, though, the 36-year-old has suggested he could return to the sport after speaking to a number of team bosses up and down the paddock.

“I am speaking to Toto. I don’t know if that qualifies as Mercedes, but about other things,” the German told Sky Sports News.

“I’m talking to a lot of people because I know them, but not very specific. I mean obviously it does cross my mind, I do think about it, but it’s not the main thought.

“I have three kids at home, it’s busy every day, so there’s a lot of other thoughts I have. There’s ideas that I have.

“Events that I’m planning going forwards, so I did speak to a lot of other team principals as well, and not only about racing. There’s thoughts, but nothing concrete at the minute.”

A seat at a top team could help Vettel make a decision to return to the grid and he admits he was caught out by Hamilton’s decision to swap Mercedes for Ferrari after winning six world championships with the team.

“I was surprised, like I guess most of us were,” he said.

“But it is exciting. Obviously he’s looking for a new challenge and it will be different to see him in red, in a different colour.”

Meanwhile, Vettel has been testing a different kind of race car having spent time in the Porsche contender for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

 

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“Maybe, I don’t know yet,” he replied when asked if he could make his first appearance in the famous endurance race this year.

“I’ve been testing. I was curious, so I wanted to see how it feels. It’s obviously a different discipline. It’s still racing, but it’s a different car, different discipline.

“I am (tempted) and I’m not. I am obviously also looking for lots of other things and there’s lots of other things that do interest me outside of racing.”

Guenther Steiner has warned Red Bull their dominance of Formula One will end just as Mercedes’ did.

Red Bull have won the last three constructors’ championships with Max Verstappen completing a hat-trick of drivers’ titles, in the process breaking the strangleholds imposed by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in previous years.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has endured a miserable start to the new season with his car lasting just 17 laps of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix as team-mate George Russell crashed out to leave the Brackley and Brixworth-based team 71 points adrift of Red Bull after just three races and pile the pressure on boss Toto Wolff.

But asked about their difficulties, former Haas team principal Steiner said: “Obviously they are struggling a little bit at the moment. For me, they are a good team, I think they’re a good team. It’s just like it’s competition.

“Mercedes was dominating for a long time and you cannot always be dominating, you shouldn’t expect that. Now we say Red Bull is dominating – it will come to an end, like Mercedes came to an end.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Mercedes is not doing well’ – Mercedes is still in the top four at the moment or top five, they just need to do a little bit better. But it’s how competitive this sport is and you cannot take anything for granted.

“Obviously Toto would love to dominate the sport forever, but nothing is forever. I think it’s good for the sport and shows also how quickly it goes up and down.

“Mercedes is still doing OK, they’re still scoring points. Sometimes you forget there are 10 teams and not only three which are allowed to win. I think all 10 should be allowed to win and those are the things you learn when you are outside of the sport like I am now.”

Hamilton, who is in the midst of his worst start to a campaign, will join Ferrari ahead of the 2025 campaign, leaving a huge gap to plug.

Steiner, speaking after being announced as an ambassador for May’s Miami Grand Prix, was asked if Carlos Sainz – winner in Australia just 16 days after undergoing surgery for appendicitis – would be at the top of his list if he was in charge at Red Bull or Mercedes.

He replied: “Toto has no urgency to sign anybody because everybody is waiting until that seat is filled, but I’m sure a lot of people are speaking to Carlos at the moment.”

Toto Wolff has revealed for the first time that he would love to have Max Verstappen at Mercedes – as Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted no individual is bigger than the team.

Verstappen’s Red Bull future is in the spotlight amid the in-fighting at Formula One’s dominant franchise.

The Dutchman, who won Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to land his second win of the season – and his ninth in a row – opened the door to sensationally quitting Red Bull if motorsport adviser Helmut Marko is forced out.

It emerged this weekend that Marko could be suspended as a result of Red Bull’s inquiry into Horner, although the 80-year-old Austrian said prior to Saturday’s race that he expects to carry on.

However, the unrest at Red Bull has put Mercedes – seeking a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton in 2025 – on red alert.

And when asked following Saturday’s race in Jeddah if it would be good for Formula One for Verstappen to switch teams, Wolff replied: “I would love to have him.

“But first we need to sort out our car. We owe it to our current drivers to improve the car and give them equipment that is good before dreaming about the future next year.”

Wolff was then asked if Verstappen, whose deal runs until 2028, was now top of his wishlist.

“Let’s word it like this,” he replied. “It is a decision that Max needs to take and there is no team up and down the grid who wouldn’t do handstands to have him in their car.”

Verstappen has won 19 of the last 20 F1 races and is overwhelming favourite to land a fourth consecutive world championship.

Mercedes have tasted just one victory since the end of 2021, and George Russell and Hamilton finished only sixth and ninth respectively on Saturday.

Responding to Wolff’s comments, Horner said: “I am sure every team in the paddock would love to have Max but, as Toto also said, the best drivers want to be in the best cars.

“We are a team. Max has achieved his 56th win and his 100th podium today – all of which have been in Red Bull Racing cars.

“But you cannot force someone to be somewhere because of a piece of paper. If somebody doesn’t want to be at the team I am not going to force anyone against their will to be here.

“Max has been here since he was 18 and I have no doubt of his commitment and his passion, but no individual is bigger than the team.”

Earlier, Red Bull’s group CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said Verstappen will not be leaving.

Asked by the PA news agency prior to Saturday’s race if the Dutch driver will remain with the team, Mintzlaff said: “Of course. He has a contract.

“Max is a great driver and hopefully we will win tonight. I am here just for racing. That’s it.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has urged Formula One and its governing body to “set the compass right” amid continued controversy surrounding Christian Horner.

Horner was earlier this week cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

But the 50-year-old faced subsequent scrutiny after a series of leaked WhatsApp messages –  appearing to be exchanged between him and his complainant – were leaked to all the major players in the sport.

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem told the Financial Times on Friday that the turmoil is “damaging the sport on a human level”. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has not commented on the matter.

Earlier this week, Wolff called for greater transparency from Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, who conducted the investigation.

The Austrian corporation said it was confident the inquiry into Horner had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” and added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”. Horner has always denied the claims.

“Let’s see where it goes in the next days,” said Wolff on Saturday night. “I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body and the commercial rights’ holder sets the compass right.

“But the moment I start to continue to question how this has been handled, I am probably not doing any good to the whole issue, because then it could be seen as this just being about a power fight within F1.

“That’s why I think it’s not in the team’s hands. It’s a much bigger topic than that and I don’t want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes guy is talking about the Red Bull guys.”

Wolff was speaking after a disappointing opening race of the season for his Mercedes team at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

George Russell started third and finished fifth – 47 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton taking the chequered flag in seventh, 50 sec adrift.

Wolff continued: “Max is in a different league, a different galaxy. We just have to acknowledge his performance levels.

“But I believe that the group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has challenged Formula One and its governing body to demand greater transparency from Red Bull’s investigation into Christian Horner.

Horner has been cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

Horner was on the Red Bull pit wall on Thursday for both practice sessions of the new season.

“I am pleased that the process is over and I cannot comment about it,” he told Sky Sports. “I am focused on the season ahead. Within the team it (the unity) has never been stronger.”

Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, said it was confident the investigation into Horner had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” but added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”.

It is understood that neither Formula One’s owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, has seen the report.

However, there were growing calls in Bahrain on Thursday night for Red Bull GmbH to share the details of their investigation.

“I just read the statement, which was pretty basic,” said Wolff. “My personal opinion is we can’t really look behind the curtain.

“There is a lady in an organisation that has spoken to HR and said there was an issue and it was investigated and yesterday the sport has received the message that it’s all fine, we’ve looked at it.

“I believe with the aspiration as a global sport, on such critical topics, it needs more transparency and I wonder what the sport’s position is?

“We’re competitors, we’re a team and we can have our own personal opinions or not. But it’s more like a general reaction or action that we as a sport need to assess, what is right in that situation and what is wrong.

“Are we talking with the right moral approach, with the values based on the speculation that is out there?

“As a sport, we cannot afford to leave things in the vague and in the opaque on critical topics like this, because this is going to catch us out.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown agreed with his Mercedes counterpart.

“It’s the responsibility ultimately of the organisers of Formula One, the owners of Formula One, to make sure that all the racing teams and the personnel and the drivers and everyone else involved in the sport are operating in a manner in which we all live by,” said the American.

“I don’t think it’s the teams’ roles and responsibilities. That’s up to FIA and Formula One to ultimately decide and ask what they feel gives them the level of transparency they need to ultimately come to their conclusion and we just have to count on them that they fulfil that obligation to all of us.”

The PA news agency has contacted Formula One and the FIA for comment.

Horner, who has protested his innocence throughout, was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours earlier this month at a secret London location.

He has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

He has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Dutch driver Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories as he wrapped up his third title.

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport in the New Year Honours.

Christian Horner will continue as team principal of the Red Bull Formula One team after he was cleared of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner was under investigation following an accusation made against him by a female colleague.

Horner emphatically denied the claim, and the 50-year-old – who arrived in Bahrain on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s opening race of the season – has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Red Bull GmbH said it was confident the investigation had been “fair, rigorous and impartial”, but added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had called for the investigation to be conducted with transparency – but no details of the allegations against Horner were reported.

Horner has made no public comment. He is expected to be on Red Bull’s pit-wall in Bahrain for practice on Thursday. The complainant also has a right to appeal the verdict.

A statement from Red Bull GmbH read: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete, and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.

“The complainant has a right of appeal. Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.

“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”

Horner, who has protested his innocence throughout, was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours earlier this month at a secret London location.

During the internal probe, he continued to be present for official Red Bull activities – including a car launch in Milton Keynes earlier this month – where he insisted it was “business as usual” – and also pre-season testing in Bahrain last week.

Horner flew back to England as he awaited his fate before heading back to the Gulf kingdom on a private jet on Wednesday.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

He has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races – with Dutch driver Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories as he wrapped up his third title.

Addressing the controversy surrounding Horner, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said earlier on Wednesday: “We always have to do more to try to make the sport and the environment for people to work in feel safe and inclusive.

“Any allegations have to be taken very seriously. We don’t know everything that has gone on but it needs to be resolved because it is hanging over the sport.

“It will be interesting to see how it is dealt with, and the effect that it may or may not have on the sport moving forward. It is a really important moment for the sport to make sure that we stand true to our values.”

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport in the New Year Honours list.

Verstappen said before Horner had been cleared of any wrongdoing: “He is very important otherwise he wouldn’t have been in that position for such a long time.

“Everyone is focused on what happens on track and we are in a good mood to get going again.”

Christian Horner wants his Red Bull future to be resolved “as soon as possible” as the embattled team principal fights to save his Formula One career.

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner is being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner denies the claim.

Horner addressed the media alongside four other F1 team principals on the second day of this week’s three-day test in Bahrain on Thursday. The new season starts in the Gulf kingdom next Saturday.

Asked why he has not moved aside as team principal and chief executive of Red Bull Racing with the investigation under way, Horner replied: “As you are well aware there is a process going on which I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I am afraid I cannot comment on it.”

Horner was then asked if he could provided a timeline as to when the investigation might be over.

The 50-year-old added: “I am dreadfully sorry but I really can’t comment on the process or the timescale.

“Everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible. But I am really not at liberty to comment about the process.”

Sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could be a resolution before the opening race on March 2.

On Wednesday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called for Red Bull’s probe to be transparent, and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, speaking in the same press conference as Horner on Thursday, echoed Wolff’s comments.

“The allegations are extremely serious,” said Brown. “McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

“These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

“Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and as the FIA and Formula One has said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs at this time.”

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last year as Max Verstappen stormed to the world championship.

The Dutch driver, in his heavily upgraded machine, set an impressive pace on the opening day in Bahrain, finishing 1.1 seconds clear of anyone else.

Mercedes’ George Russell said: “Red Bull are definitely the favourites and definitely a step ahead of everyone here in Bahrain. They have had an impressive winter, no doubt.

“Hopefully Red Bull are already in that sweet spot, and we can close the gap, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to do so.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has called for Red Bull’s investigation into Christian Horner to be transparent – and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

Horner is under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

The 50-year-old emphatically denies the accusation and remains in his role as Red Bull team principal.

He is in Bahrain for this week’s three-day test ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

And Horner has stated it is his intention to be in his post for the start of the new campaign.

“It is clear,” Wolff said when asked to address the allegations during the lunch interval on the first day of testing.

“Formula One and the teams stand for inclusion, equality, fairness and diversity, and that is not only about talking about it, but living it day in, day out. These are just standards we set ourselves.

“We are a global sport and one of the most important sport platforms in the world and role models, too.

“But having said that, there is a lot of speculation that has been happening over the past weeks, and lots of things that are going on.

“What is important at that stage is for a process with rigour. I think what Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way, with transparency, that is something we need to look at.

“What the outcomes are, what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that because we want to talk about racing cars, and we want to talk about the sport, rather than these very, very critical topics that are more than just a team issue.

“It is phenomenon, and an issue for all of Formula One, and every individual that works out there.”

Horner is due to be in the media spotlight at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals on Thursday.

Speaking at Red Bull’s car launch, last week, Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent. F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Max Verstappen put Red Bull’s off-track troubles to one side by setting the pace in the opening session on Wednesday.

The three-time world champion ended the running nearly seven tenths quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third, eight tenths back, and the only other driver within one second of Verstappen.

George Russell was sixth for Mercedes, 1.68 secs off the pace. Lewis Hamilton gets his first taste of the final Mercedes he will drive on Thursday ahead of his blockbuster switch to Ferrari next year.

Lewis Hamilton is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories as he gears up for his season swansong before quitting for Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to their rivals next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke.

Standing alongside team principal Toto Wolff, Hamilton faced just three questions from Mercedes’ in-house moderator in a nine-minute, no-frills and perhaps awkward – given the rawness of the British driver’s decision – car launch.

“The focus through the whole of winter training is getting the team back to where we once were,” said Hamilton.

“We have had these difficult couple of years which have been really grounding for us. It has helped us regroup and really look at things.

“(The last few weeks) have obviously been emotional and it is very surreal to be here.”

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August. But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early.

Last year 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 while Hamilton, third in the individual standings, was 341 points adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the Dutchman secured a hat-trick of world crowns.

Wolff metaphorically conceded at the final round in Abu Dhabi that Mercedes will have to scale Mount Everest to topple Verstappen.

But on Wednesday, Wolff said: “This is a complete relaunch of a car. It is very different, not only aerodynamically but underneath the car too.

“There have been so many mechanical changes which we hope will translate into more performance, more predictability and a car the drivers can really push.

“The most important thing is to look inward and what is it that we got wrong? We found some clues, we tried to eliminate as many variables as we could and the buzz in the company is something I have not seen for so many years.

“We know it is a big mountain to climb because if a team is so far ahead like Red Bull were last year then it is not easy.

“But we have a superb driver combination and hopefully a fast car. There are some good ingredients to be back at the front again.”

The Austrian, informed of Hamilton’s shock transfer only a fortnight ago, added: “It will be our last season with Lewis so we are keen on bringing a quick car.”

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were given their first taste of their new car during a damp shakedown test at Silverstone.

On Thursday, the spotlight will be back on embattled Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as the world champions present their machine for the new campaign.

Horner is under investigation by the Formula One team’s parent company Red Bull GmBH following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

Last Friday, Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours. He categorically denies the claim.

Horner remains in his role and he will speak to the media on Thursday at the team’s Milton Keynes HQ – although it is understood legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Lewis Hamilton has announced he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season ahead of a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

The 39-year-old is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.

But the seven-time Formula One world champion has activated a release clause in the deal, and Ferrari subsequently announced he will join the Italian team on a multi-year contract that starts in 2025.

Mercedes issued a statement confirming Hamilton’s early exit on Thursday evening, signalling the end of an extraordinarily successful partnership during which Hamilton won six of his world titles in the space of seven years from 2014-20.

Although they enjoyed incredible success, the team have since fallen off the pace and Hamilton has not won a race since controversially missing out on a record eighth world championship in 2021.

Hamilton said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

“But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto (Wolff, Mercedes team principal) for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.

“I am 100 per cent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows one to remember.”

Wolff said Mercedes accepted Hamilton’s decision to leave.

“In terms of a team-driver pairing, our relationship with Lewis has become the most successful the sport has seen, and that’s something we can look back on with pride; Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history,” he said.

“However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come.

“We accept Lewis’s decision to seek a fresh challenge, and our opportunities for the future are exciting to contemplate. But for now, we still have one season to go, and we are focused on going racing to deliver a strong 2024.”

Following the Mercedes statement, Ferrari issued a one-line statement announcing Hamilton’s move.

“Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” the statement said.

Charles Leclerc recently agreed a new long-term deal with Ferrari, so it will be Carlos Sainz that makes way for Hamilton, with the Spaniard’s contract expiring at the end of the 2024 season.

Sainz issued his own statement, which said: “Following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024. We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world.

“News about my future will be announced in due course.”

Hamilton began his Formula One career with McLaren and won his first world title with them in 2008 before switching to Mercedes in 2013.

In terms of race wins, he is the most successful driver in the sport’s history with 103, 12 ahead of Michael Schumacher, with whom he shares the record for the most world titles.

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