Lewis Hamilton was "so grateful" to be alive after he came out of a crash with Max Verstappen unscathed.

The Formula One championship rivals collided midway through Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which was won by Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following the collision, with his Red Bull having become airborne after he went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside of Hamilton at turn two.

The Red Bull went over the top of Hamilton's Mercedes but, thankfully, the halo protection device, which sits above the driver's head, took the blow, protecting the world champion.

Hamilton confirmed he would have to receive medical attention ahead of the next race but came away complaining only of soreness and a slight pain in his neck.

"I feel very fortunate today," Hamilton told reporters. "Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.

"I am so grateful I am still here. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today. I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before - and it is quite a big shock for me.

"We are taking risks and it's only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are.

"If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit."

Hamilton also tweeted to his official account, writing: "It's days like today, I am reminded of how lucky I am.

"It takes a millisecond to go from racing to a very scary situation. Today someone must have been looking down, watching over me! #TeamLH: I'm so thankful for each and everyone of you, you are truly the best. Still we rise!"

Max Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following his collision with Lewis Hamilton at Monza on Sunday. 

The Formula One title rivals crashed at turn two during the Italian Grand Prix, with the Red Bull becoming airborne after Verstappen went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside. 

The Dutchman's car landed on top of Hamilton's and they both ended up beached in the gravel, with Daniel Ricciardo going on to win the race as part of a famous McLaren one-two. 

Verstappen protested that he was not left sufficient space by Hamilton, while Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused the Red Bull driver of committing a "tactical foul".

Race stewards investigated the incident after the chequered flag and deemed that Verstappen – whose hopes of winning had seemingly evaporated with a botched pitstop – was guilty of causing the collision that ended both their races.

A statement read: "The stewards heard from the driver of Car 33 (Max Verstappen), the driver of Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton) and team representatives, reviewed the video evidence and determined that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the collision with Car 44 at turn two.

"Car 44 was exiting the pits. Car 33 was on the main straight. At the 50m board before turn one, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33. Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44.

"During the hearing the driver of Car 33 asserted that the cause of the incident was the driver of Car 44 opening the steering after turn one and 'squeezing' him to the apex of turn two. The driver of Car 44 asserted that the driver of Car 33 attempted to pass very late and should have given up the corner either by backing off sooner, or by turning left behind the kerb.

"The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into turn one. In the opinion of the Stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have 'the right to racing room'.

"While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.

"In coming to the penalty the Stewards emphasise that they have only considered the incident itself and not the consequences thereof.

"Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton's crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix as a "tactical foul" by the Red Bull driver.

The drivers' championship front-runners collided at Monza, having also come together at the British Grand Prix, forcing both to retire from the race.

After labouring behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, who led a McLaren one-two, Verstappen's hopes of victory were seemingly dashed with a pit stop that saw him stationary for 11.1 seconds.

Hamilton then emerged from his pit stop at the start of lap 26 alongside Verstappen, who attempted to sneak down the inside at turn two, only to catch the kerbs and send his car airborne before it landed on top of the Mercedes, with both ending up in the gravel trap.

Having come second in the sprint race, Verstappen extended his championship lead by two points. He now holds a five-point advantage.

The incident is the subject of a stewards' investigation, but Wolff indicated he believes the blame lies with the Dutchman.

"The stewards are going to decide who is to blame. There is predominantly to blame, I guess, we've seen that in the past. I think in football you'd say it was a tactical foul," Wolff told Sky Sports. 

"He probably knew that if Lewis stays ahead, that is the race win possibly.

"I think when you look at turn four, Lewis backed out and that was quite a thing because probably you know he's staying ahead of you. And then incidents where they actually crash, it was clear for Max in there that they would crash.

"I think if we don't manage that in the right way, this is going to continue. They had a high-speed crash at Silverstone, we had one car ending on top of the other one on Lewis' head here, so how far can you go? Maybe next time we'll have a high-speed crash and land on each other."

Hamilton added: "I was racing as hard as I could, finally got past Lando [Norris], I was in the lead so they pitted me, pit-stop was obviously slow, lost a couple of seconds.

"I came out, saw that Daniel came past, Max was coming, I made sure I let a car's width on the outside to him. I went into Turn 1 and I was ahead, I was ahead going into turn two, then all of a sudden he was on top of me."

Asked if Verstappen could have backed out of the corner, Hamilton replied: "Absolutely. Exactly the same scenario that happened in turn four, where I went around the outside, I was in exactly the same position, but I gave way. And that's racing.

"He just didn't want to give way today, he knew when he was going into turn two what was going to happen, he knew he was going over the kerb but still did it. We'll speak to the stewards and we'll see."

Daniel Ricciardo was ecstatic after McLaren claimed an "insane" one-two at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

McLaren driver Ricciardo started in second and overtook pole-sitter Max Verstappen into turn one at Monza, going on to claim his first Formula One win since 2018, when he drove for Red Bull.

This latest success ended a wait since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix for the Woking-based McLaren team to top an F1 podium, while Lando Norris following Ricciardo home in second represented their first one-two since 2010 in Canada.

A collision between championship leader Max Verstappen and title-holder Lewis Hamilton that forced both out of the race brought out the safety car, and Ricciardo never looked like surrendering first place from there.

"Can I swear? I want to swear! About – time," said Ricciardo.

"I mean obviously it [the start] worked well for me [in Saturday's sprint race] and I knew, to be honest, even if we got the start it was never a guarantee we'd lead the whole race.

"I was able to hold firm out front in the first stint. I don't think we had like mega speed, but it was enough to keep Max behind. There was safety cars and this and that, but to lead literally from start to finish, I don't think any of us expected that.

"There was something in me on Friday. I knew there was something good to come. I've just been a sandbagging S.O.B. the whole year. Thirds, fourths, fifths – you might as well just win, so that's what I did!

"Honestly, the August break was good just to reset. I felt better the last three weekends. To not only win but to get a one-two, it's insane.

"For McLaren to be on the podium is huge, let alone a one-two. This is for 'team papaya'. I'm, for once, lost for words."

Norris was ordered not to attack Ricciardo and admitted he would have liked to have been the one topping the podium, though he was happy to settle for a career-best finish as runner-up and look forward to chances to triumph in future.

"First of all, a big thanks to everyone, all the fans, all the team. We've had a pretty awesome weekend," said Norris.

"Four years ago, I joined the team and we've been working towards this and we got a one-two finally. A good step for us and I'm happy for Daniel and me of course getting P2, so I'm happy for the team.

"Of course [I wanted the win]. You've been in that position where you want to go for it, but I'm here for the long term, I'm here for the team. It could've ended up like the other two [Verstappen and Hamilton] ended up.

"I'm just happy. I'm happy finishing second, I'm happy for Daniel in first place. I'll have my chance in the future, so it's all good."

Daniel Ricciardo ended his and McLaren's long wait for a Formula One victory after a collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton sent the title rivals out of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. 

Ricciardo's last win had come in Monaco in 2018 when he was at Red Bull, while McLaren saw one of their drivers top the podium for the first time since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris followed his team-mate across the line as McLaren claimed a famous one-two – their first since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix – after Verstappen and Hamilton scarily crashed out midway through the race.

Although neither championship contender was able to finish and the incident was to be investigated after the race, Verstappen still increased his advantage in the drivers' standings by two points this weekend having finished second in the sprint race.

Valtteri Bottas, who was classified third on Sunday after a five-second time penalty for Sergio Perez, won the sprint race but started at the back of the race grid after taking a new power unit, so Verstappen lined up on pole alongside Ricciardo.

McLaren's straight-line speed was expected to make them contenders in the race and Ricciardo took the lead into turn one, with Hamilton going off track and returning to fourth after making contact with Verstappen at the second chicane.

Verstappen laboured behind Ricciardo and his hopes of victory were seemingly dashed when he was stationary for 11.1 seconds during his first pit stop, and he was alongside Hamilton when the reigning champion emerged from his stop at the start of lap 26.

The Dutchman looked to sneak down the inside at turn two but caught the kerbs and his car went airborne, landing on top of the Mercedes and sending both into the gravel.

A safety car was deployed and Ricciardo led the race competently, with Norris ordered not to challenge him for the victory, ensuring a memorable and long-awaited result for McLaren.

 

Magisterial McLaren

By taking the lead on the opening lap and controlling the race until he pitted, Ricciardo had already led more laps for McLaren than the team had managed since Hamilton's departure at the end of the 2012 season.

Bad blood developing

They had already clashed at Imola and Silverstone this season, but this time contact between Verstappen and Hamilton resulted in both drivers failing to finish. The Briton accused Verstappen of pushing him wide when they collided on the opening lap, while the Red Bull driver had a similar complaint following their race-ending crash.

Ghastly day for Gasly and AlphaTauri

After the elation of winning his first F1 race at Monza in 2020, Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri's day this time could not have been any different. He started from the pits after a crash in the sprint race but retired early on, while Yuki Tsunoda was unable to start due to a mechanical issue.

Lewis Hamilton has predicted an "easy win" for championship rival Max Verstappen in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix and is focused only on trying to "limit the damage" caused by his disappointing showing in the sprint race.

Mercedes driver Hamilton was made to pay for a poor launch in Saturday's half-hour 18-lap race as he slipped from second down to fifth, behind Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen and winner Valtteri Bottas.

With Verstappen starting from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking a penalty for a power unit change, each driver moves up a place, meaning Hamilton will start in fourth and Verstappen in pole position.

Victory in the sprint race – just the second to have ever been staged after the inaugural event at Silverstone in July – also meant Red Bull's Verstappen extended his championship lead over Hamilton from three points to five.

And seven-time world champion Hamilton fears that gap could grow wider come the end of the main event in Italy, with the Briton's main aim being to finish ahead of McLaren pair Ricciardo and Norris in second place.

"We lost a lot of points," he told Sky Sports. "I've got to try and figure out how I can get by the McLarens tomorrow, and try to limit the damage. 

"It's not the outcome we wanted and we can't afford days like these, especially when it is this close in the championship.

"You saw the pace of the Red Bull. I don't know if Max was quicker than Valtteri but they're so fast, and now he's on pole, so it should be an easy win for him."

 

Verstappen was considered an outsider for the sprint but comfortably finished in second, though the Dutchman is taking nothing for granted heading into Sunday's race.

"I expected we would lose points on Saturday, but I have increased the lead a little," he told De Telegraaf. "Every little bit helps, of course. But it can also quickly turn around. I know all about that.

"I don't expect it to be a straightforward and easy race – Valtteri coming from the back, Lewis P4, they have a lot of pace, so we'll see what we can do against them."

Bottas' triumph came in the same week it was confirmed he will switch from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo next year, having been dropped in favour of George Russell.

The Finn also led the way in the traditional qualifying session on Friday and his sprint race victory never looked in doubt as he retained first place throughout.

With the elation of finishing first comes some disappointment for Bottas, however, as he always knew he would be starting the main event from the back of the grid due to Mercedes' decision to add a number of new power unit elements to his car.
 
"What can I say, it's been a perfect weekend so far and now I have a grid penalty," he said. "That happens, but it's good to see we have good speed from the car here, good pace, and I'll be fighting tomorrow, going as high as I can.

"For sure it's annoying. We've done good the last two days, with good performances and then you kind of reset completely for the day after and you start from the back.

"Those are things that are out of my hands, so I won't waste too much energy or be too negative about it because there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

"The only thing I can do is try my best and go full gas tomorrow. At least I got a few points – every point counts for me personally and for us as a team."

Lewis Hamilton will start the Italian Grand Prix in fourth after being made to pay for a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at Monza, which saw Valtteri Bottas come out on top.

Mercedes driver Hamilton started in second but dropped to fifth early on and only managed to recover one place in the half-hour 18-lap race.

Bottas took control of the sprint – just the second ever after the inaugural event at Silverstone in July – and finished in front of Max Verstappen to take three points.

However, the Finn will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking a penalty for a power unit change, meaning that Verstappen moves into pole position.

With his second-placed finish, Verstappen also extends his World Championship lead over Hamilton by two points, while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top three.

"I feel good. It feels like it has been a while to finish first in a race," Bottas told Sky Sports.

"Unfortunately I'm starting from the back tomorrow but the speed is there, so I'll be fighting and coming as high as I can. Today, I enjoy and it was a clean race. We had a good pace. All good.

"Tomorrow is not going to be easy, that's for sure. The train of cars with DRS, it's not easy but obviously strategy-wise, still a free choice of tyres for the start, so let's see if we can do something."

The race got off to a frantic start as Pierre Gasly, who triumphed on this circuit last year, crashed out on Turn 1 after clipping Ricciardo  and losing control of his AlphaTauri.

The safety car was deployed for the next three laps and McLaren pair Ricciardo and Lando Norris were able to successfully stay in front of Hamilton.

Hamilton did not have a chance to attack Norris, though he did at least stay clear of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the Ferrari duo finishing sixth and seventh respectively.

Valtteri Bottas capped off a busy week by recording the fastest time in Friday's qualifying session at the Italian Grand Prix.

It was confirmed on Monday that Bottas will end his five-season association with Mercedes at the end of 2021, with the Finn to join Alfa Romeo.

George Russell will replace Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate, but before that there is still a world title for Mercedes to fight for, and they secured a one-two ahead of Saturday's sprint race at Monza.

Bottas registered a time of 1:19.555 to finish just 0.096s quicker than defending world champion Hamilton, with current championship leader Max Verstappen rounding off a disappointing session in third place.

It means Bottas will start in pole for Saturday's sprint, which will decide the grid placings for Sunday's grand prix.

Speaking after the hour-long session, Hamilton – who trails Verstappen by three points – said: "Every point counts. Congratulations to Valtteri [Bottas], he did a mega lap.

"It was looking good for us up to then but he went quicker and I couldn't match it.

"We've lost the championship [in the past] by one point. These sprint races can help. The Italian fans are so beautiful, it is good to see them and good to be back here. What an amazing circuit."

Bottas, meanwhile, is looking to capitalise on his efforts heading into the weekend.

"That qualifying lap was nice and it feels good when you get a nice lap in," he said.

"It was good fun and I feel relaxed now everything is sorted for the future. The car has been so good and next year will be exciting for me and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm expecting to get maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job I can on Sunday."

A frustrated Verstappen reflected on a challenging day for Red Bull, though the Dutchman is confident of improving over the course of the event.

"For us this track is always going to be difficult," Verstappen said. "We struggled a bit in free practice but recovered quite well so we're happy to be third and I hope for the race we can be a bit closer."

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo sealed fourth and fifth on the sprint race grid for McLaren, while Pierre Gasly followed before the two Ferraris, with Sergio Perez and Antonio Giovinazzi completing the top 10 - Sebastian Vettel failing to make it out of Q2.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:19:555
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0:096secs
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:411secs
Lando Norris (McLaren) +0:434secs
Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0:44secs
Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:705secs
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0:907secs
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:955secs
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:056secs
Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1:253secs

George Russell is determined to maintain a positive relationship with Lewis Hamilton as he prepared to join Mercedes "on level terms" with the seven-time world champion.

Such equality will not be reflected in their pay packets yet, but Russell is adamant he is joining the Silver Arrows to race for wins, saying he has "high aspirations" ahead of his close-season switch from Williams.

The 23-year-old will follow Valtteri Bottas in partnering Hamilton in the Mercedes ranks, after the Finn took over the drive from Nico Rosberg.

The rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg was at times a fraught one, which has been the case between many great drivers in motorsport history.

But Russell says that for the sake of Mercedes making progress, it is essential the drivers start on a positive and respectful note, which is where he believes they are at present.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, where he will be driving for Williams, Russell addressed the importance of avoiding friction in a team.

"Yes, I think Mercedes have had clear experience of a sort of poor dynamic within the team and they've made it absolutely clear that they don't want a repeat and I think, on a personal level as well, I don't want that either," Russell said.

"I think it’s important for team-mates to work together, to push the team, and… next year, it's a new car, new regulations, there's no guarantees who is going to have the fastest car so it's our job as drivers to push that forward and I'd say as well, Lewis and I are at very different stages of our career, which I think also helps.

"And I have huge respect for him; being so much younger and looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot. I don't see there being any issues at all."

Russell, quoted on the official F1 website, signalled that he saw his role at Mercedes not as being the second driver, deferential to the established leader, but as somebody who would receive equal treatment.

He said: “[I'm] definitely going in on level terms and that was made very clear to me.

"I think Mercedes have always been respectful in that regard, giving both the drivers the best opportunity, and obviously, naturally I believe in myself, and I have high aspirations, but equally I know how tough it's going to be.

"I think Lewis and I have got a really great relationship, we're at different stages of our careers, and we've got one goal next year which is to develop the car, push it forward and make sure that we, as two drivers, give ourselves the best chance of having the fastest race car and the only way we're going to do that is by working together to develop that."

The Monza weekend features a sprint race on Saturday to determine grid placings, rather than the familiar qualifying session, and Hamilton will again be going in search of a 100th grand prix victory on Sunday.

He has surprisingly won just one of the last nine grands prix, and the 36-year-old has been deposed again from top spot in the drivers' championship by Max Verstappen.

Next season, perhaps Russell will also be part of the title picture. Hamilton is relishing the arrival of his younger British compatriot.

"I think new fresh blood in our team is going to be great, obviously, because I'm the oldie there!" Hamilton said.

"I think that definitely will energise the whole team, knowing they have a new youngster coming through who's super-hungry, driven and will be pushing the team forwards."

Mercedes confirmed the worst-kept secret in Formula One this week as they announced George Russell will drive for the Silver Arrows.

Russell will take the seat of Valtteri Bottas, who is set to join Alfa Romeo after failing to mount a drivers' championship challenge during his time with Mercedes.

A product of the Mercedes junior driver programme, Russell earned his spot with Mercedes through a series of impressive performances for Williams, while he was also praised for his display filling in for future team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.

But how do Russell and his predecessor compare? Stats Perform looks at the numbers from their respective careers to assess whether Russell can be an upgrade.

Bottas too often the bridesmaid

Bottas has sprayed the post-race champagne plenty of times already this season. He has claimed seven podiums in 2021 but has not been on the top step. Indeed, with six third-place finishes and one second-place, Bottas has collected the most podiums without winning in the campaign so far.

That is reflective of Bottas' career with Mercedes. Unlike the man he succeeded, Nico Rosberg, Bottas has never truly been a threat to Hamilton despite the dominance the team has enjoyed.

The Finn has finished second 29 times in his career, more than any other driver who has failed to win the championship. Only Rubens Barrichello can match him. Since 2017 when he joined Mercedes from Williams, Bottas' total of 45 second and third-places finishes is more than any other driver.

And when he reflects on his Mercedes tenure, Bottas will in part have to look back on a number of missed opportunities. Rene Arnoux (11.1%, 2 of 18) and Nelson Piquet (20.8%, 5 of 24) are the only drivers to in F1 history to claim a lower percentage of victories from pole position than Bottas (29.4%), who has qualified fastest 17 times but gone on to win the race on just five occasions.

 

George growing in stature

While it can be argued Bottas has struggled to get the best out of what has been, for the most part, the clear top car on the grid, Russell has this year taken a Williams car that pales in comparison to what the team produced during their glory years beyond expectations.

Though his second-place at the Belgium Grand Prix was secured in part because the weather meant only two laps could be completed behind the safety car, his reward for a brilliant qualifying performance made him the first Williams driver to claim second since Lance Stroll in 2017.

Russell has elevated Williams from backmarkers to regular residents in the midfield, reaching Q2 of qualifying in 12 of 13 attempts in 2021. He had reached that stage nine times in his previous 37 qualifying appearances.

Even when the Williams car was the worst in the field in 2019, Russell still had the edge over Robert Kubica in qualifying. He qualified ahead of his team-mate in all 21 grands prix, becoming the first rookie driver to achieve that feat.

Bottas had the edge at the Sakhir Grand Prix when Hamilton was absent, beating Russell to pole, but the Brit was only denied victory as a puncture handed the win to Sergio Perez.

If he can avoid such misfortune going forward, Russell's track record with Williams this year indicates he could provide Hamilton with stiff competition in qualifying and on raceday.

George Russell said he is "absolutely buzzing" for next season's Formula One world championship after he agreed a move to Mercedes.

It was confirmed on September 6 that Valtteri Bottas would be ending his Mercedes stint after five seasons with the team, joining Alfa Romeo for 2022 on a multi-year deal.

Bottas has served as the second-seat driver to Lewis Hamilton, helping Mercedes to four constructors' titles.

However, with the Finn now joining Alfa in the wake of Kimi Raikkonen's impending retirement, Mercedes have signed up Hamilton's fellow Briton Russell from Williams.

"Looking ahead to next season, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely buzzing," Russell said in a statement released by Mercedes.

"It's a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I'm under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it's going to be a steep learning curve.

"For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team.

"Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022."

The 23-year-old, who has signed a long-term contract with Mercedes, has spent the last three seasons with Williams and has achieved one podium finish in his Formula One career to date.

However, that came in contentious circumstances at this season's Belgian Grand Prix as Russell was awarded second after only two laps had been completed in sodden conditions.

When Hamilton returned a positive positive coronavirus test before the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Russell stepped in to replace him, finishing ninth.

Russell revealed he is excited to become a team-mate of Hamilton's.

"I've looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts," Russell said of the seven-time F1 champion.

"The opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off the track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being."

 

Russell was on the Mercedes young driver programme in 2017 and won that season's GP3 Series championship before he became Formula Two champion the following year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Woolf claimed Russell and Hamilton will provide a formidable team over the next few seasons.

"We are very happy to confirm that George will have the opportunity to take the next step in his career and join Mercedes," Woolf added.

"He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1.

"Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.

"I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years to come.

"It's a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced."

Lewis Hamilton has described Valtteri Bottas as the best team-mate of his career following news the Mercedes driver will be heading to Alfa Romeo.

Bottas, 32, has won nine races and helped Mercedes to four constructors' championships since joining the team back in 2017.

The Finn is now due to take the place of the retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo, with George Russell expected to line up as Hamilton's new team-mate with the Silver Arrows in 2022.

Bottas will bring plenty of experience to Alfa Romeo, having twice finished as runner-up to Hamilton in the drivers' standings and also secured 54 podiums in 92 starts for Mercedes.

Reigning champion Hamilton says Bottas is a greater driver than he realises and has savoured sharing a garage over the past five seasons.

"I'm immensely proud to have worked alongside Valtteri for the last five years," he wrote on social media.

"Together, we've been part of a team that has delivered four constructors' championships, and we've motivated one another to keep pushing through the ups and the downs.

"He has been the best team-mate I've had the pleasure of working with. Your speed and resilience has been impressive but where you truly stand out to me is the human being you are and gentleman.

"You are greater than you know and I know there's a bright future ahead for you.

"Thank you Valtteri for all your support and amazing contributions to this team. You will be missed. I wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Let's finish off strong and get that 8th for the team."

Max Verstappen feared Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were leaving Red Bull behind before Formula One's mid-season break, but the tables have turned and now the Dutchman wants to pull further clear.

Verstappen won five of the first nine races in 2021 to take control of the title race, only to then earn only five points across the next two races – three of them from sprint qualifying at Silverstone.

It meant Hamilton entered last month's break with a six-point advantage as he seeks a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship.

Red Bull regrouped, however, and Verstappen has claimed consecutive wins in Belgium, the country of his birth, and his home nation the Netherlands.

After his pole at the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend, the 23-year-old had complete control of the race at Zandvoort, able to hold off Hamilton and become the first Dutch driver to win at home.

Red Bull again showed greater pace than Mercedes, with Hamilton feeling the gap has widened since the season's resumption.

"I'm giving it everything. We're giving it absolutely everything," Hamilton told a post-race news conference.

"Even since the first race, these guys have just had such a strong car all year. We're trying as hard as we can.

"We had a couple of races where we looked like we were just about on par with them or just slightly ahead, but there's only been a couple of those.

"Then they took a big leap, and it's been difficult. You can't really overtake in a lot of these places we've been to, because we are so closely matched.

"There's nothing really more I can say – we just have to keep our heads down, keep working, keep pushing.

"We are ahead in the team championship, which is great, but of course we need to pick up some speed if we want to win races in future."

Verstappen explained this improvement was in response to Hamilton's performances in Great Britain and Hungary.

"For me, they had pole position at Silverstone, even though of course it didn't count as pole position, and they were ahead in Hungary, where they definitely had more pace than us," Verstappen said.

"Of course, Hungary was a crazy race with what happened, with the wet and the start, so I think you shouldn't look at stats.

"You should look at the realistic pace that there was and not look always at the race result, because I think definitely they would have won Hungary if everything went normal.

"That's why I really thought in the break, I was like, 'We really need to speed things up, because otherwise they're going to run away with it'.

"I think we did, we did pick it up a bit, [but] I feel like we still need a bit more.

"It's heading into the right direction, but there are quite a lot of different kind of tracks coming up, so it will definitely swing both ways. We just have to keep on it, keep pushing and keep bringing new bits to the car."

One area in which Hamilton has noted Red Bull progress all year long is with their Honda power unit, which made Verstappen "a rocket off the start" at Zandvoort.

"They've made a big, big step forward this year with their engine," Hamilton said. "You saw it last year, they weren't the greatest at starts.

"They've improved their power – just the whole power unit's massively better this year on all aspects for them.

"Naturally, their driveability and their starts... they're the quickest starters this year, I think, overall. We've got some work to do in lots of different areas."

Hamilton still could have won on Sunday, he felt, but Mercedes would have had to be "perfect".

"I think today we probably needed everything to be perfect to even have the slightest chance of getting past them through a strategy," Hamilton said.

"Pit stops needed to be on point, strategy needed to be on point, traffic also, but none of those three were ideal today."

Max Verstappen revelled in living up to the hype after becoming the first home winner of the Dutch Grand Prix. 

On a fine weekend for the Red Bull superstar, Verstappen reclaimed the Formula One world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton as he made history at Zandvoort. 

Already one of only two Benelux drivers to triumph in the region, the Dutchman coasted to victory to celebrate in front of a euphoric orange-clad crowd. 

"I've never seen a reaction like that in all my career, to any driver," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports. 

Verstappen, who passed 1,000 laps leading in his F1 career en route to finishing 20.932 seconds clear of Hamilton, said over the cheers of his noisy supporters: "As you can hear already, it is just incredible. 

"The expectations were high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil that, but I'm so happy to win here, to take the lead as well in the championship. 

"It's just an amazing day with the whole crowd. It's incredible." 

This was Verstappen's seventh victory of the year – all of which have come in Europe, where he had only five prior triumphs. 

"It's definitely a very good day," he said. "The start was very important – I think we did that well. 

"Then, of course, Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us, but we countered them all the time really well. We can be really pleased with the whole team performance today." 

Hamilton pitted three times in all, eventually settling for the fastest lap as Mercedes' strategy failed to make up the deficit to a faster Red Bull car. 

The Silver Arrows' premier driver was one of just three men on the grid born when F1 last visited Zandvoort in 1985. 

It now becomes only the fifth circuit Hamilton has raced at in F1 without winning, but he enjoyed the experience. 

"What a race, what a crowd. Honestly, it's been an amazing weekend," Hamilton said. 

"Max did an incredible job, so congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, flat out, pushed as hard as I could, but they were just too quick for us." 

Max Verstappen sprinted back to the top of the Formula One world championship with a historic home win at the Dutch Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton questioned Mercedes' scrambled strategy.

Verstappen had claimed a precious pole position at Zandvoort, where the tight confines of the circuit make overtaking extremely difficult.

So it proved on Sunday, even as Mercedes sought various different paths to glory.

Hamilton pitted twice and appeared to intimate he would like to stop again, but the sheer pace of Verstappen's Red Bull kept him in the clear, becoming the first Dutch driver to win in his own country.

It was comfortable from the first corner, where Verstappen moved across to block Hamilton before racing away into the distance, soon passing 1,000 laps led in F1.

Hamilton pushed hard before stopping, yet Verstappen responded immediately and gained 0.9 seconds in the pit lane.

With Valtteri Bottas starting from third, Mercedes were at least able to slow Verstappen for a time by having their second man hold the race up for around two laps.

But Verstappen passed Bottas in front of the grandstand to the delight of the orange-clad crowd and quickly again opened up a gap to Hamilton that had closed to under a second.

With that deficit only increasing, Mercedes gambled and brought Hamilton in again to make use of his second set of medium tyres, yet he returned to the race in traffic among the back markers, meaning any advantage was minimal as Verstappen again followed his rival in – although having to switch to hards.

Red Bull retained control of the race, which Mercedes finally conceded, calling in Hamilton for a third time to claim the additional point for the fastest lap – still not enough to keep Verstappen off the summit.

'We've gone too soon'

Sergio Perez's miserable performance in qualifying meant he spent his Sunday attempting to close on the midfield, leaving Verstappen alone at the front.

Meanwhile, Mercedes had two men in contention, and Toto Wolff outlined plans for a split strategy.

It was Hamilton who stopped early in Mercedes' first tactical manoeuvre and, when that did not work, the Silver Arrows soon called the defending champion in again – another failed move that frustrated Hamilton.

"We haven't got an advantage," he said. "We've gone too soon on this. There was still so much life left in that last tyre and we rushed it."

More Russell regret

George Russell was bidding to become the first Williams driver to earn back-to-back podiums since Bottas in 2014, although simply collecting points in a third consecutive race was a far more realistic objective after his crash in Q2.

Even that proved beyond the Briton, though. A five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane all but ended his hopes.

There may be news to lift the spirits in the coming days, with an announcement from Mercedes regarding their 2022 line-up anticipated, but this was a weekend to forget.


IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +20.932secs
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +56.460
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1 lap
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +1 lap
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1 lap
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1 lap
8. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1 lap
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1 lap
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1 lap

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 224.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 221.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 123
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 114
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 108

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 345
2. Red Bull – 333
3. Ferrari – 182
4. McLaren – 170
5. Alpine – 90

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