Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have "a lot of work" to do to match Red Bull and Ferrari after a disappointing Saudi Arabian Grand Prix performance.

The seven-time world champion was knocked out following a shaky Q1 session on Saturday, and he began from 15th on the grid and ultimately came home 10th in Jeddah, saying it was a "gutting" outcome.

Hamilton could have finished higher were it not for pit-stop confusion amid virtual safety car conditions a dozen laps from the end, while George Russell drove a sedate race to finish fifth.

Both were well off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, who locked out the front two rows in qualifying and then the podium as Max Verstappen got off the mark for the season with the win.

Speaking afterwards, Hamilton felt little had been done to improve the Mercedes car since Bahrain owing to the short turnaround, and said the pace of his vehicle remains a serious concern.

"Not much has changed really since the last race. It's only been a few days," the Briton said.

"What I know is that today, I couldn't keep up with the Haas at the end. The power they have, they came sling-shotting past me when I overtook [Haas driver Kevin] Magnussen earlier on in the race."

However, Hamilton, who drove to a P3 in the season-opener last weekend after both Red Bull cars suffered mechanical failures late on, believes he has the crew to help turn things around.

"We've got a lot of work to do for sure, but I know we've got a great team, and we'll just keep our heads down and try to improve," he said on Sky Sports.

Hamilton added: "It's gutting but we need to keep fighting, it's all we can do."

Team principal Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes' performance was a grim reminder of how far off the pace they are so far, saying: "Today’s race was the reflection of where we currently stand.

"The overall picture is sobering, and it's clear that we need to continue working hard if we wish to deliver a stronger performance in Melbourne."

Hamilton faces a two-week wait in which to help fine-tune his car before the F1 season resumes with the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019.

Max Verstappen hailed the race pace of his Red Bull after snatching victory in a gripping tussle with Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman edged out the Ferrari of Leclerc to deny the Monte Carlo racer consecutive wins after his victory in Bahrain, where Verstappen failed to finish.

Verstappen passed Leclerc for the lead with just a handful of laps to go on Sunday after sitting behind him all race, initially in third and then second after Sergio Perez dropped down the field.

It meant the 24-year-old earned his first points of the season as he aims to become a two-time world champion, and speaking afterwards, Verstappen admitted he was glad to have got off the mark.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the Dutchman said. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game.

"They were really quick through corners, and we were really quick on the straight. The tyres were wearing out quite quick.

"You could see by the end we had a little bit more pace. I tried to get by, it wasn't easy, they were playing smart tricks in the last corner, but eventually I managed to get ahead.

"Even after that, he was constantly in the DRS. [I'm] really happy we finally kick-started the season."

Leclerc, who had looked poised for his second win as many races, took time to congratulate his opponent and point to the thrill of the jostling for first place.

"It wasn't enough today, but my god, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this. It was fun.

"We had two very different configurations. We were quite quick in the corner, but slow in the straights. It was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straight. He did a great job, it was a fun race."

The Ferrari driver felt the race only reinforced the respect the pair have for each other, adding: "It's always been there, especially when you finish a race like this on a street track.

"We've been pushing like I've rarely pushed before, we take risks. Of course there's respect."

Max Verstappen put the frustrations of Bahrain behind him with a superb drive to edge Charles Leclerc for victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver and reigning world champion picked up his first points of the F1 season after coming out on top in a pulsating battle with his Ferrari rival.

It marked a return to the podium for the Dutchman after a late mechanical failure denied him a top-three finish at last week's season opener in Sakhir.

Leclerc seized the lead early on from Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez amid a safety car procession, following a crash by Williams' Nicholas Latifi, and looked poised for back-to-back wins after victory in Bahrain.

But amid a thrilling final stretch at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Leclerc was caught on the main straight heading into lap 47 by Verstappen.

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz came home in third, to leave pole-sitter Sergio Perez fourth, while Lewis Hamilton, who started 15th following a dreadful qualifying session on Saturday, fought through the grid for a points finish in 10th.

After a tumultuous build-up to race day on and off the track, an uncharacteristically sedate start saw the grid mostly hold position in the opening moments.

Verstappen made one of the few jumps, getting the edge on Sainz down to Turn 1, but he was otherwise unable to gain early ground on Perez and Leclerc until Latifi's crash facilitated a reshuffle at the top.

Having maintained a one-second-plus advantage over Verstappen after taking the lead, Leclerc was forced to fight tooth and nail to keep himself ahead of the Red Bull man.

But with just four laps to go, he could not hold on to his slender lead and the Dutchman passed to notch up those first points of his title defence.

Sergio Perez expects to be even quicker in Sunday's race than he was during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Perez took pole position for the first time in his career by going two hundredths of a second faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Q3.

Carlos Sainz was fastest in Q1, Q2 and after the first runs in the final session, but the Spaniard had to settle for third on the grid, ahead of reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Perez, who looked set for a podium in the season-opening race in Bahrain until technical issues forced him to retire on the final lap, suggested there is more to come from the Red Bull duo.

"We've been focusing more on race pace than qualifying," Perez told a news conference.

"We've felt that we've given away some qualifying performance to gain it in the race, but obviously we're going to see [on Sunday].

"I expect these two [Leclerc and Sainz] are going to be very strong, but I really hope that we can have a strong race."

Leclerc took the win in Bahrain ahead of Sainz, and he feels is in a good position to make it back-to-back victories at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

"I think it's very strange because we're actually quicker with the used tyres than the new tyres, and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for the next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window," said Leclerc.

"But overall, I think for the race, I'm quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident."

Ferrari's Sainz was looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel with the Red Bulls, with the stage set for the drama to begin from lights out.

He said: "I expect an exciting start. Honestly, Checo [Perez] in front, Max behind, Red Bulls on the dirty side, us on the clean side but at the same time here in this tarmac, there's so much grip, clean or dirty side I don't think makes much of a difference.

"I think it's just going to be an exciting race. And I look forward to it. I think it's great for Formula One to have all four drivers just battling it out there. And I think we all have good respect for each other."

Mick Schumacher will not contest the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following his terrifying crash during qualifying on Saturday. 

Haas driver Schumacher hit the concrete barrier at Turn 12 at 170mph during Q2, resulting in a red flag that halted the session for almost an hour. 

The 23-year-old was removed from the car and deemed to have no injuries following an assessment at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit's medical centre, though he was transferred to King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital for precautionary checks. 

Haas later confirmed Schumacher would not take part in the race on Sunday and the team would only run Kevin Magnussen's car. 

"Hi everyone, I just wanted to say that I'm ok," Schumacher posted on Twitter.

"Thank you for the kind messages. The car felt great ... we'll come back stronger."

Team principal Gunther Steiner said: "The best thing is that Mick has apparently no injuries. He's in the hospital right now and being evaluated by the doctors, so he is in good hands at the moment. 

"There is a possibility that he'll have to stay for observation overnight at the hospital. Based on these facts and where we are, we have decided not to field his car tomorrow." 

Magnussen will start in 10th after reaching Q3 for the second successive race. 

Sergio Perez brought an end to his long wait for a first Formula One pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, cutting short Ferrari's early-season dominance.

The Scuderia had looked set to continue their outstanding form, potentially locking out the front row in a hectic qualifying session that was delayed for an extended period following a terrifying crash for Mick Schumacher, son of former Ferrari superstar Michael.

Schumacher hit the concrete barrier at Turn 12 at 170mph, although he showed no signs of injury when he was eventually pulled from his Haas, heading to hospital for precautionary scans.

That incident came in the middle of Q2, with Lewis Hamilton having sensationally bowed out in Q1, leaving Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to battle with Red Bull duo Perez and Max Verstappen.

Defending champion Verstappen struggled to stay in touch, and it had appeared as though Sainz might be the man celebrating a first pole when he set the benchmark in Q3.

But he was passed by team-mate Leclerc and then Perez in his 220th grand prix, marking the longest wait for a driver before qualifying fastest, with ex-Red Bull man Marc Webber (131) the previous record-holder.

With Sunday marking 11 years to the day since Perez's first entry, he said: "It took me a couple of races, no?

"What a lap, unbelievable. I could do 1,000 laps and I don't think I could beat that one. It was unbelievable.

"We were not expecting too much from qualifying, we were focusing mainly for the race, so hopefully we get [the win] tomorrow."

Earlier, there had also been a red flag in Q1 following a crash involving Nicholas Latifi, after which Hamilton could not recover from a slow start.

His third time was his fastest but enough only for P15, where he soon fell below Lance Stroll to bow out in Q1 for the first time since the 2017 Brazilian GP and the first time on pure pace since the 2009 British GP.

Mercedes struggled to explain the result, as George Russell ran fourth fastest in that initial session, and Hamilton would not use the distraction a day earlier – when practice was halted due to a missile attack near the track – as an excuse.

"I just struggled with the balance of the car," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "It's not where we want to be."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 1:28.200
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.025s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.202s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.261s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.868s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.904s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.947s
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.983s
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.388s

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton was surprisingly eliminated in Q1 during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday. 

It was the first time Hamilton was knocked out of the first session in a dry qualifying since Brazil in 2017, though on that occasion he crashed. The last time he exited in Q1 on pace alone was at the 2009 British Grand Prix. 

The session was red flagged after Nicolas Latifi crashed but the Briton was twice too slow to break the top 15 and took on fuel for an additional lap. 

Although Hamilton managed to improve upon his time, it was only enough for P15, with Lance Stroll subsequently knocking him down into the bottom five. 

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate George Russell advanced to Q2 in fourth. 

Formula One team principals have explained how they were reassured of their safety in extensive talks following a missile attack near the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The attack on an oil depot prompted an explosion that delayed FP2 in Jeddah on Friday.

F1 confirmed later on Friday and again early on Saturday the race would be going ahead, having met with the teams and heard their concerns before Saudi government authorities and security agencies offered "full and detailed assurances that the event is secure".

Facing the media ahead of FP3, team principals elaborated on these discussions, with Haas chief Gunther Steiner revealing: "For me, the assurance is if the authorities have got their own families here and they feel safe, I can be safe as well.

"They explained very credibly what [system] is in place. The technical details I am not in a position to explain that, because I'm not qualified enough. But there is stuff in place, which protects us, obviously. I'm not trained in that one.

"The credible explanation of what they do, and that their families are here with them, that gives me the assurance that I'm safe and that my team is safe."

Aston Martin's Mike Krack added: "We had quite a few high ranked authorities yesterday, and they explained to us the situation, they explained it to us in a very credible way.

"This made all of the 10 of us that were in the room confident that they take their responsibility very seriously."

Andreas Seidl of McLaren said: "In the end, we need to trust F1, and the authorities here, put safety always first for every single member of the paddock here.

"I have full trust that this is happening."

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead after "extensive discussion" and a drivers' meeting amid concerns over a missile attack an oil depot near the circuit.

Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem called an emergency meeting on Friday after a depot not far from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was engulfed in flames.

The second practice session was delayed by 15 minutes as drivers and team principals met with officials. 

They held another meeting that reportedly ran into the early hours on Saturday morning after F1 stated that the race would be staged.

F1 provided a further statement ahead of qualifying on Saturday, saying the event will still go ahead as planned.

"Formula One and the FIA can confirm that following discussions with all the teams and drivers, the 2022 FIA Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will continue as scheduled," the statement said.

"Following the widely reported incident that took place in Jeddah on Friday, there has been extensive discussion between all stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and security agencies who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is secure.

"It has been agreed with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future."

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) said it was only natural the drivers should seek assurances over security.

"On seeing the smoke from the incident, it was difficult to remain a fully focused race driver and erase natural human concerns," a GPDA statement read.

"Consequently we went into long discussions between ourselves, with our team principals, and with the most senior people who run our sport.

"A large variety of opinions were shared and debated and, having listened not only to the F1 powers but also to the Saudi government ministers – who explained how security measures were being elevated to the maximum – the outcome was a resolution that we would practice and qualify today and race tomorrow.

"We therefore hope that the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be remembered as a good race rather than for the incident that took place yesterday."

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is to go ahead as planned despite an attack on an oil facility close to the Jeddah circuit.

Smoke was seen billowing into the sky for miles around during Friday's practice session, with Yemen's Houthi rebels claiming responsibility for the explosion.

The incident occurred at an Aramco refinery roughly 12 miles from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which staged the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December last year.

Friday's second practice session was delayed briefly as drivers and team principals were summoned by Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali, but it was later confirmed the event has not been cancelled.

An F1 statement read: "F1 has been in close contact with the relevant authorities following the situation that took place today.

"The authorities have confirmed the event can continue as planned and we will remain in close contact with them and all the teams and closely monitor the situation."

Saudi Arabia has been fighting the Houthi forces since March 2015 in response to the latter ousting Yemen's previous president.

 

Lewis Hamilton is eager to get his teeth stuck into another Formula One title challenge as soon as possible, but his Mercedes continues to struggle in 2022.

New regulations in F1 this season, introduced to encourage "closer racing", have already shaken up the grid – to Hamilton's detriment.

Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari one-two at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez would both have finished ahead of Hamilton, too, had Red Bull not suffered a dramatic double retirement.

The seven-time champion has been honest enough to acknowledge his W13 car lacks the pace of its rivals, but that does not mean he is happy to take a back seat.

"I don't currently feel too stressed, but I want to get in the fight as soon as possible," Hamilton said ahead of FP1 at the Saudi Arabian GP on Friday.

"The last race was an amazing feeling for us, given where we thought we were going to be, to come out with the result that we did.

"But we can't rely every weekend on that to happen, so we need to move fast, and move forward as fast as we can."

Hamilton would likely have been frustrated then by his performance in the first practice session later in the day, running in an alarming ninth as Leclerc and Ferrari again set the pace.

While Red Bull are confident they have mastered the issues that prompted their Bahrain DNFs, there is little evidence so far of Mercedes getting to grips with the porpoising that has caused Hamilton such problems.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell was down in 15th on Friday, but he at least appears a little more patient in his first year with the team.

"In Formula One, things change incredibly quickly," Russell said. "We are very fortunate that the calendar is not very dense at the start of this season, and even if it's a couple of months, we're only six or seven races down out of a 23-race season.

"If you come out of the blocks incredibly fast after the summer break, even as Mercedes and Lewis did last year, you're still in with a shot.

"So, we need to be in almost damage limitation mode at the moment, pick up the pieces where there's an opportunity, and don't throw away unnecessary points."

Mercedes have not failed to take either a pole position or race win through two grands prix of a season since 2013.

Meanwhile, Russell could become the second Silver Arrows driver – after Michael Schumacher in 2010 – to complete three races without reaching the podium, having deputised for Hamilton once while with Williams.

Red Bull say they have located and fixed the problem that forced the team into a double DNF at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez saw their respective challenges falter in the final laps after both suffered mechanical malfunctions.

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, along with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, instead made up the podium as their rivals were left empty-handed.

But ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Red Bull revealed they have identified the issue as a lack of fuel pressure late on, and have now rectified the problem.

"The correct amount of fuel was in both cars, but a vacuum prevented the pumps from drawing fuel and delivering it to the engine," said a team spokesperson.

"We've taken the necessary steps to correct this issue and we expect no problems this weekend."

Red Bull will look to get their first points of the season on the board in Jeddah, where Verstappen took a second-place finish behind Hamilton last year.

The race will proceed without Sebastian Vettel, as the Aston Martin driver and four-time world champion continues to recover from COVID-19.

Sebastian Vettel will miss this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he continues his COVID-19 recovery.

The Aston Martin team announced on Friday that Vettel would be replaced for a second successive race by Nico Hulkenberg.

He missed the team's deadline to show he was race fit, after it was disclosed on Thursday that Vettel had yet to test negative for the coronavirus.

Four-time world champion Vettel had been hoping for a significant upturn in his recent fortunes this season, but it has begun in disappointing fashion for the German.

He had to sit out last weekend's opener in Bahrain after testing positive, and now he will have to watch from afar again as racing goes ahead in Jeddah.

Reserve driver Hulkenberg finished 17th in Bahrain, with Lance Stroll 12th, as the Aston Martin team failed to finish in the points.

Aston Martin said in a Twitter statement on Friday: "@HulkHulkenberg will practice, qualify and race alongside @lance_stroll. Despite lack of mileage in the #AMR22, Nico coped well in Bahrain and we are sure he will do likewise in Jeddah. We expect Sebastian Vettel to be fit for the #AustralianGP."

Vettel, 34, won his world titles consecutively from 2010 to 2013, and he joined Aston Martin ahead of the 2021 season.

The Australian Grand Prix weekend runs from April 8-10 in Melbourne.

Sebastian Vettel could be forced to sit out a second race after Aston Martin said he remained positive for COVID-19 and had not yet travelled to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion had been hoping for a significant upturn in his recent fortunes this season, but it has begun in disappointing fashion for the German.

He had to sit out last weekend's opener in Bahrain after testing positive for the coronavirus, and stand-in Nico Hulkenberg could be pressed into action again in Jeddah.

Vettel, 34, won his world titles consecutively from 2010 to 2013, and he joined Aston Martin ahead of the 2021 season.

Aston Martin said Vettel would be given until Friday to return a negative test, otherwise the team will plan without him for this weekend's racing.

The team said on Twitter: "Sebastian Vettel has not yet returned the required negative COVID test to fly to the #SaudiArabiaGP. Nico Hulkenberg will be in Jeddah to deputise for Seb if necessary. We will delay our final decision until Friday to provide Seb every opportunity to race."

Hulkenberg finished 17th in Bahrain, with Lance Stroll 12th, as Aston Martin failed to finish in the points.

The new Formula One season is only a single race old, but Charles Leclerc has already matched the achievement of one title-winning former Ferrari star.

Now, ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Leclerc is out to try to repeat a Michael Schumacher feat and set a championship charge in motion.

The Monegasque driver led a Ferrari one-two in Bahrain last week, holding off Max Verstappen before the defending champion's mechanical woes ensured Carlos Sainz joined his team-mate on the top two steps of the podium.

It was the Scuderia's first race win since the 2019 Singapore GP, another one-two when Leclerc finished second to Sebastian Vettel.

The Leclerc-Sainz one-two was Ferrari's 85th in F1 – a record – and signalled a return to form, coming at the end of a weekend they had dominated, with the race winner also qualifying fastest to start from pole position.

Heading into the rest of the season, that should certainly provide Leclerc with encouragement, given the last Scuderia driver to start the season with a win from pole was Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. That was the most recent season in which a Ferrari driver won the title.

Indeed, should Leclerc convert pole again in Saudi Arabia, he would become the first Ferrari man to do so in the first two races of a campaign since Schumacher in his final title-winning season in 2004.

Leclerc and Sainz each discussed their title ambitions following Bahrain, so last week's runner-up will hope to go with his colleague again.

Ferrari have never had a one-two in each of the first two grands prix of a season, while Raikkonen and Felipe Massa in 2008 were their last duo to achieve such a result in consecutive races at any stage of the year.

Meanwhile, if Leclerc hopes to follow in Schumacher's footsteps, Mercedes rival George Russell does not.

Schumacher in 2010, then in the twilight of his legendary career after coming out of retirement, was the only Silver Arrows driver to this point fail to make the podium in his first three races with the team.

A pit-stop error and a puncture saw Russell finish his Mercedes debut in ninth when deputising for Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir GP, while he was fourth behind his new team-mate last week.

The Red Bull woe that boosted Ferrari also rescued that three-four result for Mercedes, but team principal Toto Wolff said: "It's too early to look at the championship as it stands. If you look at the pecking order today, it seems a long shot to even be in contention for any of the championships.

"If I look at [Bahrain] as a single race weekend, we probably scored the maximum of points that we could have. And we need to take it from there.

"Every weekend counts and, at the moment, it's singular events because, realistically, when you're third on the road, you can't think about winning it."

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