Lewis Hamilton does not expect to take an engine penalty at the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed that a fourth engine of the season could be fitted to Hamilton's car ahead of the race at Istanbul Park on Sunday.

That would take the championship leader over the permitted allowance and leave him starting at the back of the grid.

Hamilton does not envisage that happening this week, but is not entirely ruling it out.

He said in a press conference on Thursday: "At the moment, I still have number two and three.

"So I don't envisage us having to take one at the moment, but that could change. Who knows?"

Hamilton leads Max Verstappen by only two points in a thrilling title battle and the 36-year-old says off-track interests help him to switch off as the pressure builds.

"I genuinely find it easy because I have these other outlets so I'm able to blow off steam in lots of different ways," Hamilton said.

"The most important thing is always to be able to come back into the racing environment fresh, recovered, positive and not really having any worries.

"So I think I’m able to arrive and just love doing my job. So we just take it one weekend at a time and one race at a time, just always trying to elevate.

"I've spent plenty of time speaking to the team about how we can advance and improve but I've been doing this a long time so I’ve found ways personally [of coping].

"What works for me personally won’t work for everyone but I've found a way that I know how I tick, what gets me on course and what can put me off course, so I stick to them."

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will renew their thrilling Formula One world title battle at the Turkish Grand Prix this week.

The Mercedes driver leads his Red Bull rival by two points, the smallest margin between the top two after 15 races since 2006, when Fernando Alonso had the same narrow lead in his famous scrap with Michael Schumacher.

This week will mark five years since Nico Rosberg claimed his last pole position and race victory. 

He is the last person other than Hamilton to win the drivers' championship, but the Briton knows he still has much more work to do if he is to stop Verstappen from ending that run with seven races to go.

The latest instalment of the rivalry will take place at Istanbul Park in an event which returned to the F1 calendar after a nine-year absence last year.

Verstappen is looking to win his eighth race of 2021. Apart from when Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in 2016, every other driver who has won that amount of races has gone on to be crowned champion.
 

LAST TIME OUT

It was an incredible race in Russia, with Hamilton ultimately claiming his 100th Formula One victory, having failed in his previous four attempts to reach the milestone.

Lando Norris had secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, but he spun off the track with three laps to go after opting not to pit for new tyres as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and McLaren were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish after coming so close to following up team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's win in Italy with one of his own.

The drama in front meant Verstappen made up important ground to finish second, an unlikely bonus after he started from the back of the grid when Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Carlos Sainz claimed the final spot on the podium, with Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Alonso rounding out the top six.
 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN TURKEY

Turkey is one of just four out of 34 F1 venues where Hamilton is yet to claim a pole position, but he has won here twice, including a famous win in the wet last year that clinched his seventh championship.

His chances of repeating the feat this week may depend on whether he opts to receive a grid penalty for taking a new power unit, which Toto Wolff has suggested could be a possibility.

Should Hamilton triumph, he will equal Felipe Massa's F1 record of three victories in Turkey.

But there are other teams getting involved at the front which could provide an added complication to the championship contenders.

McLaren won in Monza and almost repeated the feat in Russia, with they and Ferrari – who have recently introduced an upgraded power unit with a new hybrid system - picking up some impressive results.

Having served his penalty and impressively limited the damage last time out, though, it is Verstappen who goes into the race weekend as narrow favourite for victory.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Grid position key - Seven out of eight winners in Turkey have come from the first row of the grid, with the only exception last year when Hamilton won from sixth place. Only in Germany three years ago has the Brit recorded a F1 victory from a worse starting position (14th).

Fine track for Ferrari – The Italian team have won most races in Turkey (three), achieved eight podiums, set three fastest laps and taken three pole positions.

Red Bull run – With eight wins this year, the team are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight).

McLaren impress – Having set two straight fastest laps (Ricciardo in Italy and Norris in Russia), the team could set three in a row for the first time since 2011 when Hamilton and Jenson Button were their drivers.

Hamilton could level up – If the seven-time world champion wins without being on pole, he will equal up his record of wins to pole at 101 for each category –  this would be the first time they have been the same since 2007, when he went 2-2 at the United States Grand Prix.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

Lewis Hamilton could start the Turkish Grand Prix at the back of the grid on Sunday as Mercedes are considering taking an engine penalty for the Formula One championship leader.

Seven-time F1 world champion Hamilton leads Max Verstappen by two points in the battle for the title after winning a dramatic Russian Grand Prix to secure his 100th race victory last month.

Verstappen worked his way through the field from the back to finish second after the Red Bull driver had a new power unit fitted in Sochi

Hamilton may face the same challenge at Istanbul Park as his team mull over whether to fit his car with a fourth engine of the season, which would take him over the permitted allowance.

Asked if the Silver Arrows could take the penalty this weekend, team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports News: "It's a possibility."

Although the German added: "When, and how, is not yet decided."

Wolff says it is vital Mercedes avoid putting Hamilton in a position where he is danger of not finishing a race.

"Most important is that you don't DNF because of a reliability issue," said Wolff.

"You can cope with swings, whether you finish second, third, I think that is okay, the championship is going to go long. But if you don't finish...

"So we are looking at the parameters of the engines, making sure we don't suffer from any reliability problems."

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas started in 17th in Sochi after taking an engine penalty.

Lando Norris believes he can benefit from the heartbreak of dramatically missing out on victory at the Russian Grand Prix.

Norris was three laps away from claiming his maiden Formula One victory but was denied by rain in Sochi last Sunday.

He spun off the track after the decision was made that he would stay out on slicks, eventually finishing seventh as Lewis Hamilton claimed a 100th F1 win.

The McLaren driver was left devastated having come so close to his first win but says he will learn from the painful experience.

"It's not just something people say, it definitely is true [that tough experiences make you stronger],” Norris told F1.com.

"You do learn probably more from the hard moments. You always learn things. Even if you win a race, you can learn things.

"Definitely when you have to make these split-second decisions, when it's not an easy decision, and you need so many different factors involved, there is a lot of things you can learn.

"I feel like I have a long career in F1, it's nice in a way to get it out early, so that when these things arise in the future, or in my future years in F1, I’ll be able to react better."

The 21-year-old expressed his gratitude for the support he has received since the race in Russia.

"I got quite a few messages and not necessarily from drivers. Obviously everyone within McLaren and a lot of people even from different sports," he added.

"It was more of a time when people see it as an emotion-attached sport, rather than cars driving round in circles, as lot of people like to say.

"So I guess they saw the feelings we have as drivers, the passion we have for the sport, the desire to win. You want to do the best job you can for the team.

"I got a lot of messages from a lot of people which in some ways help. There were a lot of 'Your time will come!' But no matter what, they definitely helped."

An inaugural Qatar Grand Prix has been added to the Formula One calendar this year and a 10-year deal has been agreed for the race to be staged from 2023.

The Losail International Circuit will stage a first grand prix on November 19-21, filling a space left in the schedule left by the cancelled round in Australia.

It will be the 20th race of this season, with only the Saudi Arabian GP on December 3-5 and the Abu Dhabi GP on December 10-12 to come after the event in Qatar.

Losail has hosted the MotoGP series since 2004.

An F1 statement said: "There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed for 10 years.

"The step from the gesture to be helpful to F1 in 2021 to a long-term strategy was short and simple, and the vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the FIFA World Cup in 2022 was the driving force behind this long-term agreement.

"As part of the longer-term deal, discussions will continue regarding the location for the grand prix from 2023 with further details to be provided at a later time."

Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, president of Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, said: "This is a very special day for Qatar motorsport and our nation's ambitions as a host of major sporting events.

"I'm very proud that we've been able to support Formula One by stepping in and hosting a race in our country in such a short time frame, while also securing a ground-breaking long-term deal with F1.

"This exciting agreement means that Qatar will be the home of both Formula One and MotoGP for the next decade, which are the pinnacle events in global motorsport.

"We have a proud motorsport history and this is the next chapter for us. Qatar will be a great destination for F1, and we look forward to welcoming all the drivers, teams, media and fans very soon."

Max Verstappen believes Red Bull made a perfect call to switch tyres as he went from last on the grid to finish second at the Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th Formula One triumph in Sunday's race in Sochi, the reigning world champion passing Lando Norris, who saw his chances of clinching victory from his maiden pole slip away when he lost control in the rain with just three laps to go.

Hamilton's win moves him ahead of Verstappen in the championship standings, but the Dutchman ensured the gap is only two points as he charged up to second.

Verstappen had started at the back of the grid after Red Bull installed a new engine to his car, though he said the key to his podium finish was a decision to switch to intermediate tyres as the rain closed in.

"I'm super happy of course to be second," Verstappen said.

"If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn't believe you. But luckily the call to go from the slicks to the inters was the perfect one I think, the right lap. Super pleased for this.

"When the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box, because the lap before, probably if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.

"So to basically go from seventh to second for us was an amazing result."

Reflecting on what Hamilton's landmark win means for the title race, Verstappen added: "It could of course have been a lot worse in terms of how many points I would lose.

"Especially also with the conditions, it's already very hard to pass. But then also today because of track conditions and whatever, the tyres were graining a lot, so you also couldn't really push or stay close to someone. All in all to come away with second here was, of course, very important."

Norris, meanwhile, was left to lament his misfortune as the win slipped from his grasp.

"I don't know where to start," said Norris, who ultimately finished seventh and took responsibility for the decision not to switch to intermediate tyres.

"Obviously unhappy, devastated in a way. I guess we made a call to stay out; we stand by that call but it was the wrong one at the end of the day.

"I made a decision just as much as the team. In fact, it was more they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. So, my decision – I thought it was the way to go.

"I think I had the confidence beforehand. I knew I was capable of doing it, I've felt capable of doing it for a while so I don't think that’s really changed. Just a bit of heartbreak.

"I felt like I did everything I could, even when it got tricky at the end."

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes still have their work cut out to beat Max Verstappen and Red Bull, despite the victory in an eventful Russian Grand Prix that took him back to the top of the Formula One standings.

Reigning title-holder Hamilton leads Verstappen in the drivers' championship by two points after claiming his 100th F1 triumph in Sochi.

Hamilton passed McLaren's Lando Norris, who was eyeing a maiden victory from pole position, to become the first driver to reach a century of wins.

Norris spun off the track while leading with three laps to go as rain caused late havoc, Hamilton's British compatriot finishing seventh as Verstappen was able to secure second place having started at the back of the grid.

"What a race the weather provided. It's taken a long time to get to 100, and I wasn't sure it would come," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"Lando did such an amazing job, he had incredible pace and is doing such a great job for McLaren. It was bittersweet to see my old team ahead, and they're doing fantastically."

Hamilton made amends having been disappointed with a qualifying performance that saw him start fourth on the grid, though he remains naturally wary of the threat posed by Verstappen.

"Going to bed last night I was not the happiest with the job I did yesterday," Hamilton said.

"I watched the replay and they were subtle mistakes but not ideal. I was so determined when I woke up this morning, and I was determined to just do the best job I could. I lost a lot of ground at the start trying to stay out of trouble.

"Max must have done a really great job to come up to second from last. We've got our work cut out.

"It would have been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn't been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic."

Lewis Hamilton collected his 100th Formula One victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after pipping Lando Norris to top spot.

Norris, who secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, spun off the track with three laps to go as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and sneak into a late lead to secure his century of race victories, the first F1 driver to achieve such a haul.

McLaren, who collected their first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish, with Max Verstappen making important ground to finish second.

Verstappen, who led the championship going into the race, had started from the back of the grid after Red Bull had a new engine installed, but he magnificently recovered to make the podium and ensure Hamilton moves into just a two-point lead.

Carlos Sainz took the lead on the first corner, with Norris, George Russell and Lance Stroll in close company.

Daniel Ricciardo, who would eventually settle for fourth, was back in fifth as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso looked to make ground on the McLaren man who was the shock Monza winner.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was climbing slowly up the grid as he overtook Valtteri Bottas and then Charles Leclerc, moving ominously through the field.

Norris' pole position looked to be paying off when Alonso and Perez had to pit, giving the 21-year-old the lead with 16 laps to go.

He had Hamilton in close company four laps later, and it appeared to be a two-car battle as the Englishmen jostled for first place.

Hamilton took the lead 11 laps later and went on to win as Norris spun out, with Verstappen coasting to his podium placing after making the smart decision to put the intermediate tyres on early.


Mercedes magic

Mercedes made the early decision to put on the inters as their rain radar suggested the wet weather was going to come before the finale.

With others choosing to stick out there and get through it, Hamilton surged into a late lead as Norris' tyres failed him, while Bottas climbed up from 17th on the grid to finish fifth to prove the Mercedes team's decision was an excellent one.

McLaren mistake

A visibly upset Norris addressed the television cameras after the race in Sochi but stood by the decision to stay out there.

The Briton battled to pole position in the adverse conditions the previous day but, for as long as Norris remains without a race win, this will resemble a missed opportunity for him and for McLaren to collect back-to-back wins after their success in Monza.


IN THE POINTS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +53.271
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:02.475
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:05.607
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:07.533
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1:21.321
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:27.224
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1:28.955
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:30.076
10. George Russell (Williams) 1:40.551

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

WHAT'S NEXT?

There is another two-week gap until the next race, which is the rearranged Turkish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton broke new ground with his 100th Formula One victory at Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

The defending champion already had the most victories in F1 history, having surpassed Michael Schumacher's 91 last season.

And Hamilton became the first driver to reach three figures as he emerged victorious in a dramatic race in Sochi, where Lando Norris spun off the track in the rain.

The Mercedes superstar badly needed this triumph, having fallen behind Max Verstappen again following the mid-season break.

Another championship this year would take Hamilton past Schumacher outright in another regard as an eight-time F1 king.

The records continue to pile up, with Stats Perform examining the numbers that make up Hamilton's latest stunning achievement.

 

CLEAR OF THE CROWD

Schumacher's 91 wins represented a daunting total until Hamilton came on the scene, with Alain Prost's 51 second on the list at the time of the Briton's breakthrough triumph in Canada in 2007.

Now Hamilton is on top and seems set to stay there for a long, long time.

Sebastian Vettel is his closest rival among active drivers, but the Aston Martin man – winless since Singapore in 2019 – is way back on 53 victories.

Hamilton also owns the record for the most wins with a single team, with 79 of his century secured in a Mercedes.

One benchmark that appears out of Hamilton's reach is Juan Manuel Fangio's remarkable winning percentage, with 24 victories from 51 grands prix giving the five-time champion a success rate of 47.1 per cent.

Among drivers with three or more wins, Hamilton's 35.5 per cent – 100 from 281 – is third, also behind Alberto Ascari (40.6 per cent).

PROFITING FROM POLE

Of course, the win was Hamilton's second F1 century, having clinched his 100th pole at this year's Spanish GP – a tally he improved with another in Hungary at the start of last month.

Of those 101, 59 have brought victories. Schumacher's 40 wins from pole put him a distant second on that particular list.

That means Schumacher is well clear still in terms of successes from further back on the grid, accounting for 51 of his wins but only 41 of Hamilton's.

After Sunday, Hamilton now has three victories from fourth, plus 27 from second, seven from third, one from fifth and two from sixth. Only in Germany in 2018, having qualified in 14th, has the 36-year-old won from behind the front three rows.

 

HEROICS AT HOME... AND IN HUNGARY

Hamilton passed up the opportunity to reach three figures at the Hungarian GP, where victory would have made him the first man to register nine wins at a single event.

He also has eight British GP triumphs, while Schumacher had the same number at the French GP.

Of course, the eight Silverstone successes mean Hamilton has the most home wins in F1 history. Prost previously held the record with six victories in his native France.

Seven British GP celebrations in the hybrid era are also unsurpassed.

The Silver Arrows great has come out on top at 28 different events and 29 different circuits – two more highs, ahead of Schumacher (22 and 23).

SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE

Having signed a two-year contract extension in early July, it appears inevitable that Hamilton will move clear of Schumacher by another measure in 2022.

The pair are currently tied with victories in 15 different F1 seasons, both achieving the feat in successive campaigns.

With five successes this year through 15 rounds, Hamilton faces a huge ask to match his 11-win mark from the past three years.

The former McLaren man has never had more than 11 in a single campaign, also finishing with that tally in 2014.

That followed his worst year in terms of wins, with just a single victory in 2013. Only in 2017 (nine) has Hamilton since dipped below double-figures until 2021.

Valtteri Bottas will start the Russian Grand Prix in 17th place on Sunday after Mercedes fitted his fifth power unit of the Formula One season.

Bottas took seventh place in qualifying at the Sochi Autodrom, a track where he had never previously qualified outside of the top four.

The Finn will start towards the back of the grid, though, due to a second penalty in as many races.

Mercedes revealed on the morning of the race: "Valtteri Bottas will start the RussianGP from P17 after taking his fifth Power Unit of the season.

"The Team has taken the tactical opportunity to add another PU into VB's pool for the remainder of the season."

Championship leader Max Verstappen, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Williams' Nicholas Latifi will also have ground to make up after they took penalties for new power units.

Lando Norris claimed a shock maiden F1 pole ahead of Carlos Sainz, while George Russell will start in third place.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is fourth on the grid, primed to regain the championship lead from Verstappen, who holds a slender five-point advantage over the Briton.

 

Lando Norris will endeavour to make the most of his "amazing" maiden pole position at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 21-year-old British driver finished quickest in his McLaren in Sochi on Saturday, edging out Carlos Sainz, while compatriot George Russell was third.

Lewis Hamilton will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll make up the rest of the front eight.

Championship leader Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid after his Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Norris, who made his Formula One debut in 2019, hopes to capitalise on a shock opportunity after a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session.

"It’s my first in X number of races, and it could be my only pole for a while. It feels amazing, especially in these conditions," Norris told a media conference.

"Another race win for McLaren would be lovely. But I don’t expect so, I think Mercedes are a long way up the road from us and Red Bull probably similar.

"I think with either conditions I can look forward to it. We can score some good points, we can have a good race, because we are in the best position possible."

Norris joked the circuit in Sochi was not ideal for his first-ever pole but is hopeful he can make a good start to the race.

He added: "Probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be pole is here, especially with the straight down to turn one, but I’m still very happy.

"We saw that the cars are in a good position, in the wet now and also in the dry. It's a long run down to turn one or turn two, so I have to look forward to that and make sure I prepare for that well."

Ferrari driver Sainz acknowledged the front two can expect to be tested by their rivals, but the nature of the track may give them some assistance.

"It’s a strange circuit, this one, because obviously race pace is important and we need to see how easy it is to overtake," said the Spaniard.

"Normally in the past it has been quite tricky. Obviously, we have the two Mercs and the Red Bull that are going to be pushing us a lot.

"They are clearly, around here, half a second to a second quicker than us, so at some point they will put pressure on us and we will need to see if we can keep ourselves ahead.

"Obviously, the target is to finish ahead of them, try to get Lando at the start – although I am starting on the dirty side, he is at least starting on the clean side – and see from there if we can race hard and have some fun at the front."

Lando Norris claimed a famous maiden pole position for McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton paid the price for a crash in the pits.

Norris went quickest in rain-soaked Sochi, edging out Carlos Sainz by six hundredths of a second, while Williams' George Russell was third.

With championship leader Max Verstappen ordered to start from the back of the grid after his Red Bull had a new engine installed, there was a chance for Hamilton to put pressure on his main rival.

However, the seven-time champion collided with the pit-lane wall and was forced to change his front wing before spinning on his final lap.

Hamilton will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll make up the rest of the front eight.

"Oh, boy. I don't know what to say," said a breathless Norris. "You never think you're going to get a pole until you get it, and now I've managed to do it.

"It was tricky. The lap before, I was, like, two seconds down and I wasn't confident we were going to improve on the previous lap, but I kept the tyres warm and risked quite a bit, I will admit, but it paid off. I'm a happy boy.

"I'm not really looking forward to [the race]! I'm not looking forward to being the first down to turn one. But you never know – it's going to set us up well. I'm just really happy."

After third practice was cancelled due to the torrential rain, Hamilton had set the fastest time heading into Q3, ahead of team-mate Bottas and Alonso.

Hamilton looked heavy favourite after clocking a new fastest time until his mishap as he came into the pits to change to soft tyres.

With time enough only for one more lap, the Briton spun and nudged the wall, leaving him unable to deny Norris a famous day in Russia as McLaren celebrated a first pole since 2012.

"Twice in the wall... that's very rare for me," said Hamilton. "I'm really sorry to all the team because that's not what you expect from a champion."

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lando Norris (McLaren) 1:41:993
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.517
3. George Russell (Williams) +0.990
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +2.057
5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +2.163
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +2.211
7. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.717
8. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +2.963
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +3.344
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +3.872

Max Verstappen faces a battle to retain his lead in the Formula One world championship standings after being relegated to the back of the grid for the Russian Grand Prix.

Red Bull have opted to install a fourth engine of the season in the Dutchman's car ahead of the race at the Sochi circuit, meaning Verstappen must take a grid penalty.

Verstappen, who leads reigning champion Lewis Hamilton by just five points, had a three-place grid sanction hanging over him following his part in a collision with his Mercedes rival in Italy.

The news is a reprieve for Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who had been demoted to the rear of the grid after the Scuderia chose to debut a new power unit this weekend.

Verstappen finished second in Russia last year, when Valtteri Bottas took the honours and team-mate Hamilton was third.

The 23-year-old has claimed seven race wins this season, with Hamilton on four.

Max Verstappen joked he "can barely sleep" after Lewis Hamilton suggested his title rival might be feeling the pressure as he fights for a maiden world championship crown.

Red Bull driver Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, where he will serve a three-place grid penalty after colliding with the Mercedes man at Monza two weeks ago.

This is the closest the top two have been after 14 races since the 2016 battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (two points).

While Verstappen is seeking his first title in what is his seventh season in Formula One, Hamilton has finished top on seven occasions, the first of those triumphs coming in 2008.

The Briton was involved in a tense battle while with McLaren the previous year and, reflecting on that experience, believes he knows exactly what Verstappen is feeling right now.

"Obviously he won't admit to it, and I'm not going to make an assumption, but I'm just saying I remember what it was like battling for my first championship," he said on Thursday.

"The pressure definitely mounted up. It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn't always handle it the best and that's to be expected.

"I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences, so I can empathise with that.

"I do believe that he will continue to get stronger, and I'm hopeful we won't have any more incidences like last time through the rest of the year.

"I never expect a driver to back down. What's important is that we just continue to race hard and fair, and I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past."

 

However, when those comments were relayed back to championship leader Verstappen, the Dutchman offered a sarcastic response.

"I'm so nervous I can barely sleep. It's so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it," he said.

"Those comments just show that he really doesn't know me. Which is fine. I also don't need to know him.

"I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there at the front, and hopefully we can do that for a very long time.

"I am very chilled. It is the best feeling ever to have a car, a great car, where you can go into every weekend and you can fight for a win."

Mercedes have triumphed at Monza every year since 2014 – no team has won more races at a single grand prix without failing – and Hamilton has the chance to reclaim the title lead should that be the case again this weekend.

"It's very, very important, as important as it can be," Hamilton said. 

Mick Schumacher has retained his seat with Haas for the 2022 Formula One season.

The 22-year-old and fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin will both be retained after impressing team principal Guenther Steiner.

Schumacher, son of F1 legend Michael, and Mazepin moved to the American outfit from Formula Two ahead of this season.

"We knew we wanted continuity behind the wheel in 2022 and I'm happy to confirm exactly that with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin competing for Uralkali Haas F1 team next year," said Steiner. "2021 has afforded both drivers the opportunity to learn Formula 1 – and as rookies – they've done a lot of that this year.

"It's been a tough season for sure with the package we've had, but at the same time they've both embraced the challenge and worked closely with the team to learn our processes and adapt to the rigours of a Formula One campaign and all that brings – both internally and externally."

Before stepping up to the big time, Schumacher won the F3 European Championship and Formula Two titles.

He and Mazepin are yet to score a point in 2021 but Schumacher is revelling in the experience.

"By being part of the Formula One field, I am living my dream," he said. "The first year together with Haas F1 is very exciting and instructive, and I'm sure I can bring all the experience I've gained into the coming year."

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