Madrid put its Formula One ambitions in writing on Thursday as Spanish capital chiefs declared the city is ready to host future races.

Enrique Lopez, minister of the presidency, justice and interior in Madrid, sent a letter to Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali in which he outlined the vision.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has staged the Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, and the letter from Lopez did not explicitly state Madrid would seek to take over the hosting of that race.

The Barcelona circuit has a contract that runs until 2026.

In recent times, Valencia also staged the European Grand Prix from 2008 to 2012, while the Madrid region has not held a Formula One race since Gilles Villeneuve won in 1981 at the Circuito del Jarama.

Lopez pointed to Madrid's strengths in his approach to Domenicali, mentioning "an outstanding economic and social development in the Spanish and European contexts".

"I believe that holding in Madrid a motor racing event, which is one of the most exciting sporting phenomena of our time, would be a success for all the professionals, institutions and companies involved in the development of Formula 1. Of course, it would also be a satisfaction for the whole region and its citizens," Lopez wrote.

"That is why the government of the community of Madrid has the greatest interest in making it possible.

"In short, I would like to confirm our commitment to you and to this project, as well as our willingness to sign the appropriate agreements to promote the race and offer a great sporting and entertainment spectacle. We are ready to work with you and your team to bring Formula 1 to Madrid."

Lewis Hamilton says his fifth-placed finish at the Spanish Grand Prix felt "better than a win" after he recovered from a first-lap puncture that left him in 19th position.

Starting from P6, Hamilton suffered the puncture following contact from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on the first lap in Barcelona and suggested to his Mercedes team he should retire from the race to preserve the car's engine after rejoining at the back of the field.

But the seven-time champion produced an excellent drive after his enforced pit-stop and looked on course to finish fourth before a coolant leak allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to edge him out late on.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton considered the circumstances he was forced to overcome en route to a strong points finish.

"To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

"I was thinking it was impossible to get back into points, but the team said 'no, you're on for eighth'. I thought they were being super-optimistic.

"I'm glad we didn't [retire] and it just shows you never stop and never give up, and that's what I did.

"A race like that is like a win, and it actually feels better than a win when you have come from so far back."

Since losing out on a record eighth world title in the closing seconds of the final race of the 2021 campaign, when Max Verstappen clinched his first championship in controversial circumstances, Hamilton has endured a frustrating time.

The 37-year-old, who has only secured one podium this campaign, has been critical of Mercedes' W13 car on numerous occasions this year, calling it "undriveable" after finishing 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month. 

But Hamilton believes the team's work on the car has improved it greatly, and he suggested he could have joined team-mate George Russell – in third – in challenging the two Red Bull drivers, who secured their second one-two in three races, if not for his early problems.

"We have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better, the car is much nicer in the race," he added. "We have some improvements to make in qualifying.

"If I hadn't had that [issue], I would have been fighting with the Red Bulls."

Lewis Hamilton was "super happy" after a promising practice session for Mercedes ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell recorded two of the best three times in FP2, behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who was fastest across both practice sessions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Mercedes were also quicker than Red Bull down the straights, which has not been the case so far in a frustrating season for the team.

Russell is fourth in the drivers' standings, two places ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has not held back in his criticism of Mercedes so far this season.

But on Friday, he was in a much better mood.

"Positive," he told reporters. "Super happy with the progress, so a big, big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for not giving up and for continuing to push.

"We're not the quickest yet, but we're on our way. This is the first time that we've driven down the straight without bouncing.

"We still have some bouncing, but it's way better and [we're] starting to eke out a bit of the potential in that car.

"It's still tough out there with the car but it's much nicer than it's been before. So yeah, really grateful for those upgrades – we now need to just fine-tune them into the next session.

"Lots of data to go over to try and position the car, I think we can get it into a better place for tomorrow so that we can tackle the heels of the guys up ahead."

Toto Wolff added: "We've had a second solid Friday like we had in Miami, just we have to see when the grip keeps coming tomorrow, whether we're able to keep that kind of performance and at least be in the mix or solid in the top three.

"So, progress, but not exuberance and ecstasy."

The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting. 

After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

Ferrari set for upgrades

The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

Can Mercedes challenge?

While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

Constructors

1. Ferrari 157
2. Red Bull 151
3. Mercedes 95
4. McLaren 46
5. Alfa Romeo 31

Formula One's governing body the FIA could have taken a "different approach" to enforce the jewellery ban on drivers, even if it is right to impose the ruling.

That is the message from Alex Wurz, who is regularly involved in education on driver safety in his role as Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) chairman.

New race director Niels Wittich, who replaced Michael Masi at the start of the season, reminded drivers at the Australian Grand Prix in early April that the FIA's code prohibits drivers wearing jewellery in the car.

Wittich reiterated the same message before the Miami Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton was embroiled in a stand-off with the FIA over piercings that he has raced with for years and says he cannot remove.

The FIA prohibits wearing body piercings or neck chains in competition, but offered Hamilton a two-race grace period to remove all of his jewellery before the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton, who agreed to remove his earrings in the car for the Miami race, insisted Formula One risks taking "a step backwards" with "bigger fish to fry" in the sport.

Wurz believes the ruling, which has been in place since 2004, should be enforced, but suggested the FIA could have handled the matter in a different fashion.

"It is a rule for the right reasons," said ex-driver Wurz. "I would have probably liked a slightly different approach of how to deliver the message.

"I don't want to end up in football where there are more hands in the air and verbal abuse...you have to work together. It's a style I would have preferred in this case."

Wurz also said he could not forget a talk he attended in his younger days by Danish former driver Kris Nissen, who had a serious crash involving a fire accident at the Fuji circuit in Japan in 1988.

"He showed his body and said 'look at this'," Wurz added.

"For him the absolute most painful thing after fire, and it wasn't a long fire, was the rubber [elastic] in his normal pants being burnt into the skin. He said [it was] for years agony and pain. And it educated me.

"At this moment I said I don't want to live these consequences, only for [not] taking my pants off and putting fireproof underpants on. The same with jewellery."

Formula One next heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton was elated that a "good gamble" from Mercedes paid off and said his Spanish Grand Prix victory was an example of the "great trust" in the team.

Hamilton extended his championship lead to 14 points with a third win in four races this season despite being passed by Max Verstappen at Turn One on the opening lap.

Verstappen led for much of the race, but had to settle for second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas after Hamilton overtook him with six laps to go at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat, with Hamilton called in for a second set of medium tyres on lap 43 of 66 and returning in third place with over 20 seconds to make up on leader Verstappen.

Verstappen had only pitted once and he was reeled in by the seven-time Formula One world champion, who also had to pass Bottas before regaining the lead.

Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's record of six Spanish Grand Prix triumphs by winning the race for a fifth consecutive season and he paid tribute to his team.

"First I want to acknowledge the fans that are here," said Hamilton. "It is great to see. I saw a British flag out there, which I haven't seen for a long, long time.

"I feel great after this. I feel like I could go again."

Hamilton added: "I was so close [behind Verstappen] for so long but just managed to keep the tyres in somehow. It was a long way to come back [after the second stop] but it was a good gamble - a really great strategy from the team.

"I was about to get a shot to get past him as I pitted. I was really conflicted - 'do I come in or ignore the call'. I did what the team asked because there is a great trust between us. Remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day."

Verstappen knew it was only a matter of time before he was caught by Hamilton, who managed his tyres to perfection in another masterful drive that took his tally of F1 wins to 98.

"In a way I could see it coming," said the Dutchman, who secured another point by clocking the fastest lap after finally pitting again from second place with Hamilton easing to victory. 

"Already at the end with the softs, he [Hamilton] was faster and when he put on the mediums, he had a lot more pace. There was not much we could've done.

"Then they went for another stop and I knew it was over because I was already struggling with the tyres and you could see every lap, he was getting closer and closer. Bit of a sitting duck.

"With the cars behind, you don't want to pit in traffic, but it makes a clear advantage when there is more pace in the car. If we would have jumped for another stop, I'm not sure we would've caught up again. I tried everything I could.

"We're not where we want to be and we still need to push hard and catch up because at the moment we are a little bit slower. But compared to last year, it has been a jump for us."

Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance of the Spanish Grand Prix with a record-equalling victory as Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat.

Max Verstappen passed Hamilton on Turn One in a dream start for Red Bull after the seven-time Formula One champion had been on pole for the 100th time.

Championship leader Hamilton was not to be denied a fifth consecutive win in the race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, though, passing Verstappen on lap 60 of 66 in another masterclass from the Briton.

Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton for a second set of medium tyres on lap 43 paid off, with Verstappen having been kept out at the front and having to settle for second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton managed his tyres to perfection to extend his championship lead, as well as matching Michael Schumacher's record of six Spanish Grand Prix triumphs to make it three wins out of four this season.

A late fastest lap for Verstappen provided a small consolation but he now trails in the standings by 14 points.

Verstappen had made a brilliantly bold move to pass Hamilton on the inside, the pair coming within a whisker of making contact. Red Bull's start then got even better when Ferrari's Charles Leclerc nipped ahead of Bottas on the outside at Turn Three on the opening lap.

Verstappen retained his advantage after the safety car was deployed following Yuki Tsunoda's retirement due to a fuel pressure issue on lap eight, but a poor pit stop was a setback for the Dutchman on lap 24.

Hamilton stayed out four laps longer than his rival on the soft compounds and the Brit returned with a gap of around six seconds to make up.

The reigning champion was right on the back of Verstappen when he was called in for a second time, returning in third place behind also Bottas - who had passed Leclerc - and 23 seconds behind the leader.

Bottas allowed Hamilton to go by him on lap 52, but not before the Finn showed a reluctance to follow team orders.

Hamilton moved back in front six laps from the end, Verstappen unable to prevent him from going around the outside as the Mercedes eased away.

Lewis Hamilton is embracing the element of competition in the 2021 Formula One season after taking his 100th career pole in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton tops the standings three races in having won two of them, victories in Bahrain and Portugal coming either side of Max Verstappen's triumph at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion was involved in another tussle with his rival on Saturday, edging out the Red Bull driver to reach a notable personal milestone.

Hamilton was 0.036 seconds quicker than Verstappen at the end of Q3, with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas making up the top three 0.132s back.

The Briton is the first F1 driver to manage a century of pole positions, with his first coming back in 2007 in Canada. Racing greats Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) are second and third on the all-time list respectively.

He has managed 10 poles in five of the past six seasons, while his haul of 12 in 2016 is his best tally for a single year.

The 36-year-old has recorded 58 wins when starting from first on the grid, only failing to finish among the points on two occasions, albeit not counting for nine retirements.

And it is not only the milestone which has boosted Hamilton ahead of Sunday's showdown, but also the challenge presented by Verstappen, who sits eight points behind him in the standings.

"It's always difficult to assess in the moment but wow, I've been racing a long time and the 100 mark is something I don't think anybody and particularly me thought I would ever get to that number," Hamilton told a news conference.

"It's been so enjoyable and it's crazy that it is 100 and it felt like one of the first. That for me is even more special. There have been so many qualifying sessions, so many near misses, so many mistakes and so many moments of growth and I love how close it is between us all.

"I think that's great for the fans and I think that's exciting for me also. And also the people that are only just behind us."

For his part, Verstappen is confident he can push Hamilton all the way.

"It's difficult to predict at the moment. I think we were quite decent in the long runs but [Mercedes] looked strong," he said.

"We know that it's hard to overtake around here and to be following closely, but I'm always optimistic and positive that we can do a good job and have a good race, and I hope, of course, that it's going to be as close as today."

There was not so much joy for Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who went spinning in Q3 and could only claim eighth.

He said: "I just felt a bit weak going into qualifying, and it was just getting worse and worse throughout.

"I had a bit of an issue with my [left] shoulder through qualifying, and I was just feeling bad, all the way through it. 

"I've been with the doctors from the team, and it should be all good for tomorrow."

Lewis Hamilton could not believe how far he has come after recording the 100th pole position of his career at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion emerged triumphant from a three-way qualifying battle with Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton ended up 0.036 seconds clear of Verstappen, with Bottas just 0.132s behind in third as none of the drivers improved in their second runs of an entertaining Q3 session.

Charles Leclerc took an impressive fourth for Ferrari, with Sergio Perez having to settle for eighth in the second Red Bull after spinning in his first run of the top-10 shoot-out.

Hamilton was overjoyed to come out on top as he continues to pull out impressive results despite the improved pace of rivals Red Bull in 2021.

"I will always remember that one," said Hamilton, who leads the drivers' standings by eight points.

"Wow, I can't believe we are at 100 and it's really down to the men and women back at the factory who are continuously raising the bar and just never giving up.

"The support I have, it's been a dream for me to work with these guys. The journey we have been on, it has been immense.

"Who would have thought at the end of 2012 when we made the decision to partner, we'd be qualifying at 100? I feel very humble and grateful – and I am ecstatic it's like my first!"

Hamilton revealed some changes to the car ahead of qualifying had him worried throughout much of Saturday.

The Briton added: "We have been strong all weekend and I made some changes - I had a bit of anxiety about the changes.

"For qualifying, you're always trying to make the car better, but it is a bit of a gamble because you have to keep the race in mind also.

"We made the change and immediately I thought, 'This is the wrong one'. It was my call at the end, but it was really hard.

"The changes that we made, I had so much understeer, the car was being lazy and wouldn't turn corners the way I wanted. I was making small adjustments to get the car to turn.

"So that's why I was behind the whole qualifying. I was making small tweaks here and there to make pace but the first lap [in Q3] was the best lap of the session - which was great."

Verstappen – who topped a Q2 session that saw Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly among the eliminated drivers - was right there with Hamilton as a thrilling title battle continued.

"It was good, to be that close, we can be happy with that," said Verstappen. "I struggled in Q1 but we sorted out the balance in Q2 which was good.

"Q3 both laps were pretty decent, the second run was a little worse. It is quite gusty.

"Second for us is very good. We know they are hard to beat around here.

"To be that close, we can be happy with that – it is a long run down to turn one on Sunday, we have to make sure we get a good start and then see if the pace is there."

Bottas, who had made Hamilton wait for his 100th pole by topping the timesheet in Portugal, was competitive once again.

"That was close," he said. "Definitely was in the battle for the pole and I think the first runs in Q3 were faster ones.

"I had snap at the apex at turn 10 and lost a tenth or so, and that's the margins of the pole. With a strong package, it's going to be a good fight between us and Red Bull on Sunday no doubt."

The closest driver to Hamilton in terms of F1 pole positions is Michael Schumacher on 68.

Hamilton now has only 29 fewer poles than the rest of the current F1 drivers combined (129), while he is seeking a sixth race win in Barcelona that would the tie record held by Schumacher.

If he does it, the Mercedes star will lead the win rankings in 16 of the 32 tracks he has raced on during his illustrious career.

Verstappen took the first of his 11 career victories in Barcelona as an 18-year-old back in 2016, becoming the youngest race winner in F1 history, though Hamilton has won each of the four editions to be held since.


PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:16.741
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.036s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.132s
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.769s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.839s
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.879s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.881s
8. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.960s
9. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.269s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.406s

Marc Marquez completed just seven laps at Monday's Jerez test as he dealt with the after-effects of his crash in practice at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The six-time MotoGP champion was involved in a significant fall on Saturday for the first time since breaking his arm at the same track in the 2020 season opener.

Marquez slid off at Turn Seven in FP3, although medical checks cleared him for the rest of the weekend. He also fell in the warm-up but finished a respectable ninth in Sunday's race.

The series has remained in Spain for testing this week, but Marquez's involvement was cut short due to stiffness in his shoulder and arm.

"Today we didn't really test, just one run because on the second run my body was already locking up," the Repsol Honda man said.

"My neck and my right shoulder were stiff; it's similar to after Portimao but I was not as locked up as I was after Portugal.

"The crash I had on Saturday didn't help with my physical condition.

"I thought that maybe today when my body had warmed up it would be better, and I could try but straight away I could tell I wasn't at a good level for riding.

"We spoke as a team and decided to stop the test. We need to understand that we're improving step by step and the next target is Le Mans where we will try to improve again."

Maverick Vinales led testing with a time of 1:36.879 from one of his 101 laps, topping his qualifying effort from two days earlier.

His team-mate Fabio Quartararo, who faded spectacularly from pole on Sunday due to an arm issue, was absent.

Spanish GP victor Jack Miller and championship-leading Ducati team-mate Francesco Bagnaia completed a combined 84 laps.

Fabio Quartararo made MotoGP history at the Spanish Grand Prix after becoming the first rider to secure four consecutive pole positions at the Jerez circuit.

The 22-year-old Monster Energy Yamaha rider, who won on each of the last two occasions he clinched pole at Jerez, set an early benchmark with a time of one minute and 36.807 seconds.

He was nearly toppled from top spot by his former team-mate Franco Morbidelli, who at one point got to within 0.005 seconds of a provisional pole position. 

Frenchman Quartararo's first time ultimately would have been enough to secure pole, but he went even better with a later run.

He ended the session with a best time of one minute and 36.775 seconds to secure first spot on the front row, with a 0.057s advantage over Petronas Yamaha's Morbidelli.

"It felt really good today," Quartararo told his team's official website. "Jerez is one of the tracks that I really like. I have ridden a Yamaha four times at this track and four times I got pole position. It's quite an amazing moment, I'm really happy about this.

"But I will say that today's Q2 session was a qualifying where I was more on the limit. I thought I was going to crash in turn six and turn 13. I made a mistake in turn six, but ultimately what matters is that we got the pole position today.

"Tomorrow it's not going to be easy, but I feel prepared and that I have good potential. The medium and hard tyres are both working well, so we will use the warm-up tomorrow to decide which one we will use."

Ducati team-mates Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia will start in third and fourth respectively, ahead of LCR Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami in fifth.

Repsol Honda's former world champion Marc Marquez, meanwhile, put in a career-worst qualifying performance and will start Sunday’s race in 14th.


Provisional classification

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 1:36.775
2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) + 0.057s
3. Jack Miller (Ducati) + 0.105s
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) + 0.205s
5. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) + 0.253s
6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.299s
7. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.315s
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) + 0.330s
9. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.369s
10. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.399s
11. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) + 0.712s
12. Stefan Bradl (Honda HRC) + 0.747s

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