Max Verstappen regained the lead of the Formula One world championship but the Red Bull star seemingly wanted a tougher test in Turkey.

It was Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas - who had started from pole position after Lewis Hamilton's 10-place grid penalty for an engine change - who triumphed in a damp Istanbul on Sunday.

However, Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez completed the podium, with the former situated inside the top three for much of the race.

In difficult conditions, Verstappen explained how it was too risky to push the tyres early, conceding Bottas' car seemed to have more speed.

Asked what the trickiest part of the race was, Verstappen joked: "To stay awake!"

He added: "No, it was just all about managing the tyres, so you were never pushing to make it to a certain amount of laps and then you'd box for another set, happy to be on the podium."

Bottas, meanwhile, celebrated a first victory of the season.

"I think from my side, I have to say, one of the best races I've had, ever," said the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season.

"Apart from one little slide, everything was under control. But like I said before the race, the car has been really good in every condition, I had really good confidence in it, could really control it.

"It's not easy to choose the strategy here with the conditions, when to stop, when to switch tyre and everything, but I'm glad with how everything went.

"When there's only one dry line, it doesn't need much to go off. A difficult one, it feels like a well-earned victory."

Bottas' jubilance was in stark contrast to the frustration of his team-mate Hamilton, who had to settle for fifth place after a late call to pit by Mercedes.

Hamilton is now six points behind Verstappen in the championship race heading into the United States Grand Prix.

"It's been close the whole year and I'm sure again in Austin it’ll be a good battle with Mercedes, so we just have to keep on pushing, keep on trying to improve and then we'll see where we end up at the end," said Verstappen.

"So far this season has been really good."

Lewis Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix, helping Max Verstappen take over the Formula One championship lead in Istanbul.

Hamilton had claimed pole in qualifying but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, meaning Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas started in first place.

It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to ensure his first win of the season.

With Verstappen claiming second, it was Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions that proved crucial in the title race.

Well in the hunt for a podium place at the time, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in by Mercedes on the 51st lap.

Yet the decision to switch to intermediate tyres did not pay off, with Hamilton left furious with his team, stating: "Why did you give up that place?”.

While one half of the Mercedes garage will be left pondering their decision, the other was celebrating a flawless drive from Bottas, who endured a miserable race in Turkey last year.

Behind Bottas, it was a fantastic outing for Red Bull, with Verstappen securing a six-point lead over Hamilton in the championship standings and Sergio Perez completing the podium places.

Hamilton ultimately finished fifth, holding off Gasly but unable to gain ground on Leclerc, who missed out on the top three after pitting late on himself.

Perez and Hamilton do battle

Hamilton thought he had nipped ahead of Perez heading into lap 35, with the pair going wheel-to-wheel for five corners in a fantastic tussle.

Though Hamilton had the faster acceleration, Perez pushed at Turn One to regain the place and even though the Red Bull driver subsequently pitted, he had done enough to keep the seven-time world champion at bay and hand Verstappen a real boost.

Alonso hits out at Gasly

Fernando Alonso made a strong start in Istanbul, but he found himself spinning off the track on the first corner after a clip from Pierre Gasly.

By the time he rectified the situation, Alonso had dropped from fifth to 15th. Gasly, for his part, explained that he got "sandwiched", though the Frenchman was nevertheless handed a five-second penalty that cost him a place in the top five.

Lewis Hamilton is refusing to write off his chances of another Turkish Grand Prix win despite serving a 10-place grid penalty after qualifying fastest.

The Mercedes superstar had to hand over pole position to team-mate Valtteri Bottas following an engine change this week.

It means Hamilton, who comes into Sunday's race two points ahead of Max Verstappen, must start from 11th, denying him a 102nd pole at a 31st different circuit.

Only one of his 100 Formula One victories have come behind the front three rows – starting from 14th in Germany in 2018 – although one of his two triumphs from sixth came at this event last year. That was the sole example of a Turkish GP win from beyond the front row.

"I was already third at the end of Turn 1 last year, so that made a bit of a difference," Hamilton told Sky Sports on Saturday. "But it's a much, much different weekend, a much different track grip.

"My eyes are still solely set on winning the race; it's going to be very hard from 11th but not impossible. We're just making sure we'll deliver maximum attack tomorrow."

Bottas, the beneficiary of Hamilton's switch, acknowledged Saturday could not have gone any better for Mercedes.

"Obviously, as a team result, it was as we planned," he said. "Lewis, with his penalty, now gets the minimum penalty he can, and I'm on pole, so it should be good."

But Bottas insisted he was not instructed to slow down in order to allow Hamilton to secure the fastest time, having him start from 11th instead of 12th.

"No, I wasn't asked to slow down, and I was definitely going for it," said the Finn, who will leave for Alfa Romeo at the end of the season.

"I started to struggle a bit with the front end in the last sector, so I just had some understeer in Turn 12 and 14. I could feel I was losing a bit of time.

"I probably used the tyres a bit earlier in the lap. I was fully going for it, for sure."

Valtteri Bottas will focus on making the most of starting the Turkish Grand Prix from pole position, and not on the fortunes of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas just missed out on setting the fastest time in Istanbul on Saturday, with championship leader Hamilton claiming top spot.

However, Hamilton will start in 11th due to a penalty incurred from an engine change heading into the weekend, meaning Bottas is promoted to first on the grid.

Seven out of the eight winners in Turkey have come from the first grid line, with the only exception coming last year when Hamilton triumphed from sixth place.

Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen will start in second place and has a real chance to regain the championship lead, as he trails by only two points as it stands – the finest margin after 15 races of a season since 2006.

Asked where his priorities would sit heading into Sunday's race, Bottas said: "I'll focus on my own race tomorrow, I think that's the way to go when you're starting in front and try to keep up a good pace."

Of the session, the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of 2021, said: "It was good. Not easy conditions, especially Q1 was a bit on the edge with damp parts and still Q3, the first corner was a bit damp but also Turn 3 and 4. But also some good laps.

"As a team result, that's really gone to plan. Lewis with his penalty gets the minimum penalty he can, and I'm on pole, so that should be good."

Hamilton is anticipating a tough ask to challenge for a podium place.

"It was a really tricky session in general," Hamilton said.

"There were still some damp patches and getting the temperature in the tyres for the first lap wasn't easy, but a really great job by the team, so happy with the performance in terms of getting us out at the right time. Tomorrow's going to be difficult but I'll give it everything."

Hamilton claimed his 100th race win last time out in Russia, and he added: "It's not the easiest overtaking at the moment, and we're all on the same tyres as well. I imagine tomorrow's going to be difficult to move up. You saw in the last race what happened with Max once he got behind sixth place or something and vice versa for me also.

"We've got the long straight down the back, we'll see what we can do, hopefully we can give the fans here a good race."

Despite spinning off the track at one stage in the session, Charles Leclerc recovered to take P4, and the Ferrari driver will start in third place behind Verstappen, who was pleased with his performance after a difficult Friday practice.

"It was quite tricky at the beginning with the conditions, but compared to yesterday we actually managed to turn it around quite well," said Verstappen. He is hunting his eighth win of the season, which would also see him equal Nigel Mansell as the driver with the second most victories with a Honda engine (13), behind the late Ayrton Senna (32).

"The laps overall were quite good, even if we lost a bit down the straight on the last, we have to look into that, but of course it was not the lap I needed to fight for pole," Verstappen added.

"Overall I'm very happy. We'll try to pick up as many points as we can."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22:868 *
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0:130
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:328
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:397
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:458
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0:609
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0:838
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:086
9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:437
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1:500

*Hamilton will serve 10-place grid penalty

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.

 

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

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."

Alfa Romeo have announced Valtteri Bottas will leave Mercedes to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen on a multi-year deal from next season.

Bottas has raced for Mercedes since 2017, winning nine races across that period and helping the Silver Arrows to four constructors' championships.

However, the 32-year-old's future has been the subject of much speculation in recent months and it has now been confirmed he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2021 season.

The Finn's exit paves the way for George Russell's likely graduation to Mercedes to partner fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton from next season onwards.

Bottas will bring plenty of experience to Alfa Romeo, having twice finished as runner-up to Hamilton in the Driver Standings and also secured 53 podiums in 92 starts for Mercedes. 

"A new chapter in my racing career is opening," he said in a statement on Monday. 

"I'm excited to join Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN for 2022 and beyond for what is going to be a new challenge with an iconic manufacturer.

"Alfa Romeo is a brand that needs no introduction; they have written some great pages of Formula 1 history and it's going to be an honour to represent this marque. 

"The potential of the setup in Hinwil is clear and I am relishing the opportunity to help lead the team forward up the grid, especially with the new regulations in 2022 giving the team a chance to make a leap in performance.

"I'm grateful for the trust the team has put in me and I cannot wait to repay their faith: I'm as hungry as ever to race for results and, when the time comes, for wins. 

"I know Fred [Vasseur] well and I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of the team I am going to work with, building relationships as strong as the ones I have at Mercedes.

"I am proud of what I have achieved in Brackley and I am fully focused on finishing the job as we fight for another world championship, but I am also looking forward to the new challenges that await me next year."

The news of Bottas' arrival comes after Raikkonen announced last week he is to retire at the end of the season. Alfa Romeo have yet to announce who will partner Bottas next year.

Bottas will reunite with Alfa Romeo team principal Vasseur after the pair previously worked together at ART in F3 in 2009 and 2010, and in GP3 in 2011.

Vasseur said: "It is a pleasure to welcome Valtteri to the team and we are looking forward to our journey together. With him, we bring to Hinwil a strong team player with experience at the sharp end of the grid.

"Valtteri has been an integral part of a team that rewrote the history books and he has four constructors’ world titles to his name: he is the right driver to help Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN make a step forward towards the front of the grid."

Toto Wolff has revealed only paperwork is preventing Mercedes from announcing their 2022 driver line-up, with George Russell expected to join Lewis Hamilton.

Much of this season has been dominated by talk around the second Silver Arrows seat, with the incumbent Valtteri Bottas under pressure from Russell.

Bottas finished third at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to move up to third in the drivers' championship, but Russell claimed his first Formula One podium in the previous race at Spa.

The Williams man – a junior Mercedes driver – is now expected to make the step up, with Kimi Raikkonen's imminent retirement potentially opening space for Bottas at Alfa Romeo.

Alex Albon, who drove for Red Bull in 2019 and 2020 and remains on their books, has been linked with Russell's Williams seat.

Asked after Sunday's race if Mercedes' next move could be confirmed as soon as next week, at the Italian Grand Prix, team principal Wolff told Sky Sports: "Yeah, I think there's a pretty good chance – at least 50-50. The reason for waiting is the signature on the paper."

First, however, Mercedes still have a fight on their hands this year, just ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' championship but with Max Verstappen leading Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

Red Bull's superior pace was evident at Zandvoort, where Verstappen became the first Dutchman to win his home event.

"When [the other team] have the quickest car on track, whatever you try on strategy is difficult," Wolff said.

"Credit to Max, credit to Red Bull, they were really faultless today."

Of Monza, the Mercedes boss added: "I think [it will be] good. It's so close together, and here Max was the quickest, his home track, you see the crowds.

"Monza is maybe going to be a bit of a different environment. We feel that we are still in the run for the championship."

A Belgian Grand Prix washout only increased the intrigue in the two biggest battles in Formula One this season ahead of a return to Zandvoort.

The Dutch GP is back on the calendar for the first time since 1985 – when only three drivers on the current grid had been born.

There should be more racing this week than at Spa, where rain wrecked the weekend, and plenty of drama is in store.

The two biggest beneficiaries from the two-lap procession last time out were Max Verstappen and George Russell.

Verstappen closed to within three points of Lewis Hamilton thanks to his position on pole, while Russell claimed a first career podium as he bids to beat Valtteri Bottas to the second Mercedes seat.

Existing Silver Arrows stars Hamilton and Bottas will aim to respond on Sunday, although time may have run out for the Finn to make his mark.

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen just pipped Russell to pole on Saturday at Spa but could not have known then how crucial that final dash would prove.

Sunday's race was delayed and delayed by awful weather, finally starting under the safety car only for a red flag to bring the drivers in once more.

With two laps fulfilled, it was enough to declare a result, giving Verstappen a precious win and Russell an improbable podium.

Until the Hungarian GP, immediately prior to the mid-season break, Russell's only F1 points had come in Hamilton's Mercedes as a reserve last season.

But an eighth-placed finish was followed by his best result yet, capping a great weekend for Williams, who also had Nicholas Latifi in the points for a second straight race.

Bottas was at Williams, alongside Felipe Massa, the last time they had two drivers do that back in 2016, but the team are eager to see Russell now get his chance at Mercedes.

Toto Wolff confirmed in Belgium the call had been made on their 2022 driver, and Williams team principal Jost Capito told Channel 4 of Russell: "I do not want to hang on to him.

"As he, the driver, can win the championship, he deserves a car that can win the championship, and he can do that in the Mercedes.

"And I am convinced he will come back in a couple of years and win the championship with us."

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE NETHERLANDS

Some racing would be nice, and Hamilton and Bottas will not be the only men out to make amends.

Lando Norris' crash in qualifying cost him dear as he was unable to recover on race day, finishing 14th to continue a mini-slump after retiring in Hungary.

Focus will again be on the top two and on Russell, though.

With Williams having collected more points from their past two grands prix (20) than their previous 71 (15), he will be eyeing another unlikely challenge.

Russell could become the first Williams driver to claim consecutive podiums since Bottas' three in a row in 2014.

"Obviously off the back of last weekend in Spa, everyone just wants to get racing again and put on a show for all of the supporters at the circuit and for those watching around the world on TV," he said.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Return to form for Ferrari? – Back when Zandvoort was a regular on the F1 calendar, Ferrari registered more wins (eight), fastest laps (10) and podiums (24) than any other team at the Dutch GP.

Max out to make history – Verstappen could become the first Dutch driver ever to celebrate a win in his own country in F1. It would be only the third home Benelux win after Verstappen's triumph in Belgium and Jacky Ickx's 1971 Dutch GP success.

Red Bull front row regulars – After Spa, Red Bull have as many pole positions this season (six) as in the rest of the hybrid era combined. Another would take them level with Lotus on 47 all-time, tied fifth.

Hamilton hunting milestones – Still one win shy of 100 in F1, victory would also see Hamilton become the first driver to 4,000 points and give him his 175th podium.

Another to tick off – Hamilton has wins (29) and pole positions (30) at the most different circuits as he prepares to tackle his 34th. Meanwhile, fellow Zandvoort debutant Fernando Alonso has earned points at each of the prior 32 tracks at which he has appeared.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 202.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 199.5
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 113
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 108
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 303
2. Red Bull – 291
3. Ferrari – 163
4. McLaren – 163
5. Alpine – 77

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