F1 LIVE – Hamilton’s Mercedes worry, Norris slams Verstappen in Saudi
F1 preview: A lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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Lewis Hamilton was unable to capitalise on Max Verstappen’s qualifying nightmare at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as the Briton continues to struggle to adjust to his Mercedes car. The seven-time world champion starts seventh on the grid for Sunday’s race despite Verstappen being knocked out in Q2 after limping back to the garage with a driveshaft issue with his Red Bull RB19, with Sergio Perez on pole.
Hamilton and Mercedes have been open about their issues with the W14 design and brought a small upgrade to Jeddah to try and fix some issues. And while George Russell managed to secure fourth place, Hamilton was way off the pace as he could not find the pace to put a fast lap together, leaving Toto Wolff scratching his head.
Lando Norris also had a session to forget and the McLaren star was furious with Verstappen during qualifying after the pair nearly collided, with the 23-year-old venting furiously over the team radio at the reigning world champion.
Fernando Alonso and Russell look best equipped to challenge Perez for the lead when the lights go out at 5pm (UK time), but with Verstappen starting 14th on the grid, the Red Bull star cannot be ruled out securing another victory. Scroll down for Express Sport’s live updates…
Hamilton denies row with trainer
Lewis Hamilton has dismissed speculation of a bust-up between himself and trainer Angela Cullen after it was announced she would be leaving the team.
The 49-year-old had spent seven seasons with Hamilton as his personal physio before the Briton announced her departure. But the seven-time world champion insists their friendship will remain and hailed her influence on his life.
“Me and Ange are good,” he said in Jeddah. “She’s moving on to a different phase in her life. We’re still super-close and we have been texting every day.
“She’s massively supportive and I’m massively supportive of her. I’m so grateful to have had her with me on this journey. She’s one of my closest friends and she continues to be.”
Verstappen backed to sift through pack
Max Verstappen has been listed as the second-favourite to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix behind his team-mate Sergio Perez, according to the latest bookmakers’ odds.
Betfair have handed the Dutchman a low price to win the race despite the fact he will start 15th on the grid.
That is a huge contrast to Lewis Hamilton, who has been only handed an outside chance of winning the race for Mercedes.
Saudi Arabian GP Winner odds (provided by Betfair)
Sergio Perez – Evens
Max Verstappen – 8/5
Fernando Alonso – 5/1
George Russell – 22/1
Charles Leclerc – 30/1
Carlos Sainz – 35/1
Lewis Hamilton – 40/1
Lance Stroll – 70/1
Verstappen backed for six in a row
Red Bull star Max Verstappen could win six Drivers’ word championship titles in a row due to the dominance he is enjoying, according to Felipe Massa.
The Dutchman has already won the past two titles and in 2022 claimed 15 wins out of 22 races. Massa, who missed out on the 2008 title to Lewis Hamilton, believes the 25-year-old could dominate F1 until 2026.
“I think that’s happening now,” the Brazilian told Germany’s Bild newspaper when asked if Verstappen was dominating in the same style as Hamilton and Michael Schumacher.
“I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get the hat-trick. And much more than that. Max can also win four, five or six titles in a row.”
Rosberg fears Mercedes woes will go on
Former world champion Nico Rosberg fears that Mercedes’ problems on the track could last for years as the team struggle to solve their pace issues.
The Silver Arrows are a long way off Red Bull’s pace and Lewis Hamilton has made his disappointment clear, with Toto Wolff promising to bring big upgrades later in the season.
But 2016 champion Rosberg thinks the issues could last longer.
“It’s such a difficult situation for them,” he said on Sky Sports F1. “Seriously, they’re so used to the great success that they’ve had, winning eight (constructors’) championships in a row.
“And now, to be in such a prolonged period of difficulty and also not making the progress – on the contrary, struggling more actually.
“Toto was pretty clear saying, ‘Okay, we’ve now realised it was a dead-end street, we have to make big changes’.”
Verstappen pessimistic after qualifying nightmare
Max Verstappen has cast doubt on whether he can fight back to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a mechanical failure in qualifying denied him the chance to fight for pole.
The Dutchman will start 15th on the grid while his team-mate Sergio Perez starts on the front row in first, and the world champion admits securing a second win of the season may be beyond him.
“I’m sure that we can move forward, I do think that trying to win the race is a bit of a stretch,” Verstappen told reporters.
“Because of the tyre management that needs to happen, everyone just seems to drive to a certain pace, but we’ll try to recover as much as we can.
“The car’s been really quick all weekend, every time I went out the car’s been working really well, I felt comfortable. And I know it’s a long season so a lot of things can happen.”
Hamilton’s different path
By Luke Chillingsworth
Lewis Hamilton may be a seven-time F1 world champion, but things may have turned out very differently if the 38-year-old got what he wanted.
Rewind the clock 30 years and Hamilton’s dream was more Barry Sheene than Ayrton Senna.
However, his fate was changed when dad Anthony purchased a go-kart after the pair had enjoyed racing remote control cars. Speaking back in 2015, Hamilton commented: “When I was a kid I wanted to race motorbikes. When my dad bought me my first go-kart I actually wanted a motorbike.
“I’m not disappointed how things have turned out but bikes were my first love I suppose. I’d also love to test a MotoGP bike just to see what it’s like. Naturally I’d know the lines but I’d love to know if I could even do it.”
READ THE FULL ARTICLE
Sargeant granted permission to race
Williams driver Logan Sargeant has been granted permission to start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday after failing to qualify for the race.
The American rookie struggled to cope with the tricky demands of the Jeddah Corniche street circuit and failed to set a lap time in his three hot laps during qualifying on Saturday, forcing the F1 stewards to make a decision over whether he would be allowed to race.
Regulations stipulate that drivers must set a time which is within 107 per cent of the time set by the pole-sitter in order to qualify for the event and the American did not post a lap time.
However, the F1 race stewards have given the green light to the youngster to take his place on the grid for Sunday’s race and he will now start from the back of the grid.
Alonso makes Verstappen prediction
Fernando Alonso believes Max Verstappen will still finish on the podium at least despite starting 15th in today’s race.
The Spaniard admits Red Bull’s pace is so strong that they will be able to sail through the field and challenge those at the front despite Verstappen’s issues in qualifying.
“I think Max will come eventually in the race,” he said. “They have this advantage – I don’t know which race it was last year that he started last, he changed the power unit and still finished P2 or even he won the race. So I think tomorrow there is no doubt that he will be in the podium, probably, minimum.”
“On pure pace, I think Red Bull is in another league and I think we have to concentrate more on the teams behind,” he said. “Ferrari will be very strong, Mercedes are strong, also Alpine they are fast here. So I think our race is just behind us.
Leclerc addresses Hamilton to Ferrari links
Charles Leclerc has dismissed speculation of a possible swap deal that would see him join Mercedes to make way for Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari.
The Monegasque has been honest about his issues with the team over the past 12 months, while Hamilton has been linked with a move away from Mercedes amid their ongoing struggles in 2023.
But Leclerc, under contract with the Scuderia until 2025, insists he is happy with the Italian team and is going nowhere.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard all these voices from outside since I’ve been at Ferrari. Maybe someone wants to destabilise us,” Leclerc told Sky Sports Italia.
“I’m in red,” he added, “and I think it’s quite obvious how much I love Ferrari, and how much I want to win with Ferrari. There’s not much more to say. For me it’s pretty clear.”
Norris blast ‘dangerous’ Verstappen
Lando Norris fumed at Max Verstappen’s “dangerous” antics which almost saw the two drivers collide during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Norris was alarmed to see a slow-moving Verstappen in his path when on a hot lap, taking evasive action to avoid a collision by decelerating and swerving onto the curb. But the 23-year-old was clearly shaken as he vented over the team radio and made his feelings clear.
“It’s dangerous what these guys are doing,” the McLaren driver exclaimed after the near-miss. “They need to use the radio or something. That could have been a massive crash.”
Verstappen called out his team for failing to notify him of Norris’ whereabouts and could be seen later apologising to the McLaren star.
Hamilton concern over Mercedes car
Lewis Hamilton has admitted he is struggling to find comfort in the Mercedes W14 after managing only eighth in qualifying on Saturday.
The 38-year-old will start seventh on the grid thanks to Charles Leclerc’s penalty, but the Briton is unsure whether he can produce his best pace in the car at the moment.
“I just don’t feel connected to this car and no matter what I do and no matter what I change, I can’t get confidence in it. I’m at a bit of a loss with it,” he told reporters.
“Maybe it will be OK for tomorrow. I wouldn’t hold my breath. I just don’t feel the car underneath me…I don’t really know what I am going to do about that.”
Hello and welcome to Express Sport’s LIVE coverage of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
It’s race day in Jeddah so it promises to be a busy day of action and news from the F1 paddock, so be sure to stick with us as we bring you live updates throughout the day.
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