Hamilton pulls three points clear of Vettel

Lewis Hamilton took over as leader of the drivers' world championship for the first time this year on Sunday when he claimed a lights-to-flag victory as Mercedes dominated the Italian Grand Prix.

The 32-year-old Briton, seeking his fourth world title, made a perfect start from his record 69th pole position to lead his Mercedes teammate Finn Valtteri Bottas home for his sixth win this year, his third at Monza and the 59th of his career.

Hamilton now leads four-time champion Sebastian Vettel by three points after the German finished third, 36 seconds adrift, in his Ferrari.


Lewis Hamilton dominates first practice at Monza

Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton dominated the first practice for the Italian Grand Prix on Friday, lapping more than a second quicker than Ferrari's championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

The Mercedes driver, who will take over at the top of the Formula One standings if he wins at Ferrari's home track, lapped the fastest circuit on the calendar with a best time of one minute 21.537 seconds.

Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas made it a one-two for the reigning champions on a cloudy morning session with the occasional drop of rain with a time 0.435 seconds slower than Hamilton.

Vettel, the four times world champion who is seven points clear of Hamilton after 12 of 20 races, was third fastest in 1:22.652 with his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth in 1:22.689.

Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari fear nothing

Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari no longer have any cause to fear any of the circuits on the F1 calendar.

Arriving at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit there were some questions about Ferrari's ability to tackle the high-speed fast-flowing circuit.

Vettel answered those with a P2 on the grid and a runner-up result on Sunday afternoon.


Red Bull boss says Max won’t be tempted by Ferrari or Mercedes

Red Bull boss Christian Horner is confident Max Verstappen will not be tempted to join Ferrari or Mercedes in the near future.

Verstappen is having a season to forget after a plethora of reliability issues forced him to retire five times in seven races during the firt half of the 2017 campaign.

The Dutchman has grown increasingly frustrated with life at Red Bull as he tries to force his way into a World Championship fight, but Horner believes Verstappen knows he is at the right team to achieve his dream.

Max Verstappen

Rosberg backs Mercedes in F1’s development race

Although Nico Rosberg has hailed Ferrari's pre-season improvements, he reckons when it comes to the in-season development war it is Mercedes who will have the upper hand.

Ferrari began this year's championship with three wins in six races as Sebastian Vettel surged ahead in the Drivers' Championship.

Mercedes, though, came back fighting as they upgraded their W08.

With three wins in the next five races, compared to just one for Vettel, the Brackley squad not only put distance between themselves and Ferrari in the Constructors' standings but have narrowed the deficit in the Drivers'.

Valtteri Bottas confident of Mercedes stay

Valtteri Bottas is confident he has earned a new contract with Mercedes and is not "looking around" at other options for 2018.

The Finn replaced retired World Champion Nico Rosberg ahead of the 2017 season and has put himself in with an outside chance of winning the title with two victories for the Silver Arrows. Bottas was only given an initial one-year deal by Mercedes, but he feels he has done enough to extend his stay.

"I feel like I'm well inside the team and I've only had positive feedback, so I'm not too worried," Bottas told Auto Bild.

Sebastian Vettel holds key to F1 drivers’ market

Sebastian Vettel holds the key to the Formula 1 driver market as he decides whether to sign a new three-year deal with Ferrari or push for one.

According to reports, Vettel has been offered a whopping $138.5m to stay on at Ferrari for a further three seasons.

The German, though, it is claimed, is wanting a one-year deal which would pave the way for a move to Mercedes in 2019 when Lewis Hamilton's contract expires.

Vettel's indecision means many other drivers are stuck in limbo as they wait to see what happens at Ferrari before committing their futures to other teams.

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari offer Vettel mega R1.8bn for 3-year deal

Sebastian Vettel has reportedly been offered a three-year deal worth $138.5m (R1.8 billion) as Ferrari look to resolve the four-time world champion's future.

Vettel's current deal with the Scuderia expires at the end of the current season, prompting speculation that he may move to title rivals Mercedes.


Mercedes wants Lewis Hamilton to continue beyond 2018 season

Amid Lewis Hamilton's latest retirement rumours and his potential move to Ferrari after 2018 season, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that he is pushing the three-time world champion to continue with the team beyond 2018.

After Hamilton slashed down the driver's championship gap to one point following a victory at the British Grand Prix, the Briton had refused to rule out retirement any time soon.


Lewis Hamilton calls for patience

Ahead of his home race at Silverstone this weekend, Lewis Hamilton has called on the British fans to ‘have patience’ with him.

Hamilton cut a forlorn figure in the wake of his latest disappointment at Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The Briton was barely a speck in the distance when Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas crossed the line just ahead of Sebastian Vettel to take his second win of the season.


Ferrari ready to offer Sebastian Vettel a new contract

Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne is open to renewing Sebastian Vettel's contract whenever the four-time world champion is ready to sign.

Vettel, now in his third year with the team, is currently leading the championship by 20 points and has scored all of Maranello's six wins over the past three years.


Stroll’s private testing not fair says Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve has hit out at the private testing programme being enjoyed this year by controversial F1 rookie Lance Stroll.

“They are circumventing the rules,” Villeneuve told Le Journal de Montreal newspaper.

“It's not fair to the other drivers because he is the only one to have this privilege thanks to his money. But there should be limits to what money can buy, and I'm not alone in thinking that.”

Jacques Villeneuve

Can Valtteri Bottas handle the pressure of replacing a world champion?

Ahead of the start of the 2017 Formula 1 season, one of the biggest questions in the sport is how Valtteri Bottas will adapt to life at Mercedes.

The Finnish driver was roped in by the ‘Silver Arrows’ to replace Nico Rosberg when the 2016 World Champion announced his shock retirement.

Bottas is a highly-regarded driver, but with no F1 race wins to his name and a triple World Champion in Lewis Hamilton as his teammate (and most direct competition), the pressure he will experience this year is unlike anything he encountered while at Williams.

However, the Finn believes he can handle whatever comes his way in his time with the German marque and is confident of challenging for major honours.

Watch: EXCLUSIVE: First interview with Valtteri Bottas - our new driver!

“It would be very easy to take a lot of pressure and stress yourself, he told Finnish broadcaster MTV.

"But in Formula One I have noticed that if pressure piles up, it only does you harm.

“My goals are always so high – I set the bar really high – so I believe that if the pressure comes, it is mostly from me rather than the outside.

"I want to win races and championships and in that sense the objective is not changing.

“I have huge support from the team and that will certainly help me in every situation."

Bottas will make his racing debut in the Mercedes when the 2017 F1 season kicks off in Australia’s Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 26.

Valtteri Bottas

New McLaren chief rates Fernando Alonso as the best driver in the world

New McLaren chief Zac Brown says Fernando Alonso is “buzzing” ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season.

The 35-year-old Spaniard has spent the last couple of years battling near the back of the grid due to McLaren’s lack of pace, and it has been suggested that he has become ‘disillusioned’ with the sport.

Brown is adamant this is not the case, telling the official Formula 1 website: “I don’t see Fernando as disillusioned at all. I don’t know him well yet, but I’ve met him a few times, and phoned him too, and I can tell you that he’s buzzing.

“Also, even though our car wasn’t fully competitive last season, some of his drives were stunningly good. Look, I’ll be frank: I reckon he’s the best driver in the world, period.”

Aside from trying to get McLaren back to the front of the pack, Alonso will have to deal with a new challenge from his teammate, 24-year-old rookie Stoffel Vandoorne.

The Belgian has already had a taste of F1, claiming a points finish when he took over the injured Alonso’s seat in last year’s Bahrain GP.

Brown continued: “Bearing that in mind, Stoffel faces a serious test. But, guess what, I think he’ll pass it with flying colours.

“Our personal trainers tell me he’s probably the fittest driver we’ve ever had, and he’s incredibly focused and determined. He’s fiercely intelligent too – you never have to tell him anything twice.

“His grand prix debut in Bahrain last year was sensational – he out-qualified and out-raced Jenson [Button] despite having minimal time to prepare for the weekend.

“In fact he only arrived in Bahrain on the Friday morning, straight off a long two-flight journey from Japan via Dubai.

“I think Stoffel will surprise a few people. He’s the real deal.”

Fernando Alonso

Goodbye Manor: F1 team falls after failing to find a new buyer

Formula 1 will be without the Manor team after the British-based outfit ceased trading on Friday following their failure to find a new buyer.

Manor were forced into administration at the beginning of January, though it was hoped that new investment would rescue them and allow the team to continue competing in F1.

However, the Oxfordshire-based team’s operating company, Just Racing Services, stopped trading. Manor’s 200-plus work force were sent home on Friday and are set to be made redundant next week.

[caption id="attachment_581273" align="alignnone" width="800"]Esteban Ocon Esteban Ocon[/caption]

Manor’s collapse means the 2017 F1 season will begin with just 10 manufacturers on the grid.

“It is deeply regrettable that the team has had to cease trading and close its doors,” said Geoff Rowley, joint administrator, and partner at FRP Advisory.

“Manor is a great name in British motorsport and the team has achieved a great deal over the past two years, invigorated under new ownership.

“The administration process provided a moratorium to allow for attempts to secure a long term viable solution for the team within in a very limited time-frame but sadly no solution could be achieved to allow for the business to continue in its current form within what was a very tight time-frame.”

Esteban Ocon

F1’s new commercial chief picks out four areas where his focus will be

Formula 1’s new commercial chief, Sean Bratches, has picked out four areas where he plans to improve the sport and its relationship with fans.

Bratches is a former ESPN executive and was drafted in to work alongside new CEO Chase Carey and managing director for racing Ross Brawn, following Liberty Media’s takeover of F1.

In his first interview since becoming F1’s commercial leader, Bratches has identified the brand, digital platforms, approach to teams and partners, and race experience as the four areas where he needs to boost the sport.

"There are four real things I am going to focus on," he told CNN. "One is the brand – the brand is the entry-point for any company, any brand, any sport. And we are going to work to understand the brand.

"We are going to polish it, we are going to elevate it. It is going to be really central to what we do. That will allow us to enter new market places.

"It will allow us to take out of the market place what we should on the commercial side from sponsors, from rights holders, to promoters.

"The second is digital. I think there is a huge opportunity in the digital space to re-imagine the digital products that F1 has today, and to engage fans in very new ways and also to use sponsors to activate it.

"The third is creating a much more democratic approach in terms of how we approach our partners – from teams/sponsors/promoters and rights holders. There is a lot of opportunity to leverage the F1 IP to integrate it to their businesses.

"And the last one, is the race experience. Creating a better race experience that engages fans, spectators there and on television is a huge opportunity."

Bratches argues that F1, despite being a hugely popular global sport, has acually underachieved in commercial terms.

"Unquestionably it is a Super Bowl every other week and I think that is going to be an emphasis of ours," he added.

"I think where the opportunity lies is on the commercial front, which I am going to be spend most of my time on. I think that generally speaking, it has under punched its weight class to date.”

German Formula One driver Nico Rosberg