Lewis Hamilton’s return to social media for the first time since the 2021 F1 season finale, in a team promo video for the Chinese New Year, has fans speculating that the British racer will also return to the grid for next season - calming some fears of retirement. Now it’s the turn of his new team-mate to be in the spotlight, with George Russell joining Mercedes for this year - and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko questioning whether he really has the race pace to cope at the highest level.
For Red Bull themselves, their No1 driver and reigning world champion Max Verstappen faced rumours of an exit earlier in the week, amid claims he could jump ship to rivals Mercedes. Red Bull of course denied as much, suggesting too much had happened between the teams for that to be feasible. All teams are now gearing up for the new campaign in their new cars, with more testing to come in the weeks ahead.
Here’s the very latest news as the new season prepares for the opening weekend in Bahrain on 20 March. Follow all the F1 news updates below:
F1 latest news
Red Bull deny Verstappen could leave for Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton returns to social media ahead of new season
George Russell’s race pace questioned
Red Bull want consistency after F1 race investigation
Lewis Hamilton accused of wanting Michael Masi out in bid to ‘turn F1 upside down’
11:30 , Karl Matchett
The seven-time world champion has not commented publicly on the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which saw Masi’s controversial intervention set up Max Verstappen to pass Hamilton and deny the Mercedes driver a record eighth title.
It has since been suggested that Hamilton is considering retirement as he awaits the FIA’s report on events at the Yas Marina Circuit, which could see Masi stripped of his race director role.
Dutch racing driver Jeroen Bleekemolen believes that Hamilton will be back on the grid when the 2022 season starts in Bahrain in March.
However Bleekemolen also thinks that Hamilton’s influence is such that changes will be made, warning that “some people will disappear”.
George Russell enjoys ‘eye-opening’ first trip to Mercedes after F1 switch
11:15 , Karl Matchett
The British driver has joined the German manufacturers from Williams, replacing Valtteri Bottas.
With three weeks to go until the first round of testing in Barcelona, Russell has visited Mercedes’ F1 manufacturing hub at Brixworth in Northamptonshire, along with the outfit’s headquarters in Brackley.
And the 23-year-old was glad to see the inner workings of the team that has helped Mercedes to eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships.
Full details of his trip and comments here:
Max Verstappen took Red Bull car ‘over the limit’, team boss claims
11:00 , Karl Matchett
Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Yas Marina Circuit to seal the Drivers’ Championship in dramatic fashion after the intervention of race director Michael Masi.
Marko has overseen Red Bull’s driver development programme since 1999, and helped guide Verstappen into Formula 1.
The 78-year-old hailed the world champion for both his driving talent and will to win, suggesting that Hamilton now knows he cannot afford to leave any space for the aggressive Dutch driver.
“You could see that [Verstappen] drove the car so over the limit, that was visible,” Marko said.
“And in the races, Hamilton should already know that you can’t leave the smallest gap open at Verstappen.
“He’s already stabbing you before the other person sees him in the rear-view mirror.
“This incredible willpower with the necessary talent makes all the difference.”
F1 latest news
10:45 , Karl Matchett
Formula One will make it mandatory for all personnel working in its paddock to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, without exemption, starting this season, a spokesperson for the sport’s commercial arm said on Monday.
The mandate, which was first reported by the Times newspaper and the BBC, will apply to anyone entering the paddock -- an exclusive area in which teams and drivers set up shop for a race weekend.
“F1 will require all travelling personnel to be fully vaxxed and will not request exemptions,” the spokesperson said.
This will include all competitors, hospitality staff, members of the media, the governing FIA, Liberty Media-owned commercial rights holders FOM and even celebrity guests. The mandate was approved at a December meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council.
News of Formula One‘s vaccine mandate comes after Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open vaccine controversy.
The world number one was detained by immigration authorities on 6 January, ordered released by a court on 10 January, then detained again before being forced to leave Australia after a final court ruling that upheld the government’s decision to cancel his visa.
The new rules call into question the future of long-time medical car driver Alan van der Merwe.
The South African, who played a pivotal role rescuing Romain Grosjean from a fiery crash in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, has chosen not to get vaccinated for personal reasons. The FIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the vaccine mandate or Van der Merwe’s future.
Formula One is set for a record 23-race calendar this year, with races such as Singapore, Japan, Canada and Australia, which had been cancelled for the last two years, set to return.
The sport successfully staged two seasons amid the pandemic by adopting a bubble system and regular testing. The 2022 season, which will feature all-new cars designed to a radical rules overhaul, gets underway in Bahrain on 20 March.
Red Bull call for ‘consistency’ in wake of F1’s investigation into Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
10:30 , Karl Matchett
The organisation are investigating the processes that saw Michael Masi controversially intervene in the final laps of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, allowing Max Verstappen to launch a late overtake and take both race and world title victory from Lewis Hamilton.
The findings are expected to be presented at the Formula 1 Commission meeting on 14 February, and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley believe that these must provide some clarity, and be respected by teams.
“It’s really important the FIA do their investigation, work with the teams on that investigation and we all follow whatever the outcome of that investigation is,” Wheatley explained on The Jack Threlfall Show.
“We’ve had this great over-arching philosophy of ‘let them race’. But then you have the black and white of the regulations, which is often very prescribed in terms of what penalty, or there is no wriggle room in it at all.”
Full details on this story here:
F1 latest news
10:15 , Karl Matchett
Valtteri Bottas has revealed that Mercedes gave him a huge and personal gift as a leaving present at the end of last season - the actual W08 car he won his first-ever F1 victory in, at the 2017 Russian Grand Prix.
“It was a little surprise but a nice gift. Now I just don’t have anywhere to put it!” he said on his podcast on supla.fi.
“I was stunned myself when I saw what kind of send-off they had organised for me – a parade, fireworks and music. I realised they also appreciated what I had done for the team.”
He also revealed that Lewis Hamilton being pipped to the title by Max Verstappen in the final race of last season meant he missed out on a hefty payment - though notes he’s past the point where he has to be concerned about financial security.
“Certain bonuses are tied to certain achievements. Fortunately, I hadn’t bought anything in advance with that amount! Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.
“I don’t really measure it. At some point, there came a moment when I didn’t have to look at my bank balance anymore. Of course, money is part of Formula 1. But I remember where I came from and I’ve done quite well because of that.”
Bottas is estimated to be on a $10m annual salary with his new team, Alfa Romeo.
F1 latest news
10:00 , Karl Matchett
Helmut Marko is not yet convinced by new Mercedes addition George Russell when it comes to the most important factor of all in F1: Race day.
The young Brit has impressed in qualifying, showing consistency and control while with Williams, but Helmut Marko wants to see an improvement on Sunday sessions, as he told Autorevue.
“Now let’s see what Mr Russell will do at Mercedes and whether the praise he has received in advance is justified,” he said. “I want to see that first.
“There’s no discussion in qualifying, he’s sensational there but if you look at his race speed, he wasn’t far ahead of [then Williams team-mate Nicholas] Latifi.”
Russell has replaced Valtteri Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate for 2022.
F1 latest news
09:45 , Karl Matchett
The pair went toe-to-toe throughout the 2021 season and pushed each other so hard they went into the final race of the season on equal points. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix turned into one of the most controversial sports moments as Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the last lap - winning the race and the championship in the process.
While Hamilton may be open to appearing in the show, Verstappen isn’t and he’s explained why. He told AP: “They faked a few rivalries which they don’t really exist. So I decided to not be a part of it and did not give any more interviews after that because then there is nothing you can show.
“I am not really a dramatic show kind of person, I just want facts and real things to happen.”
The drama of the season may have infuriated some fans but Netflix would have been loving the action as their cameras were there to follow it minute by minute. Due to the circumstances of the final race, F1 supporters are dying to know when the new season of the documentary will be released.
Here’s everything we know about Drive to Survive 2022:
F1 latest news
09:30 , Karl Matchett
Hamilton is making his decision on his F1 future when an inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the British driver was denied a record eighth world title, is published. There has been speculation as to who would drive for Mercedes if Hamilton decides not to compete. But Marko says the crash at the 2021 British Grand Prix means Verstappen won’t switch to their rivals.
“I do not think that Max will leave us then,” he told Autorevue. “The events at Silverstone have left too big a crack, especially with [his father] Jos.”
More on Verstappen’s future and what he has said on staying with Red Bull:
F1 latest news
09:14 , Karl Matchett
Hamilton has only been seen in public once since Max Verstappen overtook him in the last lap in the final race of the 2021 season to deny the star a record eighth world title. The British driver attended Windsor Castle for his knighthood but has taken a break from the spotlight as he is said to be frustrated by the decisions made by officials during the race.
But Hamilton has featured in a Mercedes video alongside his new teammate George Russell which was posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Full update on the Brit’s involvement:
F1 latest news
08:53 , Karl Matchett
Good morning and welcome to the Independent’s live coverage of Formula One, with all the latest news ahead of the 2022 season.
Coming up we’ve got the latest on Lewis Hamilton’s future, Max Verstappen’s love of Red Bull, questions being asked of new Mercedes man George Russell and plenty more throughout the day.