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    Max Verstappen brands F1 rival Lewis Hamilton ‘one of the best ever’ as pair set sights on Imola showdown

    MAX VERSTAPPEN has described Lewis Hamilton as among Formula One’s ‘best-ever’ drivers as he goes toe-to-toe with the Brit for the title.Last season saw Hamilton, 36, cruise to a record-equalling seventh world championship but 2021 may not be quite so straightforward.
    Max Verstappen believes Lewis Hamilton is one of Formula One’s best-ever racersCredit: AFP
    The title rivals fought out a fascinating battle in the Bahrain season openerCredit: Splash
    An enthralling opening round in Bahrain saw the Dutchman push his rival all the way, suggesting Red Bull have caught up with the dominant Mercedes.
    And Verstappen, 23, has given his take on calls for Hamilton to be recognised as the greatest F1 driver of all time.
    He told Autosport: “Man, you know it’s super hard, but of course you have to give credit to Lewis.
    “[For] the way he has dealt with all the years, to always come back and be honoured and win that amount of races and championships. You definitely cannot go around Lewis.
    “But, of course, there are still a lot of other people in F1, I think who are very good, very strong, and would have been very good in that car as well.
    “But still, of course, the way Lewis has won and also sometimes in tricky races – like last year in Turkey, to win that race, I think he did very well.
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    “Yeah, definitely he is one of the best ever in F1.”
    The pair will face off once again in just over a week’s time for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
    With Hamilton beating Verstappen to the line by less than a second last time out, fans are hoping for another huge battle.
    And the Mercedes star is hyped up for the clash and believes team-mate Valtteri Bottas will also feature in the title fight.
    I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited.Lewis Hamilton

    He said: “I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited.
    “I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time.
    “Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of the pace they have.
    “They could be ahead a lot more, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle and I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri.”
    The ten greatest F1 drivers of all-time – according to SunSport’s motorsport correspondent Ben Hunt
    Max Verstappen says the whole weekend has been going really well while Lewis Hamilton reacts to starting Bahrain GP in second More

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    Sebastian Vettel planning for life off F1 track as Aston Martin driver studies organic farming during lockdown

    SEBASTIAN VETTEL is proving to be a Farmula One hit after studying organic farming during lockdown.The German is highly secretive about his private life but has opened up after revealing took an internship in agriculture.
    Four-time world champ Sebastian Vettel says he is interested in the nutritional differences between each type of fruit and vegetableCredit: Splash
    German superstar Vettel is sure to a tractor attention with his farming revelationCredit: Splash
    Vettel, 33, has previously spoken about climate change but has now expressed his interest in organic farming.
    The dad of three, who drives for Aston Martin this season after leaving Ferrari, has also become an ambassador for the BioBienenApfel project; an incentive to protect bees and insects.
    When quizzed about his interest in farming, Vettel said: “Since I had more time than I had actually planned, I thought about what I could do and what interested me.
    “That’s what interests me. At some point you realise that not every vegetable is the same, not every apple has the same nutrients, and then you ask why.
    “Then you realise very quickly where the apple comes from and how it is grown – and that’s how the doors opened for me.
    “The theory interests me and I read about it a lot.
    “But to learn more from the practical side and talk to the people who deal with it on a day-to-day basis, that was very interesting.”
    The four-time world champion has also been doing some conservation on his home in Switzerland, creating an insect haven in the shape of a heart for his kids to enjoy.
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    He added: “Since I didn’t want to settle for a small heart, I then staked out the heart a bit bigger.
    “The girls were there at the beginning, but then I was alone with the spade and that was very exhausting.
    “Last year, a little bit came up, but I’m looking forward to seeing more sprouts this year.”
    The ten greatest F1 drivers of all-time – according to SunSport’s motorsport correspondent Ben Hunt
    Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel looks forward to Formula 1 return More

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    Mercedes threatened to ban Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg from races due to bust-ups between pair

    MERCEDES boss Toto Wolff has admitted that he threatened to ban Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg due to their toxic rivalry.The pair were involved in some of the Silver Arrows’ most dominant seasons on their journey from karting teammates to bitter foes.
    Mercedes threatened to ban Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg due to their feudingCredit: Getty
    Rosberg is the only man who has stopped Hamilton from winning the F1 title during the last seven years but the two had a bitter fallout.
    The German even revealed in an interview with SunSport that he needed a mind coach to help him through some of the low points.
    Their on-track clashes – most notably at Spa 2014, Austria 2016 and their infamous collision in Spain 2016 cemented their rivalry as one of the fiercest in F1 history.
    And Wolff claimed Mercedes came close to impose race suspensions on both Rosberg and Hamilton at the height of their feuding.
    He told the High Performance Podcast: “It was very difficult because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer.
    I always made it clear that if this were to happen regularly, and I would see a pattern, then I have no fear in making somebody miss racesMercedes boss Toto Wolff
    “But still, I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team. Sometimes with an iron fist, or iron grip, and they understood that they couldn’t let us down, they couldn’t let Mercedes down.
    “The events of 2014, where I felt there was some selfish behaviour, I said that the next time you come close to the other car, your team mate, you think about the Mercedes brand, you think about single individuals in the team, you think about Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Mercedes.
    “That’s probably going to change the way you act; you’re not going to put your team mate in the wall.
    “And I always made it clear that if this were to happen regularly, and I would see a pattern, then I have no fear in making somebody miss races.
    “The thing the drivers want the most is to compete in a car and you always need to be very clear that you compete in the car if you understand the team game.
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    “And it’s much more difficult because there are only two drivers in the team and it’s not easy to find a replacement, and a replacement on that level.
    “But I’m prepared to sacrifice a race or two just to make it clear for all future generations that are going to drive for Mercedes that that’s not on.”
    Rosberg stunned the sport by retiring from F1 in 2016 having won the title while Hamilton has won six of the last seven titles.
    Champion Rosberg hopes for better relationship with Hamilton in retirement More

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    Aston Martin F1 team sign Nico Hulkenberg as reserve and developmental driver for 2021 season after Racing Point stint

    ASTON MARTIN F1 team have signed up Nico Hulkenberg as their reserve and development driver for the 2021 season.The German raced for the team under its previous guise as Force India between 2012 and 2016.
    Nico Hulkenberg has signed for Aston MartinCredit: PA
    He also filled in for Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez last season when both Racing Point drivers tested positive for COVID-19.
    The 33-year-old has competed in 176 F1 races with Williams, Sauber and Renault, as well as his stints at Force India and Racing Point.
    Hulkenberg said: “First of all, it’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice – last year, I didn’t have quite as much time to prepare before jumping in the car! 
    “I’m really pleased to once again work with this team – with whom I have driven many times during my career. 
    “Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian Vettel and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job, and I’m fully prepared to take on that challenge. 
    “It will also be interesting to help develop the team through the season, and I’m really looking forward to pulling great lap-times out of my arm sleeve.”
    Welcome home, @HulkHulkenberg. 🤜🤛Here’s everything you need to know about the Hulk’s new role as reserve and development driver for the 2021 season. #Hulkenback 💚— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) April 8, 2021

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    Otmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, added: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome Nico back to the team in an official capacity, as reserve and development driver for Aston Martin. 
    “In these difficult times, the requirement for a capable and experienced reserve driver is especially important. 
    “Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice; now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”
    The ten greatest F1 drivers of all-time – according to SunSport’s motorsport correspondent Ben Hunt
    F1 Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg shows us how he warms up for a race More

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    Ralf Schumacher slams ‘whining’ Sebastian Vettel and tells him ‘nobody cares’ about Aston Martin debut flop

    SEBASTIAN VETTEL was told to stop ‘whining’ about his Aston Martin car by Ralf Schumacher.And the ex-F1 driver reckons Vettel has to knuckle down after a miserable season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
    Sebastian Vettel admitted he doesn’t feel at home in his Aston Martin yetCredit: Splash
    Ralf Schumacher thinks Sebastian Vettel needs to stop ‘whining’ about the carCredit: Rex
    Four-time world champion Vettel switched to Aston Martin this year after six seasons with Ferrari.
    But he failed to make it out of Q1 in the Middle East and finished a disappointing 15th place.
    Schumacher, who won six F1 races during his decade-long F1 career and is brother of legend Michael, told Sport1.de: “The whining that he doesn’t feel the car has to stop.
    “I’m sorry for Sebastian. This is a huge problem and it will take time.
    “Nobody cares about that, and after all, we’re in Formula One here and he’s also earning a lot of money.
    “At the end of the day, Sebastian is an experienced racing driver and a multiple world champion. He has to clean up with his team-mate now and the rest will come on its own even if the Aston Martin doesn’t turn into a winning car this year.”
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    Aston Martin had a miserable first race of the season in BahrainCredit: Rex

    “He’s not unreasonable. I understand Sebastian’s frustration.
    “He had anything but a perfect weekend.”
    Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll finished in 10th place at last month’s season opener.
    The teams head to Imola for the second race on April 18.

    Speaking after Bahrain, Vettel admitted: “It’s been probably not the best weekend or the weekend we were looking for.
    “But there were a lot of things that we learned that we need to address. We will see how quickly we can fix them.
    “I’m not at home in the car. There’s a lot of things that are fighting me so that I can’t really focus on driving. But we need to address them and try and fix them.”
    Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel looks forward to Formula 1 return More

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    Bernie Ecclestone’s family tree includes baby son Ace’s half-sister Deborah, 66, and seven grandchildren

    LAST summer, Bernie Ecclestone became a father for the fourth time at the grand old age of 89.The ex-Formula 1 boss and his third wife Fabiana, 45, welcomed baby Ace into their extravagant world in July 2020.
    Bernie Ecclestone became a father in 2020 at the age of 89Credit: Getty – Contributor
    The new arrival makes for a remarkable family tree – starting with Bernie at the top, his children and then his grandchildren.
    SunSport breaks it down for you, in full.
    BERNIE ECCLESTONE, 90
    The patriarch of the family, Bernie was born in Suffolk in 1930.
    Worth £2.5billion, Ecclestone had been associated with F1 since the 1950s – during the 1958 season he entered two Grand Prix races, but failed to qualify for either.
    In 1972 he became a team-owner, acquiring Brabham, which he ran for 15 years.
    Two years later, Ecclestone formed the Formula One Constructors Association, emerging as chief executive in 1978.
    In 2017, Bernie was removed from his position after the Formula One Group was taken over by Liberty Media.
    Not bad for the son of a fisherman, who left Dartford West Central Secondary School at 16 and first worked as an assistant in a chemical laboratory testing gas purity.
    Ecclestone shares a thought with Lewis HamiltonCredit: AP:Associated Press
    Niki Lauda, right, drove for Ecclestone’s Brabham racing teamCredit: Getty – Contributor
    IVY BAMFORD, FIRST WIVE
    Not much is known about Bernie’s early years, when he ran motorcycle shops and car dealerships.
    His first wife, a local girl called Ivy, was believed to be two years older than the businessman when they married in 1952.
    They welcomed daughter Deborah three years later, but the marriage fell to pieces and they drifted apart.
    It’s unknown if Ivy, who would be 91 today, is alive.
    SLAVICA RADIC, WIFE NO2
    Bernie married the 6ft 2in former Armani model Slavica in 1985, three years after they met at a promotional event at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
    Despite the height difference (Slavica stands a foot taller than Bernie), a language barrier, and an age gap of 28 years they remained married for 23 years.
    In 2009, she topped the Sunday Times’ Rich List in the “richest divorcees” category – getting a reported £740million settlement.
    They have two daughters, Tamara and Petra.
    Wife No2 Slavica Radic stands 6ft 2in tallCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Radic, the mother of Petra and Tamara Ecclestone, was a former Armani modelCredit: Getty Images
    In a divorce settlement Radic received a reported £740million payoutCredit: GC Images – Getty
    FABIANA FLOSI, WIFE NO3
    Not much is known about the 45-year-old Brazilian.
    But Bernie met Fabiana in 2009 at the World Motor Sport Council, marrying three years later in a private ceremony at their £23million Swiss chalet in Gstaad.
    She helps run his coffee plantation in Brazil, where their brand Celebrity Coffee is produced.
    In 2016, her mum Aparecida Schunk was kidnapped and a ransom of £28million was demanded.
    Nine days later, she was found safe.
    Last week, they welcomed their first son together, baby Ace.
    Bernie Ecclestone met Fabiana in 2009Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    45-year-old Fabiana hails from BrazilCredit: fabianaecclestone/Instagram
    Fabiana helps Bernie run his coffee plantation in South AmericaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    DEBORAH, ELDEST DAUGHTER, 66
    Deborah has preferred to stay out of the limelight, despite her famous family connection.
    The only child from Bernie’s first marriage, she is said to have followed her dad into business.
    It is believed she has two children of her own.
    However, their names and ages are unknown.
    TAMARA, 37
    Bernie’s first child with Slavica, Tamara has dabbled with modelling, presenting and reality TV.
    For the 2009 F1 season, she presented motorsport coverage for Sky Sports Italia.
    In 2011 she starred in Tamara Ecclestone: Billion $$$ Girl on Channel 5 and then in ITVBe’s Tamara’s World in 2017.
    In-between, the brunette beauty appeared nude in Playboy magazine.
    Brunette beauty Tamara once appeared in Playboy magazineCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Bernie and Tamara share a tight bond
    Tamara Ecclestone lives with her family in a £70m West London homeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    She has one daughter, Sophia, 6, from her seven year marriage to Jay Rutland.
    They live in a lavish £70million mansion, a stones throwaway from Kensington Palace.PETRA, 32
    Arguably the more famous of Bernie’s socialite daughters with Slavica, Petra is now based in Los Angeles.
    At 19, she launched menswear label FORM, which was sold in Harrods.

    Her personal life was splashed across the front pages after an acrimonious £5.5 billion divorce row with ex-husband James Stunt, who she split with in 2017.
    She was granted sole custody of their three children, Lavinia, 7, and twins James and Andrew, both 5.
    And last May, Petra gave birth to a baby girl with fiancé Sam Palmer, but has remained tight-lipped on her name, which gives Bernie seven grandchildren ALL younger than his latest child.
    Petra Ecclestone is now based in Los AngelesCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Petra had an acrimonious divorce from James Stunt in 2017Credit: twitter/Petra Stunt
    Petra has four children, giving Bernie seven grandchildren in totalCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    I want to be a dad again at 90 and I don’t need Viagra, says ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone More

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    Lewis Hamilton admits he was wrong to ’embarrass people’ after calling out sports biggest names in fight against racism

    LEWIS HAMILTON has revealed he intends to tackle racism within Formula 1 in a different way, rather than ’embarrassing people’ for their actions.The seven-time world champion has been the driving force behind an F1 campaign against racism by calling on the FIA to do more to tackle inequality.
    Hamilton has previously called out fellow drivers for not taking the kneeCredit: Getty
    He has now admitted he has changed the way he is trying to tackle racism in the sportCredit: Mamadi Doumbouya/wired
    He then went on to cite specific individuals for failing to do more to bring F1 drivers together to take the knee, most notably ex-director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association Romain Grosjean.
    But now the Brit believes there is a better approach to making change happen.
    While he remains dedicated to the cause, his tireless work might not be so obvious this year.
    He told WIRED UK: “At the beginning of the year [2020] I was very outspoken and calling out the sport.
    “At the time that was the right thing for me, but I discovered that there’s times where you have to be very diplomatic, where there’s more you can do by discussions in the background, rather than embarrassing people.
    “I’m having conversations, trying to hold people in the sport more accountable.
    “I’m constantly sending emails, I’m constantly on Zoom calls with Formula One and challenging them like they wouldn’t want to be challenged.”
    At the first race of the 2021 season, Hamilton wore a shirt which read ‘actions speak louder than words’.
    He has also declared that he will continue to take the knee before races despite some F1 drivers sticking by their decision to remain standing.
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    🏁 F1 2021 calendar: practice times, dates and racetrack info
    Hamilton made the best possible start in his bid for a record-breaking eighth world title at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
    The 35-year-old outfoxed Max Verstappen in a sensational battle which came down to the final lap to take the opening race of the season.
    The next race comes at the Imola circuit in Italy on April 18.
    See the full feature in the May/June issue of WIRED UK available on newsstands and via digital download now.
    Hamilton’s remarks were part of an exclusive interview with WIREDCredit: Mamadi Doumbouya/wired
    The seven-time champion made the perfect start to his 2021 season last weekendCredit: Mamadi Doumbouya/wired
    Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen react to epic Bahrain opener More

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    Confusion as Max Verstappen punished during F1 opener when Lewis Hamilton exceeded track limit 30 TIMES at Bahrain GP

    AS LEWIS HAMILTON won an epic battle with Max Verstappen in Bahrain, fans were left confused by Formula One track limit rules.The sport has long been split over how strictly guidelines on circuit boundaries need to be enforced.
    Confusion reigned following the tussle for the lead on SundayCredit: Getty
    Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were both called up for running wide at Turn 4Credit: Splash
    Certain tracks, chiefly those with large run-off areas, provide drivers with opportunities to nab an extra tenth of a second by keeping their foot to the floor and briefly going outside the line.
    Bahrain’s Turn 4 was one particular area of concern on the weekend.
    As found by Reddit user RiggyBiggy, via the Telegraph, Hamilton left the track limits almost 30 times during the race.
    Drivers had initially been told that they would not be punished for doing so ahead of the season opener, but that changed after first practice.
    Race stewards’ guidelines stated that ‘cutting behind the red and white kerb’ would lead to punishment, and Hamilton duly remained inside the line for the qualifying lap that put him second on the grid.
    During the race, he faced no punishment for continuing to run off-line before being reined in by his Mercedes bosses.
    He replied over team radio: “I thought there were no track limits. I have been doing the same thing all race.”
    Moments earlier, Red Bull had told Verstappen to follow Hamilton in taking the faster, wider line at Turn 4.
    Neither driver exceeded the Turn 4 limit in qualifying, with clear instruction it would lead to their lap time being deletedCredit: YouTube / F1
    Verstappen was well wide of Hamilton as he took the lead
    But the Red Bull was clearly off the track in the overtake
    The Dutchman hunted Hamilton down for their incredible late duel for the lead.
    Finally catching up on lap 53, Verstappen grabbed the lead at Turn 4 but clearly ran wide of the track limits in doing so, despite being given room by the Merc.
    Overtaking while off the track is not allowed in F1, regardless of discussions over track limits, and Red Bull boss Christian Horner told the new race leader to hand back the position.
    Verstappen complied but initially questioned the call, as fans debated how Hamilton was allowed an advantage but his rival was not.
    Had he not returned the position, a time penalty of five or ten seconds would have been dished out by the stewards.
    At first, Verstappen felt he could have opened up such a gap but it would have taken a monumental effort – with the race chiefs also capable of handing down whatever punishment was necessary to ensure he did not win to fully deter future breaches.
    The other question is whether the Red Bull ace would have won had Hamilton not gained the slight advantage every time he ran wide.
    Ironically, the Brit later claimed to have benefited from the instruction to keep it on the track, as it helped save his aging tyres amid Verstappen’s pursuit.

    Hamilton described the situation as ‘confusing’ and said: “Halfway through the race they basically changed their minds and all of a sudden you’re not allowed to go outside that white line.
    “Which is fine for me, it’s actually I think faster in the end for me, and helped me look after my tyres, actually. So I’m grateful for the call.”
    And Verstappen added: “In qualifying, of course, it was not allowed, your lap time got deleted.
    “And so I don’t know how it got to the point where people were doing it without getting warnings.
    “But at the end of the day when I was fighting Lewis, I went outside of the track limits. I think quite quickly the race director was onto us to tell me to give the position back, so that’s exactly what I did.”
    FIA race director Michael Masi later insisted that rules did not change halfway through and that few drivers broke the limits.
    But Horner said: “It was frustrating. We could see as soon as Mercedes started to push they just used that part of the track.
    “We questioned with Race Control that if that’s the case, can we do it? In a nip and tuck battle, there’s a two-tenths advantage using that part of the circuit.
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    You can’t say it’s okay to use it in the race, but you can’t overtake out there; it should be black or white, it shouldn’t be shaded grey.Christian Horner

    “Obviously Max ran wide on the pass there, which had been made clear before the race that if someone got an advantage by going out there, they’d have to give it back. He did that immediately, the team instructed him to do it following Race Control instructing us.
    “With these track limit things, they’re always going to be contentious. But we do need to just have a consistent situation.
    “You can’t say it’s okay to use it in the race, but you can’t overtake out there; it should be black or white, it shouldn’t be shaded grey.”
    Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen react to epic Bahrain opener More