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    Every F1 team ranked for pace after testing with season-opening Bahrain GP days away… and it’s bad news for Mercedes

    LEWIS HAMILTON may be in for a tough season if the analysis of one Sky Sports F1 pundit turns out to be correct.Hamilton and co were taking part in pre-season testing in Bahrain before the first race of the season this Saturday, March 2.
    Ted Kravitz revealed his ranking for the F1 teams after testing in BahrainCredit: Rex
    Kravitz’s analysis was not good news for Lewis Hamilton and MercedesCredit: Rex

    Formula One pundit Ted Kravitz was keeping a close eye on the teams’ performances during the testing days.
    And he has now revealed where he thinks each team ranks in terms of pace.
    Kravitz told Sky Sports he reckons Haas will be at the back of the pack, with Sauber, Alpine, Williams and RB ahead of them going up to sixth place.
    Getting into the top five however, Kravitz kicked things off by saying Aston Martin would once again be behind the front four.
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    He then tipped McLaren to be fourth place, but also said they were a team with “plenty of potential” to grow.
    For his top three, Kravitz then named Mercedes.
    He explained: “Mercedes showed they do have some speed but much more to learn from a transition into a car that they don’t know, but there’s lots to learn on that.
    “I think Mercedes think they are behind Ferrari but not too far.”
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    Things went far from smoothly in testing for seven-time world champion Hamilton given his W15 ran over a loose drain cover and forced Thursday’s morning session to be abandoned.
    Testing for the Brackley based team came with the backdrop of Hamilton having announced he will be leaving the team at the end of the season and joining Ferrari.
    Inside Lewis Hamilton’s £13m collection of supercars including £4m classic and £1.6m ride made entirely for him
    Red Bull unsurprisingly then topped the tree ahead of Ferrari.
    Kravitz said: “Then Ferrari clearly ahead of that pack.
    “Given that Leclerc was on the C5, the softest of all them, but Sainz with the fastest lap of the test, in the 29s, that was only the C4. So clearly I think Ferrari are second.”
    He continued: “Which leaves in front, Red Bull – but by how much? Between eight tenths and three tenths to Ferrari, that’s what I think.
    WHO COULD REPLACE HAMILTON AT MERCEDES? Mercedes will have a vacant seat for 2025.
    Here, SunSport’s F1 correspondent Ben Hunt looks at FIVE potential candidates who could replace him and partner George Russell in the Silver Arrows.
    Oscar Piastri – McLaren have sewn up Lando Norris to a new long-term contract that should (in theory) put him out of Mercedes’ reach. However, they are yet to tie down his teammate Piastri, 22. The Aussie has an excellent record and won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles before spending a year on the sidelines with Alpine and getting his chance in F1 with McLaren. He impressed on his debut season last year and has the potential to be a world champion.
    Daniel Ricciardo – The experienced driver’s future remains in doubt as he bides his time at Red Bull’s B-team. Ricciardo would be low-hassle and offer some stability but by that time he would be 35. It seems unlikely that they would opt for him at this point in his career, but if he has a good season this year, he could come into the reckoning.
    Kimi Antonelli – You may not have heard of the Italian, but he is mustard. Still only 17, he has won at all the junior categories and has been part of the Mercedes young driver programme since 2019. This season he has been promoted from F4 to F2, where he has been tipped to shine. A good debut season in F2 could sway Mercedes into taking a risk on him for 2025. Antonelli and his family are close to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
    Mick Schumacher – Wolff has always been so incredibly supportive of Schumacher and spoken highly of him, that you’d at least expect him to come into consideration. He knows the team from his role as reserve driver and consequently would get up to speed. But speed is also the problem. He was shocking at Haas and if he really was THAT good, he’d still be driving in F1.
    Alex Albon – A more-sensible choice would be the London-born Albon. A great guy who is also very quick. He has a fantastic relationship with Russell and would be the low-maintenance quick partnership similar to Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas that swept to successive titles. Albon would take little convincing to join from Williams and Mercedes would not need to pay him half of the £50million they were dishing out to Hamilton.

    “Tyre corrected, Max Verstappen would have been quickest because he set his time on the C3 tyre.
    “And if there’s seven tenths to the C5 which Leclerc was on, then that makes Max faster today by three or four tenths of a second. 
    “So I think it’s anything from a conservative three tenths to an absolutely whacking optimistic eight tenths, or even maybe more.”
    Max Verstappen and Red Bull were placed top of the tree by KravitzCredit: Getty

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    F1 legend keen on shock retirement U-turn after Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari ‘triggered something’

    LEWIS HAMILTON’S surprise transfer to Ferrari has “triggered something” that could see a Formula One world champion return to the grid, according to Ralf Schumacher.Hamilton, 39, activated a break clause in his Mercedes contract which will see him leave the team at the end of this season before joining the Scuderia in 2025.
    Sebastian Vettel has been tipped for a return to F1Credit: AFP
    It is claimed Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari ‘triggered something’Credit: Getty
    And the move is now said to have piqued the interest for a return to the sport for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
    Speaking to Sky Sports, six-time race winner Schumacher named 36-year-old Vettel as one possible candidate to replace Hamilton at the Silver Arrows.
    Schumacher said: “I’ve heard that Sebastian Vettel wants to drive again. Of course, a gap has to be closed now.
    “You saw what was going on on the stock market after Lewis Hamilton’smove to Ferrari, that triggered something.”
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    Vettel retired from the sport at the end of 2022 after 299 race starts for Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
    Hamilton’s departure leaves George Russell not knowing who his team-mate will be next season.
    And while Schumacher does not doubt the talent of Vettel, who questions whether he would be able to make such a big leap back into the sport after three years absent.
    “Whether George Russell has the charisma to replace Lewis Hamilton worldwide in terms of marketing or Sebastian Vettel as a German driver at Mercedes, that’s probably a size too big for him.”
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    SunSport named five possible candidates who could replace the seven-time world champion, from 17-year-old Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli to Mick Schumacher or Alex Albon.
    Fernando Alonso, who replaced Vettel at Aston Martin, has also been linked with a shock switch.
    Inside Lewis Hamilton’s £13m collection of supercars including £4m classic and £1.6m ride made entirely for him
    Alonso had two seasons out of the sport before returning in 2021 and has remained one of the best on the grid, meaning it is in the realm of possibility for Vettel to replicate the Spaniard.
    However, Schumacher is concerned Mercedes will not be as competitive as they hope to be in 2025.
    He added: “I’m a bit disappointed with Mercedes, I have the feeling that things will continue as they did last year.
    “That could also be a reason why Lewis Hamilton lost faith in it and followed the call of Fred Vasseur.”

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    I used to play as Michael Schumacher growing up, joining Ferrari is a boyhood dream, says Lewis Hamilton

    LEWIS HAMILTON says moving to Ferrari is a boyhood dream after playing as Michael Schumacher on his computer as a kid.Hamilton, 39, activated a break-clause in his Mercedes deal and will quit at the end of this year to join the Italian team.
    The 2024 season will be Lewis Hamilton’s last with MercedesCredit: EPA
    Hamilton wanted the move to Ferrari to emulate Michael SchumacherCredit: Alamy
    The move stunned F1 as he had only agreed a contract extension with the Silver Arrows last summer.
    Now, as he prepares for his final season with Mercedes, he says he has always been driven by the lure of one day driving for F1’s most famous team, who have not won the title since 2007.
    He said: “I think for every driver, growing up, watching the history, watching Michael Schumacher in his prime, probably all of us sit in our garage and see the screen pop up, and you see the driver in the red cockpit.
    “You wonder what it might be like to be surrounded by the red.
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    “You go to the Italian Grand Prix, and you see the sea of red Ferrari fans, and you can only stand in awe of that.
    “It’s a team that’s not had huge success really since, mostly obviously from Michael’s days, but obviously since 2007, and I saw it as a huge challenge.
    “Without a doubt, even as a kid, I used to play on Grand Prix 2 as Michael in that car. So it definitely is a dream, and I’m really, really excited about it.”
    Hamilton will link up with his old GP2 boss Fred Vasseur at Ferrari and admits he had a big hand in convincing him to jump ship.
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    He added: “I’ve got a great relationship with Fred. Obviously I raced with him. We had amazing success in F3, and also in GP2.
    “That’s really where the foundation of our relationship started. We always remained in touch.
    Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton unveil new 2024 Formula 1 car
    “I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to F1, but at the time, he wasn’t interested in that.
    “It was really cool to see him step into the Alfa [Romeo] team. Then when he got the job at Ferrari, I was just so happy for him.
    “I think just the stars aligned, I think it really wouldn’t have happened without him.
    “So I’m really grateful and really excited about the work that he’s doing there.”
    The 2024 F1 season begins on March 2.

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    Why is Lewis Hamilton still driving for Mercedes after signing a contract with Ferrari?

    FERRARI pulled off a major deal by signing Lewis Hamilton to a mega contract – but the F1 legend will continue to drive for Mercedes this season.It was announced on February 1, 2024, that Hamilton had triggered a secret clause that would see him drive for F1’s most famous team.
    Lewis Hamilton will join up with Charles Leclerc at FerrariCredit: AP
    And the deal for the seven-time world champion to join Ferrari is worth a staggering £100million.
    Hamilton would love nothing more than to follow up on this huge move with a championship win in the 2024 season.
    But fans are confused as to why the British mogul continues to represent Mercedes even after the paperwork has been signed.
    Why is Lewis Hamilton still driving for Mercedes?
    Lewis Hamilton will still drive for Mercedes as he confirmed that he was committed to finishing the season before starting life with Ferrari in 2025.
    Read more on Lewis Hamilton
    The British icon said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together.
    “Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
    “But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.
    “I am 100 percent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember.”
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    Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013Credit: EPA
    Why did Lewis Hamilton switch from Mercedes to Ferrari?
    Lewis Hamilton signed a new two-year contract extension with Mercedes last summer which included a release clause that would allow the F1 legend to move elsewhere if triggered.
    And after lengthy rumours going back from 2018 about Hamilton joining Ferrari, the deal has finally been agreed.
    The British icon once revealed on Sky Italy that driving for Ferrari is a ‘dream’ team to represent.
    In 2021, Hamilton said: “It’s definitely going to be crazy to think that I never drove for Ferrari because for everyone, that is a dream position to be in.”
    He added: “It was never fully on the cards for me, and I’ll never know exactly fully why but I wish them all the best and I want to spend the next bit of my time stopping them from winning the championship.
    “I look at the pictures that the two drivers post and the red is ‘still the red'”.
    Full F1 2024 race calendar
    Below is the full calendar for the 2024 season and the final campaign where Lewis Hamilton will drive for Mercedes.

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    Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes frustrations continue as F1 star’s car is damaged leading to practice session being abandoned

    LEWIS HAMILTON did not get off to the best start for the 2024 Formula One season after his car ran over a loose drain.Hamilton, 39, announced this season would be his last with Mercedes after an 11-year spell with the team before he makes a sensational switch to Ferrari in 2025.
    Lewis Hamilton got behind the wheel of his Mercedes F1 car for the first time this seasonCredit: Alamy
    But Hamilton’s car appeared to sustain damage when it ran over a loose drain coverCredit: Sky Sports
    The loose drain saw stewards wave off the morning sessionCredit: Rex
    The seven-time world champion said he was committed to “delivering the best performance” he can to the team.
    And the first on-track step towards that end came in Bahrain as F1 kickstarted it’s pre-season testing.
    Hamilton was on track for the first time after skipping out on Wednesday’s testing sessions.
    However, after only a few hours of testing the session was forced to come to a stop when the stewards noticed damage to a kerb on the circuit.
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    This damage came as Hamilton’s future Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc dislodged a drain cover on the entry of turn 11.
    Hamilton was the next racer to come along and ran over the drain cover, which saw it fly into the air.
    Mercedes mechanics checked the underside of Hamilton’s W15 for damage following the collision.
    Stewards promptly halted the morning session to assess the damage to the circuit before announcing it would not resume around 30 minutes later.
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    The morning session saw Hamilton put up a best lap time of 1:33.225 with 39 laps completed.
    The afternoon session will run until 4pm.
    Lewis Hamilton ‘in advanced talks’ to join Ferrari as shock clause in Mercedes star’s contract emerges
    Following the Wednesday test topped by Max Verstappen, Mercedes driver George Russell revealed the Mercedes car felt “nicer to drive” compared to last season.
    He said: “It was great to drive the W15 for the first time in anger today. From hitting the ground, it felt like we had a good foundation to start from.
    “We completed lots of laps and have plenty of data to go through tonight. We ended the day in a reasonably good spot, and we can build from here over the next two days.
    “We will be focused on maximising mileage for learning rather than chasing an optimum sweet spot with the car…
    “We know that it’s not about the feeling, but the speed. Nevertheless, today was about learning and not about chasing performance.
    “We’re focused on ourselves at this test, and it will only be next week where we see where we stack up against the others.
    “It was a positive first day and I’m looking forward to being back in the car on Friday.”
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    Comparing directly to their 2023 machinery, Russell added: “Overall, the W15 does feel nicer to drive than last year’s car.”
    The F1 season will get underway fully with the first race in Bahrain on March 2.

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    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff opens up on relationship with Lewis Hamilton since F1 star decided to switch to Ferrari

    TOTO WOLFF is confident Lewis Hamilton’s defection to Ferrari will not harm their chances this season.The Mercedes boss was stunned to discover his driver was quitting his team to join the Italian outfit for next season.
    Wolff admits Hamilton’s departure to Ferrari came as a shock – but he is fully focused on giving Hamilton a successful car ahead of the new seasonCredit: AP
    Hamilton, 39, dropped the bombshell to Wolff over breakfast at the Austrian’s home in Oxford.
    But now, having had time to contemplate the seven-time world champion’s departure, Wolff says it will not derail his team’s performances this season.
    He said: “When the news broke, clearly it was a new situation. It’s something that we didn’t anticipate happening at that stage of the season and is a new dynamic and that’s clearly something we would have to work on.
    “But having said that, we’ve been together, spent some time in the factory and been at various events and it’s absolutely fine on a human level.
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    “In professional terms, we have a full season to go. We want to have the best competitive car and give both drivers the opportunity to get the best possible results.
    “How great would it be to finish on a high with Lewis this year. We’ve had several wonderful times and 10 more months to go and we will give it our all.”
    Speaking at pre-season testing in Bahrain ahead of the season-opener, Wolff reiterated that Mercedes are determined to take the fight to Red Bull having lost their constructors’ title to them last season.
    He added: “The morale in the team and the dynamics we have this year over the winter has been great.
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    “We spent a lot of time trying to look introspectively to see what we can do better.
    “What we’ve seen is an organisation that is really buzzing and is keen to fight and develop a car that is quicker while sticking to our mindset and our values.
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    “That is something we want to deliver this year. It is just a concentration of the moment and the next race is to come.” More

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    Red Bull chief fires savage five-word dig at Mercedes boss Toto Wolff over Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari move

    RED BULL chief Helmut Marko couldn’t resist a savage dig at Toto Wolff after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes exit.Hamilton shocked the Formula 1 world earlier this month when he announced he would be joining Ferrari for the 2025/26 season after triggering a ‘secret’ contract clause.
    Helmut Marco took a dig at Toto Wolff’s statementCredit: AFP
    Mercedes boss Wolff admitted he felt like he had been “punched in the nose” after the seven-time world champion dropped the bombshell over a breakfast meeting.
    Especially given that Wolff had always asserted that an extension with Hamilton would be a “formality”.
    And Austrian Marko couldn’t resist rubbing his rival’s nose in it.
    An interviewer for Austrian outlet OE24 pointed out that “Wolff said not long ago that he was so close to Hamilton that no piece of paper would fit between the two.”

    And Marko’s response was savage.
    He joked: “But a Ferrari contract would!”
    And Marko admitted he can’t wait to see what drama may unfold in the Mercedes garage this season – with Hamilton still signed up to drive for one more year.
    He added: “The whole thing is excellent for sports, better than Netflix.”
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    “Normally, in a situation like this, your mind is already more focused on the new team.
    “The current team cannot let him take part in any serious innovations because he would of course take them with him.”
    Inside Lewis Hamilton’s £13m collection of supercars including £4m classic and £1.6m ride made entirely for him
    On the future impact of the move, he added:
    He added: “I see it as weakening Mercedes.
    “Whether it strengthens Ferrari remains to be seen.
    “Overall, this has an incredible impact, right down to the stock market prices.
    “It’s great that something is happening.” More

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    ‘It’s going to be awkward’, predicts Max Verstappen as F1 star says Lewis Hamilton may be BANNED from Mercedes meetings

    MAX VERSTAPPEN has predicted Mercedes will ban Lewis Hamilton from “certain meetings” in the upcoming season.Hamilton has announced he will be leaving the Silver Arrows to join Ferrari in 2025.
    Max Verstappen has said Lewis Hamilton will be left out of ‘certain meetings’ with MercedesCredit: Getty
    Hamilton has announced he will leave the Silver Arrows to join Ferarri in 2025Credit: Rex
    While the announcement came as a shock to the Formula One world both Hamilton and Toto Wolff insist it is business as usual this year.
    The pair are focused on helping the team close the gap to Red Bull with both Hamilton and George Russell leading the fight.
    But according to Verstappen things may be a little bit “awkward” at the German garage now that everyone knows Hamilton is off he will be left out at certain things.
    He said: “For the rest of the year, I would say it’s a little bit awkward.
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    “It’s not like they are suddenly enemies. He has achieved so many great things with them.
    “They are still behind him, and for sure he has a great relationship with everyone, especially Toto.
    “But he knows at one point, and Toto for sure will tell him: ‘Look, I know we’ve had all this success, but you can’t be part of certain meetings any more’.
    “That is normal in F1. It’s probably a bit weird.
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    “But you are professional enough to deal with that. And once he’s sitting in the car, they will of course go flat out for him.”
    Usually, a driver does not announce a deal 12 months before their actual switch as teams want to keep talks out of the public eye.
    Did Charles Leclerc drop secret hint about Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari from Mercedes in awkward interview LAST YEAR?
    The time when more details are revealed about moves is during the F1 “silly season” in the summer break.
    But Verstappen believed the only reason the British driver announced the deal so early was to stop the news from being “leaked”.
    He continued: “It must have been leaked to announce something that big that early in the season.
    “Him going to Ferrari is not really shocking. It’s not a surprise they were talking.
    “I just think the announcement was a bit rushed.” More