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F1 practice LIVE: Lewis Hamilton in need of strong early showing at Saudi Arabian GP

Max Verstappen will be eyeing another dominant weekend as the Formula 1 paddock rolls into Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton is in need of a strong showing.

Red Bull driver Verstappen led home a comfortable one-two for the world champions at the first race of the season in Bahrain, with Sergio Perez in second.

Fernando Alonso came home third for Aston Martin, who were the surprise package, while the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and seventh respectively. Hamilton won his last F1 race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in December 2021 - but said on Thursday that his team need six cars to retire in order to win in Saudi.

Charles Leclerc - who was involved in a thrilling battle with Verstappen in Saudi last year - had to retire in Bahrain, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz coming home fourth. This year’s race is the third grand prix held at the lightning quick street circuit in Jeddah.

Follow practice at the Saudi Arabian GP with The Independent - FP1 started at 1:30pm (GMT).

F1 SAUDI ARABIAN GP - PRACTICE

F1 practice LIVE: Goodbye!

18:46 , Kieran Jackson

Thanks for joining us for practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix!

Join us tomorrow for third practice (1:30pm - GMT) and qualifying in Jeddah.

Until then have a very good evening!

F1 practice LIVE: OFFICIAL LEADERBOARD!

18:17 , Kieran Jackson

Here’s the full timesheets...

F1 practice LIVE: FP2 DONE!

18:06 , Kieran Jackson

Practice starts on the grid now as the session comes to a close - and it’s Max Verstappen who’s once again quickest!

Fernando Alonso second, 0.208 seconds off top spot, with Sergio Perez third on another day of domination for Red Bull.

4-10: Ocon, Russell, Gasly, Strooll, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Sainz

11-20: Hamilton, Norris, Tsunoda, Albon, Magnussen, Zhou, De Vries, Sargeant, Piastri, Bottas

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 practice LIVE: Traffic paradise never stops!

17:55 , Kieran Jackson

Expect carnage in Q1 tomorrow!

F1 practice LIVE: 10:00 left in FP2...

17:50 , Kieran Jackson

Verstappen still top with that time, while Fernando Alonso remains in second and Sergio Perez in third. Esteban Ocon is something of a surprise name in fourth.

5-10: Russell, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Sainz. Hamilton still 11th...

George Russell insists they need to “make some changes”. His engineer agrees. Verstappen, meanwhile, complaining about some downshifts, particularly in the last corner.

10 to go on Friday...

F1 practice LIVE: Verstappen close to the wall!

17:41 , Kieran Jackson

The double world champion fully on the limit...

F1 practice LIVE: 30:00 left in FP2...

17:35 , Kieran Jackson

All the field on softs now - and Max Verstappen still top, this time with a 1:29:603.

Fernando Alonso two-tenths further back in second, with Sergio Perez in third. George Russell is fourth - half-a-second down (not too bad).

5-10: Stroll, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Leclerc, Sainz

Lewis Hamilton down in 11th currently!

F1 practice LIVE: Lewis Hamilton will need to leave Mercedes if we do not improve, says Toto Wolff

17:28 , Kieran Jackson

Toto Wolff has admitted he would not blame Lewis Hamilton for seeking a move away from Mercedes if the sport’s once-dominant team fails to reverse its slump.

Hamilton’s £40million-a-year contract with the Silver Arrows expires at the end of the season and his future is under the microscope following their poor start to 2023.

Hamilton was only fifth at the first round in Bahrain before he finished a distant sixth in opening practice on Friday for this weekend’s Saudi ArabianGrand Prix, 1.2 seconds adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Although team principal Wolff remains convinced that Hamilton, 38, will pen a new deal, he also said that his star driver’s head could be turned as he pursues a record eighth world championship.

“If Lewis wants to win another championship he needs to make sure he has the car,” said Wolff.

“And if we cannot demonstrate that we are able to give him a car in the next couple of years then he will need to look everywhere. I don’t think he is doing it at this stage, but I will have no complaints if that happens in a year or two.”

Lewis Hamilton arrives in the Jeddah paddock on Friday (Hassan Ammar/AP) (AP)
Lewis Hamilton arrives in the Jeddah paddock on Friday (Hassan Ammar/AP) (AP)

F1 practice LIVE: 45:00 left in FP2...

17:18 , Kieran Jackson

No change from FP1 at the top - Max Verstappen was pushing like mad on his medium-tyre run and goes three-tenths faster than Sergio Perez in second.

Fernando Alonso is third for Aston Martin, six-tenths down.

Charles Leclerc not happy with Nico Hulkenberg blocking him around the banked corner - and Verstappen is complaining about his headrest!

4-10: Gasly, Ocon, Albon, Leclerc, Stroll, Hamilton, Sainz

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 practice LIVE: FP2 is underway!

17:03 , Kieran Jackson

With the floodlights now shining down on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, we’re underway with the second practice session in Saudi Arabia!

Can anyone, possibly, knock Max Verstappen off his top-of-the-table perch? Maybe it’ll be his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez? Or how about Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso?

Mercedes making a late setup change to George Russell’s car as he leaves the pit lane...

F1 practice LIVE: Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

16:56 , Kieran Jackson

FULL STORY:

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with physiotherapist Cullen for the last seven years, with the New Zealander by the Mercedes star’s side around the world as an integral part of his support team.

Cullen, 48, joined Hamilton’s team in 2016 and has been by his side for four of his seven world championships.

Yet suspicions were raised on Friday morning as Hamilton did not arrive in the paddock in Saudi Arabia with Cullen by his side, before the 38-year-old himself confirmed the news on Instagram.

In an emotional post, he said: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams. Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 practice LIVE: Traffic paradise in FP1!

16:52 , Kieran Jackson

A common occurence at a narrow, quick street track...

Tricky!

F1 practice LIVE: FP1 REPORT!

16:44 , Kieran Jackson

Max Verstappen returned from his sick bed to set the fastest time in opening practice for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The double world champion’s arrival in Jeddah was delayed by a day as he battled a stomach bug. But he showed no ill-effects as he raced to the top of the time sheets in the first running of the weekend.

Verstappen finished half-a-second clear of Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, with Fernando Alonso third for Aston Martin. Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes. Verstappen crushed his rivals in Formula One’s opening round of the season in Bahrain a fortnight ago to kick off his championship defence with an emphatic win.

And the Dutchman’s pace in the opening action of the weekend suggests he will remain the driver to beat. Alonso took a podium on his Aston Martin debut in Bahrain and the 41-year-old was best of the rest here, albeit seven tenths behind Verstappen.

Max Verstappen shakes off stomach bug to dominate opening practice in Jeddah

F1 news: Can Mercedes even build a ‘Plan B’ car in time to salvage season?

16:29 , Kieran Jackson

Comment by Kieran Jackson

Never mind waiting for the first race of the Formula 1 season. A weekend of testing, three practice sessions and qualifying in Bahrain has told Toto Wolff everything he needed to know.

No sandbagging. No magic fix. No hiding. Mere hours into the 2023 campaign the Mercedes boss – once the unflappable executive titan of the sport – cut a despondent figure speaking to the press in the late hours on Saturday. Acknowledging that his team’s persistence, bordering on stubbornness, had been a mistake, he revealed a change of tack is already in the pipeline.

Speaking after George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth and seventh respectively, the Austrian stated: “I don’t think that this package is going to be competitive eventually.

“We gave it our best go over the winter and now we all just need to regroup, sit down with the engineers, be totally non-dogmatic and ask what is the development direction we want to pursue in order to be able to win races.”

As sporting U-turns go, this is pretty seismic. Race weekend No 1 of 23: rip it up and start over.

Can Mercedes even build a ‘Plan B’ car in time to salvage season?

F1 news: Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

16:14 , Kieran Jackson

FULL STORY:

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with physiotherapist Cullen for the last seven years, with the New Zealander by the Mercedes star’s side around the world as an integral part of his support team.

Cullen, 48, joined Hamilton’s team in 2016 and has been by his side for four of his seven world championships.

Yet suspicions were raised on Friday morning as Hamilton did not arrive in the paddock in Saudi Arabia with Cullen by his side, before the 38-year-old himself confirmed the news on Instagram.

In an emotional post, he said: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams. Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 news: Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

15:59 , Kieran Jackson

Formula 1 is once again coming under increased scrutiny for staging races in countries with poor human rights records after the brother of a man executed in Saudi Arabia last year insisted the sport’s silence “enables violence and bloodshed.”

A fortnight after staging the opening race of the 2023 season in Bahrain, F1 returns to Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – a country where there have been 13 executions in the last two weeks.

Last year, 81 men were executed in one day shortly before the grand prix, with 41 from the Shia minority who had taken part in protests calling for greater political participation, according to the United Nations.

One of those men was Mustafa al-Kjayyat and his brother, Yasser al-Khayyat, insists that F1 is being used as a “tool to sportswash Saudi abuses”, in a letter seen by The Guardian addressed to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“They use the spectacle of this sporting championship to distract from the murder of my brother and hundreds of others,” he wrote. “The grand prix carrying on as normal, without even mentioning the atrocities that have just been committed on that same soil, legitimises these heinous crimes.

“Silence is complicity. It is how the regime gets away with its atrocities and suppresses calls for democratic reforms. If you truly want Formula One to be an agent for change, rather than a tool to ‘sportswash’ Saudi abuses, please end Formula One’s silence.”

Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

F1 news: Martin Brundle evaluates Mercedes’ tough start to the F1 season

15:44 , Kieran Jackson

Martin Brundle believes the situation at Mercedes is visibly tense after a disappointing start to the new Formula 1 season in Bahrain.

Having produced a car similar in design to 2022’s troubled challenger – with a unique “zero-pod” approach – Toto Wolff admitted that he is set to ditch this breed of car after seeing the roughly second-a-lap deficit to Red Bull in Sunday’s grand prix.

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in Bahrain, overtaken late on by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, and the seven-time world champion later stated that the team “did not listen” to his concerns after he recommended changes following last year’s winless season.

“It seems to me that Mercedes went the wrong way in 2022 and refuse to turn around,” Brundle said in his Sky Sports column.

“Even Lewis and Toto were openly expressing their disappointment at certain points of the weekend, and normally they only sing the praises of the teams at Brackley and Brixworth. It must be tense at the team right now, the quality is there, it just needs direction and oxygen to calm heads.”

‘It must be tense right now’: Brundle evaluates Mercedes’ tough start to the season

F1 news: Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

15:17 , Kieran Jackson

Sky Sports have added former McLaren and Aston Martin strategy chief Bernie Collins to their Formula 1 punditry line-up for the 2023 season.

Collins, who was a performance engineer at McLaren and head of race strategy at Aston Martin, will first feature on Sky in the paddock at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Sky say she will feature at other races throughout the year, as well as at Sky Studios, and is the first addition to the Sky F1 team since Johnny Herbert and Paul di Resta left in the off-season.

“I am really excited to begin this new chapter with the Sky Sports F1 team and want to thank them for the opportunity,” Collins said in a Sky press release. “After many years on the pit wall I’m keen to embrace this new role within F1 from a viewer’s perspective and enhance their experience of racing.”

Collins’ role will “help explain and demystify all things team strategy and engineering for Sky Sports F1 viewers old and new.”

Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

F1 news: Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

14:59 , Kieran Jackson

Exclusive interview by Kieran Jackson

Ted is talking about cheese. For a Formula 1 pit lane reporter functioning in a world of tyre compounds and floor specifications, Ted often finds himself talking about cheese. Usually at pre-season testing. A bizarre synonymity, some might say, and readers not drooling in the daily churn of digital F1 content may be a little lost already. Don’t worry, you’re forgiven.

Sky Sports’ ever-present pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz – of BBC and ITV before that – has a style of presenting so inimitable that the man himself has formed a devoted following of his own, hate it as he might. Ahead of his 22nd year of pit lane reporting and 27th working in the sport he loves, Ted’s methodology of fan interaction is constantly evolving. This year, forget TikTok: it’s all about TedTok. So, back to the cheese.

“TedTok was just too good for somebody to steal,” the 48-year-old tells The Independent, in the unusually formal setting for him of an office at Sky Studios. “So I’m just going to put nonsense about doing stuff with cheese on there.

“I put up a video of me and Anthony [Davidson] choosing the perfect cheese in Bahrain to carve away the venturi tunnels of the car to the floor edge… it’s harder than you think.

“You could have got a block of cheddar, but then it would’ve just crumbled away and the whole shoot would’ve been a disaster. This was 20 minutes and Anthony was quite right in choosing the right type of cheese… gouda!”

Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

F1 practice LIVE: FP1 DONE!

14:52 , Kieran Jackson

Max Verstappen tops the timesheets in FP1 - and it’s another Red Bull one-two!

F1 practice LIVE: 5:00 left in FP1...

14:35 , Kieran Jackson

An interesting leaderboard at the top, with all the field having swapped onto soft tyres....

Max Verstappen top with a 1:29:662, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in second four-tenths back.

It’s Aston Martin three and four with Alonso and Stroll, with Mercedes five and six - George Russell slightly ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

7-10: Sainz, Gasly, Albon, Tsunoda

5 to go...

F1 practice LIVE: 30:00 left in FP1...

14:00 , Kieran Jackson

On track for 10 minutes and he’s already top of the charts - Max Verstappen sets the fastest time.

Fernando Alonso in second, with Sergio Perez in third. All on softs!

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 practice LIVE: 40:00 left in FP1...

13:52 , Kieran Jackson

We do love helmet cam!

F1 practice LIVE: 45:00 left in FP1!

13:48 , Kieran Jackson

Usual suspects are at the top... apart from Max Veratappen, who is yet to set a time and is currently in the pit lane!

His Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez is top of the timesheets, with the Ferrari pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz second and third.

Lewis Hamilton is fourth, with Alex Albon fifth. Perez on the softs, the rest on the hard tyre.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 practice LIVE: FP1 is underway!

13:34 , Kieran Jackson

Under scorching sunshine in Jeddah, first practice is underway at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix!

And a rare mistake from Red Bull straight away, as Sergio Perez gets his bearings wrong coming out of the garage... he needs to be pushed back by his team to progress down the pit lane!

One hour of running in this opening session...

F1 news: Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

13:28 , Kieran Jackson

FULL STORY:

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with physiotherapist Cullen for the last seven years, with the New Zealander by the Mercedes star’s side around the world as an integral part of his support team.

Cullen, 48, joined Hamilton’s team in 2016 and has been by his side for four of his seven world championships.

Yet suspicions were raised on Friday morning as Hamilton did not arrive in the paddock in Saudi Arabia with Cullen by his side, before the 38-year-old himself confirmed the news on Instagram.

In an emotional post, he said: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams. Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 news: What is the race schedule?

13:25 , Kieran Jackson

(All times GMT)

Friday 17 March

  • Free Practice 1: 1:30pm

  • Free Practice 2: 5pm

Saturday 18 March

  • Free Practice 3: 1:30pm

  • Qualifying: 5pm

Sunday 19 March

  • Race: 5pm

F1 news: Lewis Hamilton ranks Mercedes’ prospects of win in Saudi Arabia

13:21 , Kieran Jackson

Lewis Hamilton believes three teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin – will have to retire in order for Mercedes to win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Mercedes, so dominant in Formula 1 from 2014-2021 with eight Constructors’ Championships, had a season to forget in 2022 as new regulations caught them out and they finished third in the standings.

The Silver Arrows endured a disastrous start in the opening race of 2023 in Bahrain, with Toto Wolff insisting they will have to ditch their unique “zero-pod” philosophy in order to be competitive again. Hamilton finished fifth, while team-mate George Russell came home a lowly seventh.

And Hamilton – who last won an F1 race at the Jeddah track in December 2021, 24 grand prix ago – admitted it was a “shock” when he first drove the W14 car last month, acknowledging that three teams are currently ahead of them.

“Once I drove the car for the first time, you start to do that [re-assess goals] with the challenges you’re facing,” the 38-year-old said.

“It’s a similar situation to last year - it’s a shock when the car isn’t where you want it to be but you have 100% faith in the people you work with. We’re not where we want to be and we need to keep working on it.

“We need the Red Bulls and Ferraris not to finish the race, maybe the Astons too, to be winning [ourselves]. It doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up...”

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes can only win in Saudi Arabia if top six cars retire

F1 news: Red Bull’s Christian Horner backed to be F1 CEO over current boss Stefano Domenicali

13:13 , Kieran Jackson

Christian Horner has been backed to become the next CEO of Formula 1 – by the sport’s former supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Horner, the boss at Red Bull, is the sport’s longest serving team principal having been in charge of the current world champions since 2005.

The 49-year-old executive is overseeing Red Bull’s current domination of the sport, having won both world championships at a canter last year and claiming a one-two finish at the 2023 season-opener on Sunday with Max Verstappen, the double world champion, triumphant in Bahrain.

But Ecclestone – who caused controversy last year after stating he would “take a bullet” for Russian president Vladimir Putin – insists Horner should aim for the sport’s top job next.

“If you had to pick anyone today, I’d say he [Horner] would be as good as there is,” 92-year-old Ecclestone said.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner backed to be F1 CEO over current boss Stefano Domenicali

F1 news: Lando Norris four-year anniversary...

13:05 , Kieran Jackson

How time flies!

F1 news: BREAKING - Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

12:58 , Kieran Jackson

FULL STORY:

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with physiotherapist Cullen for the last seven years, with the New Zealander by the Mercedes star’s side around the world as an integral part of his support team.

Cullen, 48, joined Hamilton’s team in 2016 and has been by his side for four of his seven world championships.

Yet suspicions were raised on Friday morning as Hamilton did not arrive in the paddock in Saudi Arabia with Cullen by his side, before the 38-year-old himself confirmed the news on Instagram.

In an emotional post, he said: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams. Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 news: BREAKING - Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

12:41 , Kieran Jackson

Cullen herself posted a heartwarming slideshow on her social media, alongside a caption: “Exactly 7 years ago on this day I was standing in the F1 paddock for the first time at the Australian GP. Today I’m excited to share I’m off on my next adventure.

“I am so grateful and blessed to have had this incredible journey in F1 and I know my story will continue. Thanks to the MB team, who have been my family for the past 7 years.

“And Lewis Hamilton you GOAT!! It’s been such an honour and pleasure to stand along side you I’m so proud of you and everything you have achieved. Thank you for supporting me, believing in me and showing me the limitless potential we all have within us.

“I am so excited to watch the next chapter for you. There’s nothing you can’t do. Don’t stop believing. Lives journey is one big wave. Keep riding. Dream big. As dreams do come true. Forever by your side. STILL WE RISE.”

F1 news: BREAKING - Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

12:31 , Kieran Jackson

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with Cullen for the last seven years and has been by the Mercedes star’s side in the paddock as an integral part of his team.

Hamilton said on Friday, prior to the start of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams.

“Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 news: Haas rubbishes report alleging parent company provided machinery to Russia

12:30 , Kieran Jackson

The Haas Formula 1 team has dismissed a report claiming its parent company broke sanctions by providing machinery to Russia as “simply false.”

Haas F1 responded in a statement on Thursday to a report by American broadcaster PBS on Tuesday alleging that the Haas Automation company had provided machines and parts to Russia.

This would have been in violation of US export control and sanctions regulations after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

“That story is simply false, both in its overall impression and in many of its particular statements,” the Haas F1 team said in a statement.

“The 18 machines referenced in the story left the Haas Automation factory prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Haas rubbishes report alleging parent company provided machinery to Russia

F1 news: UPDATE

12:19 , Kieran Jackson

Ferrari has brought an updated front wing endplate and floor edge to Jeddah, per the FIA’s technical document heading into this weekend.

All teams are required to list updates before each Grand Prix...

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news: Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

12:09 , Kieran Jackson

Sky Sports have added former McLaren and Aston Martin strategy chief Bernie Collins to their Formula 1 punditry line-up for the 2023 season.

Collins, who was a performance engineer at McLaren and head of race strategy at Aston Martin, will first feature on Sky in the paddock at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Sky say she will feature at other races throughout the year, as well as at Sky Studios, and is the first addition to the Sky F1 team since Johnny Herbert and Paul di Resta left in the off-season.

“I am really excited to begin this new chapter with the Sky Sports F1 team and want to thank them for the opportunity,” Collins said in a Sky press release. “After many years on the pit wall I’m keen to embrace this new role within F1 from a viewer’s perspective and enhance their experience of racing.”

Collins’ role will “help explain and demystify all things team strategy and engineering for Sky Sports F1 viewers old and new.”

Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

12:04 , Kieran Jackson

Max Verstappen is fit and raring to go in Saudi!

The world champion missed media duties on Thursday due to a stomach bug...

F1 news: Charles Leclerc faces further title blow with Saudi Arabian Grand Prix grid penalty

11:57 , Kieran Jackson

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc faces a 10-place grid penalty ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It comes after Leclerc was forced to retire from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix due to an engine issue, in what was an early blow to his hopes of challenging Max Verstappen for the F1 title.

Frederic Vasseur, the new Ferrari team principal, said following the race that he was surprised by the retirement but a further investigation has identified the problem.

Ferrari said they have been forced to fit another control electronics power unit on Leclerc’s car ahead of the second race of the season, having already replaced parts in Bahrain.

Teams are only allowed to use two control electronics components per season until a penalty is triggered, which has given Leclerc an uphill battle as he looks to cut Verstappen’s early lead in the standings.

Charles Leclerc faces further title blow with Saudi Arabian Grand Prix grid penalty

F1 news: Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

11:44 , Kieran Jackson

Formula 1 is once again coming under increased scrutiny for staging races in countries with poor human rights records after the brother of a man executed in Saudi Arabia last year insisted the sport’s silence “enables violence and bloodshed.”

A fortnight after staging the opening race of the 2023 season in Bahrain, F1 returns to Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – a country where there have been 13 executions in the last two weeks.

Last year, 81 men were executed in one day shortly before the grand prix, with 41 from the Shia minority who had taken part in protests calling for greater political participation, according to the United Nations.

One of those men was Mustafa al-Kjayyat and his brother, Yasser al-Khayyat, insists that F1 is being used as a “tool to sportswash Saudi abuses”, in a letter seen by The Guardian addressed to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“They use the spectacle of this sporting championship to distract from the murder of my brother and hundreds of others,” he wrote. “The grand prix carrying on as normal, without even mentioning the atrocities that have just been committed on that same soil, legitimises these heinous crimes.

“Silence is complicity. It is how the regime gets away with its atrocities and suppresses calls for democratic reforms. If you truly want Formula One to be an agent for change, rather than a tool to ‘sportswash’ Saudi abuses, please end Formula One’s silence.”

Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

F1 news: Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

11:35 , Kieran Jackson

Exclusive interview by Kieran Jackson

Ted is talking about cheese. For a Formula 1 pit lane reporter functioning in a world of tyre compounds and floor specifications, Ted often finds himself talking about cheese. Usually at pre-season testing. A bizarre synonymity, some might say, and readers not drooling in the daily churn of digital F1 content may be a little lost already. Don’t worry, you’re forgiven.

Sky Sports’ ever-present pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz – of BBC and ITV before that – has a style of presenting so inimitable that the man himself has formed a devoted following of his own, hate it as he might. Ahead of his 22nd year of pit lane reporting and 27th working in the sport he loves, Ted’s methodology of fan interaction is constantly evolving. This year, forget TikTok: it’s all about TedTok. So, back to the cheese.

“TedTok was just too good for somebody to steal,” the 48-year-old tells The Independent, in the unusually formal setting for him of an office at Sky Studios. “So I’m just going to put nonsense about doing stuff with cheese on there.

“I put up a video of me and Anthony [Davidson] choosing the perfect cheese in Bahrain to carve away the venturi tunnels of the car to the floor edge… it’s harder than you think.

“You could have got a block of cheddar, but then it would’ve just crumbled away and the whole shoot would’ve been a disaster. This was 20 minutes and Anthony was quite right in choosing the right type of cheese… gouda!”

Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

F1 news: What is the race schedule?

11:32 , Kieran Jackson

(All times GMT)

Friday 17 March

  • Free Practice 1: 1:30pm

  • Free Practice 2: 5pm

Saturday 18 March

  • Free Practice 3: 1:30pm

  • Qualifying: 5pm

Sunday 19 March

  • Race: 5pm

F1 news: Max Verstappen misses media day in Saudi Arabia

11:28 , Kieran Jackson

Max Verstappen has cancelled his media commitments at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because of a stomach illness.

The double world champion, who dominated Formula One’s season-opening race in Bahrain a fortnight ago, said he has been battling with the bug this week.

However, he expects to be in his Red Bull for practice in Jeddah on Friday.

“Feeling fine again, after not being fit for a few days because of a stomach bug,” wrote the Dutchman, 25, on Twitter.

“Therefore, I unfortunately had to postpone my flight for a day, so I won’t be on the track until Friday.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news: Good morning!

11:26 , Kieran Jackson

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit!

The fastest street circuit in the world plays host to the second race of the 2023 Formula 1 season, with Max Verstappen looking to pick up where he left off in Bahrain - where he led Red Bull to a one-two finish.

Yet Mercedes will be looking for a massive improvement after a disappointing showing last time out, while all eyes are on Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso too after they impressed in Bahrain.

FP1 starts at 1:30pm (GMT) on Friday, with second practice at 5pm. Stay tuned for all the updates!

F1 news: Lewis Hamilton ranks Mercedes’ prospects of win in Saudi Arabia

11:24 , Kieran Jackson

Lewis Hamilton believes three teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin – will have to retire in order for Mercedes to win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Mercedes, so dominant in Formula 1 from 2014-2021 with eight Constructors’ Championships, had a season to forget in 2022 as new regulations caught them out and they finished third in the standings.

The Silver Arrows endured a disastrous start in the opening race of 2023 in Bahrain, with Toto Wolff insisting they will have to ditch their unique “zero-pod” philosophy in order to be competitive again. Hamilton finished fifth, while team-mate George Russell came home a lowly seventh.

And Hamilton – who last won an F1 race at the Jeddah track in December 2021, 24 grand prix ago – admitted it was a “shock” when he first drove the W14 car last month, acknowledging that three teams are currently ahead of them.

“Once I drove the car for the first time, you start to do that [re-assess goals] with the challenges you’re facing,” the 38-year-old said.

“It’s a similar situation to last year - it’s a shock when the car isn’t where you want it to be but you have 100% faith in the people you work with. We’re not where we want to be and we need to keep working on it.

“We need the Red Bulls and Ferraris not to finish the race, maybe the Astons too, to be winning [ourselves]. It doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up...”

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes can only win in Saudi Arabia if top six cars retire