Red Bull team principal Christian Horner asserted after the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday that Sergio Perez's form is critical to helping the team take points away from Ferrari. 

Max Verstappen won a tightly contested race while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished within 10 seconds of the reigning world champion. 

Perez came fourth despite being the only driver in the top 10 to pit twice and experiencing a sensor fault that resulted in a loss of power. 

With that, Verstappen has only made an incremental gain in the driver's standings after his wins at Miami and Imola, with the Leclerc now holding a 19-point advantage. 

Horner believes Perez can join the fight and be on the podium but due to the car's reliability concerns was simply not able to do so in Miami. 

"Of course, reliability's going to be an issue," Horner told Sky Sports. "We had a sensor issue on Checo's [Perez's] engine, the guys did well to move them around but he lost about 30 horsepower with that. He was losing half a second a lap and I think without that he might have even been second with the tyre advantage, because we pitted him. 

"We need Checo in there and he's capable of doing that. You saw in Imola how quickly things can turn around and I think we've got some interesting races coming up. 

"The car's running well, we've got some developments hopefully coming later in the summer that will help us, we need to save a little bit of weight, but generally, I think we're on a good trajectory." 

With DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Verstappen has fought off challenges from Leclerc to win the other three races of the season, showing distinct poise under pressure. 

That was particularly the case in Miami, where the Dutch driver stayed consistent and managed to shake off Leclerc from the DRS window. 

Horner was full of praise for Verstappen and how consistent he stayed despite the challenge from Ferrari. 

"Max is under so much pressure in that position, it's easy to lock the wheel and so on, and he kept it clean," he said. "He didn't make any mistakes and then was gradually able to break the DRS after five-six laps and was able to manage it from there." 

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari are a challenger for this year's Formula One drivers' and constructors' titles, despite Max Verstappen's victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Following his DNF in the season opener in Bahrain, Verstappen bounced back to claim the 25 points in a tightly contested race.

With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium in both races, however, Ferrari have opened up an early 40-point lead in the constructors' championship. Leclerc has also added to his respective first and second-placed finishes with two bonus points from fastest laps.

According to Horner, it is a sign of their legitimacy and strength this season.

"Ferrari have got a great car, they've got great drivers," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really tough battle. If that's what we're set for the rest of the season... from what we've seen in the first two races, it's been epic.

"They're all competitive teams. Ferrari are a big team, they've been a sleeping giant for a couple of years. They've got great strength in depth. It was just a great motor race. We enjoyed it, it was good hard racing between the drivers, and let's see what happens in Australia."

In the second consecutive race this season, Verstappen and Leclerc were locked in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle, with the defending champion seeing off the Ferrari challenge in Jeddah this time.

Horner praised the reigning world champion's race management, with Verstappen well placed to hold off Leclerc's late charge, while also saving some words for fourth-placed pole-sitter Sergio Perez.

"It was a very patient race from Max," Horner said. "He looked after the tyres for the end of the race there, and then after the last safety car, he really went for it.

"[Sergio] has driven brilliantly all weekend. He got that pole, his race pace was great, and he's just got unlucky with track position with the safety car. We've seen that happen sometimes."

The F1 season resumes in April with the Australian GP in Melbourne.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner labelled Mercedes' new car as "extreme" but insisted it "ticks all the boxes" as a legal design.

Mercedes unveiled their W13 car on the first day of the pre-season testing session in Bahrain, with their new design featuring minimalistic vertical sidepods on either side of the cockpit.

Horner, who regularly battled with the world champions last season, reportedly told German outlet Auto Motor und Sport that the car was "not legal", but he has since clarified his comments.

"I think comments have been quoted that certainly weren't made," Horner said at Friday's news conference. "The car is obviously innovative, it's an interesting solution.

"As far as we're concerned it looks like the Mercedes car complies with the regulations. It's just a different interpretation, a different solution."

Horner was also quoted as suggesting the 'no side pod car' breached the spirit of Formula One rules, but the 48-year-old believes his words were misconstrued once more.

"There's not really anything that defines the spirit of the regulations, it either complies or it doesn't," he added.

"That's not really for us to judge, the FIA have the access to all of the drawings for a design like that which would have been submitted in advance. It's an interesting concept, it's a radical concept."

While impressed with the concept, Horner wants to wait and see whether it aids Mercedes on the track.

"Is it quick or not? Only time will tell. It's impossible to draw any conclusions other than it looks very different," he continued.

"Visually it is quite a departure from the concepts that certainly we've taken and a few others have taken.

"That's not to say it's naturally better or worse, it's just a different interpretation and compromises have been made with their layout to accommodate that."

Mercedes will look to defend their title at the start of the new campaign, which gets underway in Bahrain on March 20, but Horner believes Ferrari will be the team to beat in 2022.

"For me, the car that looks most settled on the circuit is the Ferrari," Horner said.

"I think they've had a very strong testing period so far, both in Barcelona and in Bahrain. They've looked extremely competitive whenever on track.

"But you have to remember these cars are still very immature, the rate of development will be very fast and intense. Mercedes are going to be a huge factor in this championship, I have no doubt."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner disagrees with the decision to remove controversial Formula One race director Michael Masi.

Masi was offered a new role elsewhere in the FIA after being replaced by two men in Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas for the 2022 season.

The Australian official was at the forefront of the controversy surrounding Max Verstappen's title triumph last year.

Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton in the final lap of the final race, but he was only able to stage that late recovery after Masi let the cars between the pair – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, prevailed, prompting a protest from Hamilton and Mercedes that failed – although Masi has now been removed from his role.

"It's going to be interesting to see how that works," Horner told BBC Breakfast on Monday.

"For me, you want consistency. Having one race director, for me, was preferential, rather than splitting that role.

"We have a new president [Mohammed Ben Sulayem] who has come in and inherited this situation, and he's looked to impose change.

"It's great that Herbie Blash, a very experienced race control member, is coming back into the fray as well, so we will see how it pans out.

"But I thought it was harsh on Michael Masi that he was replaced after a lot of pressure being put on him. Everything is back to zero, new season, new regulations."

Wittich and Freitas will have to deal with a similarly tense, tight title race, though, according to Horner.

"It has been so intense," said Horner. "I think you might get a couple of other drivers come into that fray as well.

"It was epic last year, and if that continues I think there's going to be some fantastic races in the season ahead.

"It's great for the sport. The sport has never had so much coverage and so much following. The following in the sport has gone exponential over the last season, and that's great to see."

Christian Horner says Red Bull have made a "statement of intent" by tying "the best driver on the grid" Max Verstappen to a new long-term contract.

It was announced on Thursday the Formula One world champion has extended his stay with Red Bull until at least the end of the 2028 season.

The Dutchman's previous deal only ran until next year, so the team were eager to reach an agreement before he starts the defence of his title at the Bahrain Grand Prix later this month.

Team principal Horner believes Red Bull have demonstrated that they plan to be a force for years to come by retaining Verstappen.

"To have Max signed with Red Bull through to the end of '28 is a real statement of intent," Horner said.

"Our immediate focus is on retaining Max's world championship title, but this deal also shows he is part of the team's long-term planning.

"With the Red Bull Powertrains division working towards the new engine regulations for 2026, we wanted to make sure we had the best driver on the grid secured for that car."

Verstappen was crowned F1 champion for the first time last year in controversial fashion after overtaking title rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old is hungry for more success following that maiden triumph.

"I really enjoy being part of Red Bull Racing, so choosing to stay to the 2028 season was an easy decision," he said.

"I love this team and last year was simply incredible. Our goal since we came together in 2016 was to win the championship, and we have done that, so now it's about keeping the number one on the car long term."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner have pledged to move on from the fierce rivalry that engulfed Formula One's leading teams last season.

December's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw Red Bull's Max Verstappen win his first Drivers' Championship in contentious fashion, after race director Michael Masi elected to unlap cars between Verstappen and leader Lewis Hamilton, permitting one lap of racing which saw the Dutchman snatch the title in the season's final seconds.

Mercedes reacted furiously to the result and rumours spread that a disillusioned Hamilton could even quit the sport, while Masi was removed from his role ahead of the 2022 season, with two new race directors appointed in his place.

Hamilton, however, will be going for an eighth world title this season and speaking at the first testing session in Barcelona, both Wolff and Horner were keen to draw a line under the events of 2021, and look ahead to the upcoming campaign.

"It [the rivalry] is to be expected," Wolff said in a news conference. "It got fierce at times and brutal, But there's a lot at stake.

"It's a Formula One world championship, there's the fighting on-track, and the fighting off-track for advantages. That's okay.

"But we need to move on. There's been so much talk about Abu Dhabi, it came to a point that it was really damaging for all stakeholders of F1, and we've closed the chapter and moved on.

"Now it's about 2022, the game is on again, all points to zero, new opportunity and new risk."

Lewis Hamilton insisted Formula One must ensure that there is no bias from stewards heading into the 2022 season.

Hamilton was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in a contentious conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after race director Michael Masi elected to allow a series of cars to pass a late safety car, permitting one lap of racing with the Dutchman on new tyres.

Masi has since been removed from his role, while rumours abounded that Hamilton could leave the sport, though the seven-time world champion last week confirmed he would be racing once again for Mercedes this season.

Two new race directors will share the role Masi has vacated.

At the first testing session in Barcelona ahead of the new campaign, which starts on March 20 in Bahrain, Hamilton was asked if the changes would result in more consistent decision-making.

"We need to make sure we have non-biased stewards, too," the 37-year-old said.

"Racing drivers, some are very good friends with certain individuals, some travel with certain individuals and tend to take more of a keen liking to some of them.

"I think [we need] people who have no bias, are super central when it comes to making decisions."

Hamilton's belief is not shared by his team's boss, Toto Wolff, however.

"I think we need professionalism in the stewards' room," said Wolff in a news conference.

"I don't think there is a conscious bias to be honest. It's intelligent people."

Red Bull's Christian Horner, who has a not-so-secret rivalry with his Mercedes counterpart, agreed.

"I would agree with Toto that I don't think there's an intended bias. I'm not aware of any stewards travelling with drivers to races," he added.

"In [FIA president] Mohammed [ben Sulayem] we have a new president that is looking to bolster the structure and bring in an equivalent of a VAR [video assistant referee, used in football], and I think giving a better infrastructure for clearer decisions with clearer regulations is something that should be strived for.

"But I certainly don't think there was any bias from any stewards during the last seasons."

The finale to the 2021 Formula One world championship was fitting entertainment at the end of an extraordinary season.

On the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton and crossed the line in first place to become world champion for the first time.

Hamilton had looked on course for a record eighth driver's title until the safety car came onto the track after Nicholas Latifi crashed with four laps remaining.

It led to a thrilling but controversial finish – but should it have been done differently?

What happened?

Latifi hit the barriers on lap 54 and the safety car was deployed while the track was cleared.

Given Hamilton had been approximately 12 seconds clear in the lead at the time, Red Bull opted to pit Verstappen for fresh tyres in case a late dash for the chequered flag became a possibility. Hamilton stayed out, his team having warned that bringing him in for a tyre change would have given up track position to his title rival.

Discussions were then held between the respective team principals and race director Michael Masi over how the race would be concluded.

Red Bull's Christian Horner asked why cars that had already been lapped were not being allowed to pass the safety car once it was safe, which would have cleared the track between Verstappen and Hamilton and allowed for a last-lap race for the line.

Race Control, having initially declared that lapped cars would not be released, then gave the order for the five drivers keeping Verstappen from the back of Hamilton to pass the safety car.

This meant that, once the safety car left the track, racing could resume for one final lap – giving Verstappen, on far fresher tyres, the opportunity he needed to pass Hamilton and win the race, thereby clinching the title by just eight points.

Shortly after the race, Mercedes lodged an appeal against the result, citing alleged breaches of Article 48.8 and Article 48.12 of the rulebook: the first relates to overtaking under the safety car, while the second concerns the process of releasing lapped cars.

 

Why was it controversial?

The Formula One regulations for 2021 state: "If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message 'LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE' has been sent to all competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.

"This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first safety car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed. Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car. 

"Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap."

The rules do not specify whether the race director may allow only some of the lapped cars to pass, and not all. This is why Michael Masi's decision to release only the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, allowing for a final lap of racing between the title contenders, has caused such a debate.

 

What has been said?

Horner told Sky Sports: "We felt hard done by with the stewards at the beginning of the race, but they did great to get the race going again.

"We were screaming at him [Michael Masi]: 'Let them race'. That's what we've been talking about all year and this championship came down to the last lap. A great strategy call to make that pit stop, to take that set of softs, and then it was down to Max to make it happen.

"It's unheard of to leave the cars unlapped. You could see they wanted to get the race going again, and they don't need to catch up the back of the paddock. They made absolutely the right call - difficult circumstances, and they called it right."

George Russell, who will join Mercedes for the 2022 season, said on Twitter: "THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we've just seen."

Lando Norris, the McLaren driver who was one of those allowed to pass the safety car, said: "I'm not too sure what was said from the FIA. At first, we weren't allowed to overtake, as the backmarkers, so if that influenced decisions to Mercedes and to Lewis and that's the reason they didn't do their pit-stop...

"But then the FIA suddenly changed their minds and they were allowed to let us past. That's where I'm not so sure. For it to end like that, I'm not so sure."

Damon Hill, the world champion in 1996, said on Sky Sports: "This is like running a motor race in a way we've not been used to in the past. They've kept us guessing all the time as to which way a decision is going to go. One team who is not going to be complaining about what happened is Red Bull."

Nico Rosberg, who won the 2016 title, said: "First they said you're not allowed to unlap themselves, then they changed that message once they saw it was safe to do so.

"The thing is that in the document it says 'all cars will be required to unlap themselves' and yet they only let those five cars that were between Lewis and Verstappen unlap themselves. That's where Mercedes are asking if it's okay or not. But I guess in the end Michael Masi can decide what he wants, he's the race director."

Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, said: "It definitely went Max's way only letting those five cars past but earlier in the race it sort of went Lewis' way. Michael Masi wants to get them racing, he doesn't want to decide the world championship."

Max Verstappen revelled in living up to the hype after becoming the first home winner of the Dutch Grand Prix. 

On a fine weekend for the Red Bull superstar, Verstappen reclaimed the Formula One world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton as he made history at Zandvoort. 

Already one of only two Benelux drivers to triumph in the region, the Dutchman coasted to victory to celebrate in front of a euphoric orange-clad crowd. 

"I've never seen a reaction like that in all my career, to any driver," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports. 

Verstappen, who passed 1,000 laps leading in his F1 career en route to finishing 20.932 seconds clear of Hamilton, said over the cheers of his noisy supporters: "As you can hear already, it is just incredible. 

"The expectations were high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil that, but I'm so happy to win here, to take the lead as well in the championship. 

"It's just an amazing day with the whole crowd. It's incredible." 

This was Verstappen's seventh victory of the year – all of which have come in Europe, where he had only five prior triumphs. 

"It's definitely a very good day," he said. "The start was very important – I think we did that well. 

"Then, of course, Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us, but we countered them all the time really well. We can be really pleased with the whole team performance today." 

Hamilton pitted three times in all, eventually settling for the fastest lap as Mercedes' strategy failed to make up the deficit to a faster Red Bull car. 

The Silver Arrows' premier driver was one of just three men on the grid born when F1 last visited Zandvoort in 1985. 

It now becomes only the fifth circuit Hamilton has raced at in F1 without winning, but he enjoyed the experience. 

"What a race, what a crowd. Honestly, it's been an amazing weekend," Hamilton said. 

"Max did an incredible job, so congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, flat out, pushed as hard as I could, but they were just too quick for us." 

Lewis Hamilton refused to accept responsibility for the sensational first-lap crash that sent title rival Max Verstappen out of the British Grand Prix and into the Silverstone barriers.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Hamilton was guilty of "dirty driving" and questioned how he would sleep after the incident at Copse Corner that caused Verstappen to need hospital checks.

After the race was red-flagged and once Hamilton served a 10-second time penalty, the British driver went on to win his home grand prix and in doing so cut Verstappen's championship lead to only eight points.

"I've been giving my all this past week," Hamilton said afterwards. "Of course I always try to be measured in how I approach, particularly in battling with Max, he's very aggressive, and today I was fully alongside him and he didn't let me into space.

"Regardless of whether I agree with the penalty, I take it on the chin and I just kept working."

Verstappen was initially treated by medics at Silverstone but then needed to be taken to hospital.

"He's bruised, he's battered, but no broken bones. It was by far the biggest accident of his career," Horner said on Channel 4.

The Red Bull boss made his "dirty driving" claim just minutes after the crash, which saw Hamilton come up on the inside of the pole-sitter, only for their wheels to touch and Verstappen to suffer a crash that left his car a wreck.

"The penalty doesn't fit the crime," Horner said. "He's had no penalty because he's gone on to win the grand prix. It's a desperate move that you wouldn't expect from a seven-time world champion.

"It's just irresponsible and a sign of desperation and it's completely destroyed the car."

Horner said Red Bull would "consider our options" over a possible post-race protest, after Hamilton celebrated a record eighth victory in the British race.

"I don't think Lewis can take any satisfaction from a victory like that because we were lucky today that a driver wasn't badly hurt," Horner said.

"I hope he can sleep well tonight because that's not good driving."

Horner suggested the crash could ramp up the excitement for the rest of the season, backing his young driver to come back strongly.

"He's fit, he'll recover quickly and he's mentally very, very strong," Horner said. "If anything it'll just make him more determined.

"It just raises the stakes. It didn't need to be like that because it could have been a great race between the two drivers today."

Toto Wolff insisted Mercedes had to pit Valtteri Bottas first at the French Grand Prix and allow Red Bull to set up Max Verstappen for a stunning undercut.

After an early Verstappen error, the championship leader was running in third, between two Silver Arrows.

Lewis Hamilton led, with Bottas back in third, but Mercedes team principal Wolff explained the Finn had issues with his tyres that meant he had to head for the pit lane.

That call prompted Verstappen to pit next and he enjoyed an out lap described by Wolff as "phenomenal" while Hamilton followed him in and narrowly lost the lead.

Red Bull took a further risk by bringing Verstappen in a second time to attack the Mercedes pair on fresh medium tyres, but the first stop proved pivotal, accommodating that bold two-stop strategy.

Verstappen won the race, with runner-up Hamilton a fraction under three seconds behind him.

Wolff pondered if Mercedes had "misjudged" the undercut and added it was "something to improve".

However, he told Sky Sports: "We knew we were going to trigger the stops too early, but we had no choice."

Wolff said: "It went back and forward. We were in the lead because Max made the mistake, so that was a bit inherited.

"Then our pace was good, probably a little bit of a margin even. But then we had just about three seconds gap for the undercut, to protect the undercut, but it wasn't enough.

"We were lacking a second. Somewhere we lost it."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner added: "I think it's been a great race. You can see how close it is.

"It's been a great win for us today, but you've only got to look how tight it is between the two teams. It's going to be nip and tuck all the way through this championship, but we're going to be very happy leaving here.

"I think I'm visibly ageing with each grand prix, but we'll give Toto a few grey hairs by the end of the year as well."

Christian Horner described the "rollercoaster" of Red Bull's Azerbaijan Grand Prix success as Sergio Perez revealed he almost followed team-mate Max Verstappen out of the race.

Red Bull claimed consecutive wins for just the second time in the Hybrid Era, but it was Perez rather than Verstappen who led them to glory.

Verstappen was in complete control and set to head a Red Bull one-two when his left-rear tyre blew out in the closing stages. The same issue had ruled out Lance Stroll of Aston Martin.

That left the door open for title rival Lewis Hamilton to profit, but an error from the defending champion from the restart allowed Perez to race clear.

Red Bull boss Horner told Sky Sports: "I think I've aged about 20 years.

"We were staring down the barrel of our first one-two since 2016. Everything in control, we'd just checked in with Max, all okay, and then boom.

"The tyre went, and we don't know why. It looked like the wear was in good shape, so whether it's debris or something has happened.

"You can see it's a big place to have an accident. Thankfully, he's okay."

He added: "We were feeling at that point like the world had dropped from under us."

Worse might have been to come for Red Bull as Perez finished the race but then immediately broke down, receiving frantic messages over the radio as he celebrated his first victory for the team.

The Mexican, who has five consecutive top-five finishes for the first time in his career, said: "I'm so, so happy for today. Normally, Baku is pretty crazy.

"First of all, I have to say for Max I'm sorry. He did a tremendous race and really deserved the win, and it would have been incredible to get that one-two for the team.

"But at the end, it is a fantastic day for us. We were close to retiring the car but, luckily, we were able to finish the race. It was quite difficult all the way in the end."

Horner lauded Perez, whose victory moved Red Bull 26 points clear in the constructors' championship on a day Mercedes failed to score.

"He's a wily driver, a canny racer. He races really, really well," Horner said.

"We went from the despair of 'We've lost Max, we're going to lose the championship lead, Lewis could pass him at the restart and win the race'.

"It just shows the rollercoaster you go through in this sport.

"Suddenly it not being quite so bad, we've actually maintained the same lead in the drivers' championship leaving here and extended the constructors'."

Red Bull dedicated the victory to Mansour Ojjeh, the McLaren shareholder who passed away ahead of the race.

"He had the biggest heart and always carried the biggest smile," ex-McLaren man Hamilton posted on Twitter. "I am so grateful to have known such a man."

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would like to see team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner don boxing gloves to settle their differences.

Hamilton and Verstappen are engaged in a title tussle in Formula One but have so far maintained pleasantries off the track in front of the media.

The same cannot be said for Mercedes chief Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Horner.

When Horner this week suggested his opposite number "keep [his] mouth shut" as the Silver Arrows struggled in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Wolff fired back that the Red Bull boss was "a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera".

For Hamilton, who qualified in second, and Verstappen, in third, the row was the source of some amusement in Baku on Saturday.

"We should get them in a ring," Hamilton offered.

Verstappen added: "Yeah, but I think the weight division is a bit of a problem. In the height, the reach...

"I mean I'm all for a ring anyway, even in Formula One – instead of penalties!"

Pressed for further comment, Verstappen said: "It's Formula One. There are a lot of stakes involved so everyone wants to win, everyone is competitive.

"I guess it's just a natural thing and it's good for people to read, right? A bit of fire behind it."

Hamilton said: "Naturally, they're the two top leaders of the teams and they've both contributed hugely to the success of both teams.

"[They are] great leaders and of course they're head to head because we are head to head in this tight battle. We generally just like to do our talking on the track, so we're just keeping our heads down."

Hamilton did just that in qualifying, although he had not anticipated such a competitive display.

The defending champion was seventh in FP1, 11th in FP2 and "still pretty much a disaster" in third in FP3.

However, Hamilton was only denied a 101st career pole by Charles Leclerc, who again profited from a late red flag – this time caused by an incident involving team-mate Carlos Sainz, having himself crashed last time out.

"Honestly, it's one of the greatest feelings for us, for the difficult experience we've gone through and being out of the top 10 all weekend and really struggling to understand and extract performance from our car," Hamilton said.

"It feels fantastic. Congratulations to Charles, who did a fantastic job given the difficult circumstances out there.

"Yeah, it's just a bit overwhelming, really happy to be up here, grateful to have got the lap in, and it puts us in for a much different race than we anticipated after yesterday."

Verstappen was less impressed by how qualifying panned out, bemoaning "all this s*** all the time happening" when the session was cut short.

With Red Bull concurrently leading both the drivers' championship and the constructors' championship for the first time since 2013, Verstappen is looking for the first back-to-back wins of his career.

Not since the Hybrid Era began in 2014 have his team had two victories in a row.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris, a distant third in the standings, will start from P9 due to a three-place grid penalty.

Norris, who has earned points at a career-best 10 consecutive races, qualified in sixth but was deemed to have continued on the track under one of the session's record-equalling four red flags.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.