Formula One "woke up the lion" in Lewis Hamilton when he was disqualified from qualifying due to a DRS issue in Brazil, Toto Wolff says.

Hamilton, who was already serving a penalty for taking a new engine at last week's Sao Paulo Grand Prix, was forced to start from the back of the grid in the sprint race but recovered to take fifth.

In the main race, the Mercedes man then triumphed from 10th despite an incident that saw title rival Max Verstappen force him wide and avoid punishment.

The FIA dismissed an appeal for that incident to be reviewed again this week, while a stewards' inquiry in Brazil saw Verstappen only fined after he touched Hamilton's car.

These factors may have frustrated Hamilton, but he has not become distracted, instead adding another victory at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday to close to within eight points of Red Bull's Verstappen.

"Lewis is totally in the zone," Mercedes team principal Wolff told Sky Sports. "They woke up the lion in Interlagos on that Saturday and you see that."

Hamilton added: "The last two weeks have been fantastic, just amazing. But there's no time for celebration.

"I'll be back with the team already again next week and training tomorrow, stay on it, heads down.

"I don't have too much emotion other than being driven right now, but it's just amazing to be able to close so many points in the last two races which has been important.

"[Red Bull are] obviously still very fast, as you could see today with their fastest lap and both their cars getting past pretty much everyone quite easily. So we've still got our work cut out.

"I'm loving it. I love the close battle, the pressure, the demands it puts on you and the whole team.

"So I thoroughly enjoyed it, but these next two races need even better performance, so we'll be bringing our 'triple A' game for those ones."

Fernando Alonso was delighted to return to a Formula One podium for the first time in seven years as he finished third at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Alonso was a two-time champion with Renault, now Alpine, and a regular title contender in his time at Ferrari before he quit the series at the end of 2018 having struggled with McLaren.

The Spaniard twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans while away from F1 but is back with Alpine this year.

Heading into Sunday's race at the Losail International Circuit, where he started from third following penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, Alonso had registered 13 points finishes this season without reaching the podium.

Indeed, his last top-three finish had been in Budapest in 2014, but that wait came to an end with a little help from a virtual safety car.

Alonso struggled to stick with race winner Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Verstappen beyond the first few laps but clung on to third when Sergio Perez, who pitted twice, was slowed in the closing stages.

The Alpine man had been ailing at that point, having benefited from one of several tyre punctures when Valtteri Bottas fell from third and later retired.

"Unbelievable. Seven years but finally we got it," Alonso said of his 98th F1 podium. "We were close [in] a couple of races but not [close] enough. Sochi was the last possibility.

"Here today, honestly, I thought I could be leading after lap one. I thought with the red tyre I could have a go at Lewis, but I couldn't.

"Then Checo was very close at the end, but I'm so happy for the team. Also with Esteban [Ocon] P5, it's a good Sunday."

Alonso maintained his spotless record of having collected points at all 34 circuits at which he has raced in F1 following this first Qatar GP.

He added: "I'm enjoying it. F***, I was waiting so long for this, so I'm happy."

Max Verstappen conceded Red Bull are struggling for pace after a "beautiful" lap from Lewis Hamilton saw the Mercedes driver take pole for the Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who cut Verstappen's lead in the drivers' championship to 14 points with his victory in Sao Paulo last time out, was quickest on Saturday with a blistering lap of 1:20.827.

Verstappen could not get close to that and was left to settle for second for the first Formula One race in Qatar, the Dutchman finishing 0.455 seconds off the pace.

Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes, with Red Bull's setback of Verstappen being unable to get ahead of Hamilton on the grid exacerbated by Sergio Perez failing to make it out of Q2.

Perez will start in 11th, meaning it is Hamilton who has a clear edge going into another crucial race.

Speaking after qualifying, Verstappen said: "[We're] lacking a bit of pace, it's been just a bit more tricky for us, again, in qualifying.

"It just shows we're struggling a bit more than normal. All to play for, but I wish we could have fought for more.

"There's a lot of unknowns, we just need to work on our start and we'll see where we end up."

The difference between Hamilton and Verstappen marked the largest pole margin in dry qualifying this year, with things looking up for the seven-time world champion after a challenging week.

"Yesterday was a really difficult day, Thursday and Friday I wasn't feeling too well, really had to dig deep," said Hamilton.

"I was here until midnight last night, working with the engineers, we found a lot of areas where I could improve. 

"We didn't have any traffic, that last lap was beautiful, this track is amazing to drive.

"I felt fantastic today, slept really well last night, that made a big difference."

Asked about strategy for the race, Hamilton added: "It's not the easiest of circuits to follow, but it's also not massively degrading on the tyres.

"It could be a one or two [stop], we'll find out tomorrow. It's nice and wide into turn one, so we'll be giving everything."


PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.455s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.651s
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.813s
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.843s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.904s
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1.013s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.201s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.958s

Mercedes have failed with an appeal over an incident involving Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix last weekend.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

The race stewards "noted" the incident while the race was ongoing, but did not see any reason to penalise Red Bull's championship leader.

Hamilton went on to win the race, reducing the Dutchman's lead to 14 points with three races to go.

The Silver Arrows on Tuesday revealed they had asked for the stewards to take another look at the incident on the basis of "new evidence" from onboard camera footage.

It was confirmed on Friday Verstappen will not face any punishment after the stewards rejected the appeal.

The stewards explained: "There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.

"Whether or not stewards' decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees' decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC [International Sporting Code] is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document."

Although the stewards agreed Mercedes had provided new and relevant evidence, they disagreed that it was "significant" in this case.

Their statement said: "The stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved.

"Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 [Verstappen] was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so."

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

The verdict was announced after Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen did not appear concerned on Thursday by a looming decision over Mercedes' attempt to have an incident at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix reviewed.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

That was initially deemed a fair move, and Hamilton eventually passed the championship leader anyway, cutting the gap at the top to 14 points with a precious win.

But Mercedes subsequently appealed for the incident to be reviewed again on the basis of "new evidence".

The FIA has said stewards will announce whether the clash will be fully re-examined on Friday ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, teeing up another nervous wait.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

But Dutchman Verstappen is not letting this latest controversy worry him ahead of a potentially pivotal grand prix.

"Listen, if it would have been the other way around in Brazil, it would have exactly played out like that," he told Sky Sports.

"It's hard racing. We are fighting for a championship; we are not here to be in a kindergarten."

Hamilton said: "I'm just putting all my energy to setting up the car and making sure I'm in the right headspace this weekend."

Maverick Vinales knows Monster Energy Yahama must improve despite a winning start to the MotoGP season at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Vinales shot from fifth with 15 laps to go to first with seven rounds of the track remaining in Doha on Sunday, nipping ahead of Francesco Bagnaia, who started on pole.

It ultimately proved a relatively comfortable triumph for the Spaniard, with the drama coming further back – defending champion Joan Mir losing out on a podium place with a mistake at the final corner.

However, after suffering a slow start from which he subsequently struck back, Vinales conceded there is work to do for his team.

"We are not there yet. We need to improve," he said during a news conference.

"We need to work really hard because it's just the first race. We stick with our feet on the ground, and we'll work hard for the next one, to be faster, especially from the start, we have to be better."

Vinales praised the work the team has done in pre-season, though, as well as the impact made by new Yamaha test driver Cal Crutchlow.

"I didn't have that feeling during other weekends to have that corner speed, but with Yamaha we work very hard to have that front part of the bike to make it better," he said.

"Also, Cal works very hard with the bike. The way Cal rides the bike is very similar to me, and it helps me with many things, especially because he came from a big factory and he has given us advice which was good for the race."

Despite demolishing the Losail circuit lap record in qualifying, Ducati debutant Bagnaia looked set to miss out on a place in the top three when Johann Zarco – of his former team Pramac Racing – and Mir overtook him.

However, Mir's slip-up with just one turn left to go allowed Bagnaia to take third place and the Italian conceded he needs to find a balance between starting strong, without giving up a lead.

"Maybe for the next one, I have to change the strategy a bit, push less in the first part of the race and follow someone, but in any case we have more data now to look at," he said.

"We will improve for sure, to be better in the last part of the race."

Maverick Vinales got his 2021 MotoGP campaign up and running with a season-opening victory as he charged up from fifth at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Pole-setter Francesco Bagnaia could not get away from the chasing pack, which included Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and his Ducati team-mate Jack Miller.

With defending world champion Joan Mir – starting in 10th – and fellow Suzuki rider Alex Rins struggling to keep pace initially, it was Monster Yamaha's Vinales who made his move.

Finding himself in fifth with 15 laps remaining, Vinales closed the gap on Bagnaia by the time the final seven came around.

After threatening once but being held off, Vinales spotted a gap and dived through to take a lead he would not relinquish.

Bagnaia's race looked set to go from bad to worse when he dropped out of the top three altogether.

It left Zarco and Mir tussling for second, and last year's champion had the edge on the last lap yet, in a remarkable twist, he fell short on the final corner.

Mir appeared to run wide, with his exit speed dropping and allowing Zarco to clinch second – Bagnaia, who had blitzed the Losail lap record in qualifying, battling back to mark his first race for Ducati with a podium finish.

Fabio Quartararo completed the top five, with Mir's team-mate Rins finishing sixth.

There was misery for Takaaki Nakagami, who crashed out on turn nine midway through the race, with Danilo Petrucci's Tech3 KTM debut also coming to a premature end.

Marc Marquez will miss the start of the new MotoGP season in Qatar as he continues his recovery from a serious arm injury.

The six-time world champion was unable to defend his title in 2020 after he broke the humerus bone in his right arm following a fall during the first race, staged at Jerez.  

Marquez underwent three operations - the last of which was carried out in December following the discovery of an infection in the fracture - but was cleared to intensify his training regime last month. 

However, the Spaniard has confirmed he will not be involved for the opening two rounds of the campaign, with Repsol Honda announcing a further examination will take place on April 12. 

"After the last check-up with the medical team, they have advised me not to participate in the two Qatar races so we will continue with the recovery to return to compete as soon as possible!" Marquez tweeted. 

The 2021 MotoGP schedule kicks off this weekend with the Qatar Grand Prix, while the Losail International Circuit is also the venue for the Doha Grand Prix, which takes place on April 4. 

Joan Mir is the defending champion, the Spaniard having sealed Suzuki Ecstar's first riders' championship since 2000 - and first ever team title - with a race to spare last year.

Marquez has only triumphed once in seven previous appearances in Qatar, albeit he has finished on the podium there five times, including taking second place on his previous two visits.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.