Lewis Hamilton said he is not thinking about the Formula One championship race after losing ground on leader and rival Max Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen opened a 12-point lead heading into the final five races of the season thanks to Sunday's enthralling F1 showdown in Austin, where the Red Bull star pipped reigning world champion Hamilton by 1.333 seconds.

Dutchman Verstappen has now won eight races in 2021. Only in 2016, when Hamilton lost out to Nico Rosberg despite winning 10 grands prix, has a driver who has collected at least eight victories failed to win the championship.

Hamilton reflected on the result as he expects tough races ahead in the Mercedes driver's bid to overhaul Verstappen atop the championship standings.

"Not thinking about it at the moment," Hamilton told reporters when asked about the 12-point gap in the drivers' standings.

"Just got to be happy with the job I did today and live in the moment, and we didn't unfortunately… weren't quick enough to win today, but just look forward and take it one race at a time.

"There are two circuits strong for Red Bull so we'll have to minimise how strong they can be and do a better job."

Hamilton added: "I really thought for a second we might be able to win, I gave it absolutely everything out there.

"I think they were quicker all weekend and on all tyres today. Just in the heat, that’s their real strength has shone through this weekend, a bit like other places, Bahrain this year, yeah did the best I could with what we had."

Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen enjoyed his head-to-head battle with Lewis Hamilton at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen came out on top in an enthralling race, pipping his title rival by 1.333 seconds in Austin.

It marked Verstappen's first race win in the United States, with Red Bull's decision to pit early in Sunday's race paying off.

Mercedes told Hamilton it was "all about the final three laps" and, though the reigning world champion came close, he just did not have enough to overcome Verstappen, who takes a 12-point lead into the final five races.

Verstappen has now won eight races in 2021. Only in 2016, when Hamilton lost out to Nico Rosberg despite winning 10 grands prix, has a driver who has collected at least eight victories failed to win the championship.

Red Bull did not have it all their own way, with Hamilton coming from second on the grid to nip ahead of Verstappen with a brilliant start, but the Dutchman regained the lead and held his nerve.

"We lost some time at the start, so we had to try and do something else," Verstappen said. "The tyre wear is quite high around this track, so we had to go aggressive but I wasn't sure if it was going to work.

"The last few laps were fun. A bit sideways through the high-speed corners, but super happy to hang on."

Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago, but on this occasion, the Briton – who has won a record six times in the United States – had no such complaints.

"Congratulations to Max, he did such a good job today," Hamilton said. "It was such a tough race, had a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day [Red Bull] just had the upper hand this weekend.

"I couldn't have asked for more, a big thank you to my team for great pit stops, great work throughout the weekend."

Both Verstappen and Hamilton also hailed the 140,000-strong crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, with F1 returning to Austin for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"What an amazing crowd, to perform in front of you guys is such an honour," Hamilton added. "I think this is definitely our acceptance into the US.

"What a place to be, I hope we have more races out here, hope the sport continues to grow because you can see how great the fans are."

Verstappen echoed the sentiment, saying: "[The fans] have been incredible. It's amazing to be here and to see so many of you around the track."

Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium.

Perez's efforts were made even more outstanding by the fact the water system in the Mexican's car had a malfunction, leaving him unable to take on any fluid in scorching track conditions in Texas.

"Struggled massively. You know, since lap one, I ran out of water. I couldn't drink at all," he said.

"I think by the middle of my second stint it was starting to get pretty difficult, you know, losing strength. I think my toughest race ever, physically."

Max Verstappen kept his cool in the Texas heat to hold off Lewis Hamilton and clinch a vital victory in the Formula One title race at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at this race on Saturday and despite Hamilton – who had previously won three times from second on the grid in Austin – enjoying a fantastic start, the Red Bull driver got back ahead and held his nerve in a tense final tussle to clinch his maiden success in America by 1.3 seconds.

Having been told by his Mercedes team that it was "all about the last three laps", Hamilton trailed by just 3.046 seconds heading into the final 10 at the Circuit of the Americas, which did not host a race last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reigning world champion, who has won more races (six) in the United States than any other driver, cut the gap with five laps remaining, with that promise of a frantic final three laps proving correct.

In fact, it came down to the final lap, Verstappen utilising DRS early to get an extra boost that just kept him ahead of Hamilton, as Red Bull's decision to pit the championship leader early paid off in style.

It brought up an eighth race win of the season for Verstappen, and a drive described by his team as "sheer class" propelled the Dutchman 12 points clear. 

Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium, though Hamilton did take an extra point for the fastest lap.

Charles Leclerc took fourth place for Ferrari, while Valtteri Bottas overcame Carlos Sainz late on to grab sixth place behind Daniel Ricciardo – the latter pair having clipped on lap 43.

Verstappen matches Mansell

Verstappen has now equalled Nigel Mansell as the driver to have recorded the second most victories with a Honda engine, on 13, behind only the late Ayrton Senna (32). 

With eight wins to his name in 2021, victory is on Verstappen's side. Apart from Hamilton in 2016, who won 10 without claiming the title, all drivers who have won at least eight races in a season went on to seal the championship.

Alonso's unhappy Austin hunting ground

Only in Belgium (16, three podiums) has Fernando Alonso raced on more occasions without a win than in the United States (13, two podiums). 

There was no change in that record on Sunday as the Alpine driver was forced to retire due to a broken rear wing.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1:333
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +42:223
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +52:246
5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:16:854
6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:20:128
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:23:545
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:24:395
9. Yuki Tsuonda (AlphaTauri) +1 LAP
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1 LAP

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 287.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 275.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 150
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 149

Constructors

1. Mercedes 460.5
2. Red Bull 437.5
3. McLaren 254
4. Ferrari 250.5
5. Alpine 104

WHAT'S NEXT?

Mexico is next up to start a triple-header that also includes trips to Brazil and Qatar in November. Only five grands prix remain in what is shaping up to be a sensational title race.

Max Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at the United States Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton repeatedly described his runs in Texas as a "struggle" but the rivals are geared up for another head-to-head showdown Sunday. 

Verstappen, Hamilton and Sergio Perez each held pole position at various points in qualifying before the Red Bull star emerged on top. 

That has not been the norm in Austin, but Verstappen noted the real work remains to be done on race day. 

"Yeah, maybe a tiny bit of a surprise but you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit throughout the whole season," Verstappen told reporters. "Luckily it’s still doing that and yeah, we’ll see.

"I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try and make it work.

"It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out and that’s what happened for us, for example, in Turkey."

Verstappen and Perez finished second and third behind Valtteri Bottas a fortnight ago in Istanbul and will look to get Red Bull back to the top of the podium in Texas, where Mexico native Perez in particular has enjoyed strong support from the crowd. 

Perez will start third but said he does not believe starting positions will play a significant factor Sunday. 

"I think it’s going to be a pretty long race tomorrow, so not too concerned about the qualifying," he said. "I think there are plenty of opportunities for tomorrow."

Hamilton, a six-time winner at the circuit, will share that hope as he tries to bounce back after a fifth-place finish in Turkey, though his comments Saturday did not suggest much confidence in the way his car has felt this week. 

"It was definitely a difficult session," Hamilton said. "I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car.

"But it’s been a real challenge, and going into qualifying I think the first session wasn’t that great. Q1 wasn’t spectacular but it started to improve, particularly on the medium tyre, and the last two runs were pretty good.

"I think [Red Bull] have just been pretty quick all weekend and I think we were able to match them or be ahead in P1 but since then they have really pulled a lot.

"You can tell that the car is quick because obviously both of them are up there and pulling in some seriously good laps. But we are in a good position to fight them tomorrow and I hope we can."

Max Verstappen took pole for the United States Grand Prix to end a Mercedes stranglehold – but the championship leader will have Lewis Hamilton for company on the front row at Sunday's race in Austin.

The Red Bull star knocked Hamilton off first place in the fading moments of qualifying, and his Mercedes title rival could not pull off a sufficiently quick final lap to snatch back top spot.

It means Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles in the US is over, reflecting the challenge they have faced, particularly from Verstappen, this season.

Setting aside immediate disappointment, Hamilton said: "It's good positioning for tomorrow, so hopefully it'll be a good race down to turn one."

Hamilton said the spectactors at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin could be in for a treat.

"The mindset is to win the race and give these guys the best race they've seen," said the British driver.

"I gave it everything. Today was a bit of a struggle through qualifying. I was happy with my last lap, of course there's always areas that we can improve but I think that's pretty much everything we had. We'll work hard tomorrow."

The seven-time world champion has won this race a record six times, and only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton enjoyed more race victories in Formula One. He has also sealed titles twice in Austin, but this year's campaign could go down to the wire.

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took third place on the grid, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will also start on the second row. Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest but must serve a five-place grid penalty after an engine change.

Satisfied with his Saturday shift, Verstappen said: "It was quite exciting out there. In Q3 [the third qualifying session] my first lap wasn't amazing, but in the final lap it started spitting, drizzle in the last sector especially.

"I was not sure I was going to hang on to my lap time, but it was enough and of course to put a lap time in and be on pole position, but also to be on P1 and P3 as a team, I think was a very strong performance."

He will relish another battle with Hamilton, and said: "I guess that's what people like. From here onwards we of course hope to have a good start and work together as a team to get the best possible result."

Mexican Perez, whose high ranking on the grid was a popular one with spectators, said his position was perhaps "not too relevant", given the long race ahead, but added: "I'm looking forward to it."

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel and the Alpine duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were among those to go no further than the second round of qualifying, with the Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri teams also sending two drivers through to Q3.

Verstappen holds a slender six-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers' championship after a handy second-place finish in Turkey two weeks ago, when his title rival finished only fifth.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:32.910
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.209 seconds
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.224
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.565
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.696
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.882
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.898
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.997
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.208
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.008

*Bottas must serve five-place grid penalty

Max Verstappen fumed at "stupid idiot" Lewis Hamilton and aimed a middle-finger salute at his title rival in a heated United States Grand Prix session.

The fight for the Formula One title intensified when the pair came close to making contact during FP2 at the Circuit of The Americas on Friday.

Championship leader Verstappen snapped over the team radio after going wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton, saying: "Ha! Stupid idiot!" and making his feelings clear with a gesture to the Mercedes driver.

A Red Bull engineer told Verstappen to "ignore it" as the Dutchman endured a frustrating day, having been caught in traffic at the start of the mid-session short runs.

He could only finish down in eighth in the second session as Sergio Perez set the pace, with Hamilton third behind Lando Norris.

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in the first session, but will take a five-place grid penalty in Austin after having a sixth engine of the season – with three being the limit – fitted and a sixth exhaust.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff says there is a risk that Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by only six points, could take another grid penalty this season

He added: "I can't say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there.

"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven’t come to the right answers yet."

Williams driver George Russell, Bottas' replacement at Mercedes for 2022, and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel will start on the back row after they had multiple new engine parts fitted.

Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Sebastian Vettel have taken grid penalties for the United States Grand Prix this weekend.

Bottas won in Turkey last time out, but a repeat would appear unlikely at the Circuit of The Americas on Sunday after the Mercedes driver had a sixth engine of the season – with three being the limit – fitted and a sixth exhaust.

The Finn, who sits third in the driver standings and was fastest in the first practice session on Friday, will take a five-place penalty for the race in Austin.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff said: "I think you see that we are suffering with reliability this year, we're going onto the sixth engine for Valtteri, and it is not something we choose to do, but on the contrary; we are trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven't understood fully [what they are]."

Wolff says there is a risk that Lewis Hamilton could take another grid penalty this season as he battles for the title with Max Verstappen.

He added: "I can't say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there.

"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven’t come to the right answers yet."

Williams driver Russell, Bottas' replacement at Mercedes for 2022, and Aston Martin's Vettel will start on the back row after they had multiple new engine parts fitted.

Hamilton was 0.045 seconds slower than his team-mate Bottas in FP1, with his championship rival Verstappen third-quickest – almost a second slower than Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton will look to bounce back from frustration in Turkey as he returns to one of his favourite tracks at the United States Grand Prix this week.

The drivers' championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen continues to be closely fought, with just six races left in the 2021 season.

Red Bull driver Verstappen moved back into the lead in Istanbul and comes to Austin with a six-point advantage over Hamilton, who is seeking a record-breaking eighth world title.

Hamilton took an engine penalty in Turkey and limited the damage to his rival, but was frustrated with his own team over a strategy call that he felt may have cost him a podium.

The trip to the USA therefore comes at a good time for the Briton, who has won this race a record six times.

Only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton won more times and he did not have the chance to add to his tally in 2020 as the event was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamilton has eight podiums from his nine USA races, and the only time he did not make the top three he still finished fourth in 2013.

He also sealed the third and sixth of his seven world titles in Austin, his 2015 race win and second-place finish in 2019 giving him those successes.

While Verstappen leads the drivers' battle, Mercedes do still top the constructors' standings and will hope a resurgent Valtteri Bottas can help Hamilton to continue the team's strong track record at the venue.

 

LAST TIME OUT

Strategy was key in wet conditions at the Turkish Grand Prix, with Hamilton left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late and help Verstappen, who ended up in second place, reclaim the championship lead.

Having been fastest in qualifying but handed a 10-place grid penalty due to his engine change, Hamilton saw team-mate Bottas start in first place.

It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to claim his first win of the season.

Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions was what prompted debate between driver and the Mercedes pit wall.

Well in the hunt for a podium place in the 51st lap, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in which meant he was forced to settle for fifth behind Bottas, Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Leclerc.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN USA

Hamilton's fine record in the United States means it is he who goes into the race weekend as the narrow favourite to strike the next blow in a thrilling title battle on Sunday.

Verstappen has solid form at the Circuit of the Americas too, though, with past finishes of second, third and fourth.

The Dutchman is optimistic of taking the fight to Mercedes as he targets a first Austin win, as he looks to end a run of three races without a victory in 2021.

That title race will again be the main focus, with both Mercedes and Red Bull hoping their second drivers can get in on the action to help Hamilton and Verstappen respectively.

Bottas claimed his first win of the year last time out and has three podiums from his last four outings, while Perez finally ended a miserable eight-race run without a top-three finish in Turkey.

Lando Norris is one point away from matching his total from the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined and will hope McLaren can be more competitive this week. 

They are locked in a close battle with Ferrari for third place in the constructors' championship, with the British team just 7.5 points ahead of their Italian rivals.

 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Qualifying key - The past 10 winners of the United States Grand Prix came from the first row of the grid - six from pole position and four from second place.

Fond memories – The last time F1 raced in the United States (2019), Hamilton reached his 150th career podium. He has since moved on to 176 top-three finishes, an F1 record total.

Bottas barrier – The Finn is looking to get a pole position and race win double in consecutive grands prix, a feat he has never achieved before. He did get pole and win the race at the 2019 edition of this event. 

Mercedes mark – The team have six poles in their last six races in the United States and another here would see them equal Ferrari on seven poles in the country. Only Lotus (10) have recorded more than Ferrari.

Austin aces – Mercedes have had a podium finisher in each of the last six USA races, winning five of those events and finishing with a one-two in four of them, including the last one in 2019.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 262.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 256.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 177
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 145
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 135

Constructors

1. Mercedes 433.5
2. Red Bull 397.5
3. McLaren 240
4. Ferrari 232.5
5. Alpine 104

A record-breaking 23 races have been confirmed for the 2022 Formula One season, with Miami included for the first time.

Due to the 2022 World Cup taking place in Qatar next November and December, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council has approved a truncated 36-week season that will run from March 20 until November 20.

The first race will be in Bahrain, with the season drawing to a close in Abu Dhabi.

It is a programme that could present a gruelling test for teams, who have already been stretched in a 22-race 2021 season that does not conclude until December.

Further complicating matters is the presence of two triple-headers. The first takes in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, and the second presents a much sterner challenge, incorporating races in Russia, Singapore and Japan. 

Due to ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions, there will be no Chinese Grand Prix once again, with Imola replacing it on the schedule.

The Miami Grand Prix is a new addition altogether, meaning the United States will host two races, while Australia, Japan, Canada and Singapore are all set to return after missing the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It remains to be seen if there will be a new defending champion for next year, with Max Verstappen leading Lewis Hamilton by six points heading into the final stages of 2021.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained why Lewis Hamilton was forced to replace his engine and take a grid penalty on Sunday, refusing to rule out a repeat before the end of the season.

The Briton's 10-place penalty after topping qualifying contributed to a fifth-place finish at the Turkish Grand Prix, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas winning and title rival Max Verstappen finishing second to move six points clear of Hamilton in the championship standings.

However, Wolff revealed that the team felt they had no choice but to take a new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) due to issues with Hamilton's previous power unit.

He insisted there had been no tactical timing to the decision, which was needed for technical reasons.

"We had to do it," Wolff told Sky Sports. "We saw some data on the Internal Combustion unit that didn't look very promising and a DNF is a total killer for the championship.

"We've seen over the course of the season that we've had some little gremlins that we weren't completely sure where they came from and how much performance they could potentially cost.

"So we'd rather have a new engine in the pool and that we understand that can possibly go longer.

"I think we understand much better now where the root cause lies and it's something that can happen from time to time if you just have a material issue, a batch problem and these are the things you need to consider."

The replacement power unit was Hamilton's fourth of the season, but Wolff suggested that it was not beyond the realms of possibility that he would be forced to take a fifth before the end of the campaign.

"The fourth one can last until the end of the season but there could be a moment where we say is it worth taking a fresh one because the other one is still at risk," Wolff continued.

"So this is something that is going to be really a work in progress."

There are six races to go in the 2021 Formula One season, a run that starts with the United States Grand Prix - an event Hamilton has won a record six times - on October 24.

Lewis Hamilton has denied being "furious" with Mercedes over the decision to pull him in for a pit stop late on in Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion had climbed from 11th in the grid to third when called by his team to switch onto intermediate tyres on the wet surface.

Hamilton seemed determined to finish the race on the same tyres, but on lap 51 out of 58 the Briton heeded his team's call and dropped to fifth, where he finished the race.

He made his apparent frustration clear at the time, saying over the team radio: "Why did you give up that place? We shouldn't have come in."

However, Hamilton feels the disagreement has been blown out of proportion, even if he accepts lessons can be learned.

"I've seen some of the press this morning, which has made a bit too much of the incident in yesterday's race of when to pit," he posted on his personal Instagram account.

"It isn't true to say I'm furious with my team. 

"As a team we work hard to build the best strategy possible but as the race progresses you have to make split decisions there are so many factors constantly changing.

"Yesterday we took the risk to stay out hoping it would dry, it didn't. I wanted to risk it and try and go to the end, but it was my call to stay out and it didn't work. 

"In the end we did pit and it was the safest thing to do. We live and we learn. We win and we lose as a team. 

"Don't ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I'm racing, we are all very passionate and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all drivers.

"My heart and spirit are out there on the track, it's the fire in me that's got me this far but any angst is quickly forgotten and we talked it through, already looking ahead to the next race. 

"Today's another day to rise and as a team. Still we rise."

Hamilton, who qualified fastest but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, is now six points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.

Verstappen finished second in Istanbul, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas claiming victory, and the Dutchman acknowledges Red Bull have a lot more work to do if he is to claim a first Formula One world title.

"Of course overall I think we have been at tracks that naturally were a bit better for Mercedes, but then this track was a bit unknown, and clearly they were ahead of us," he told Sky Sports.

"I do think we need to step it up a bit to be in the fight until the end of the season."

Charles Leclerc insists Ferrari's late decision to change tyres was the right one despite him ultimately missing out on a podium finish at the Turkish Grand Prix.

The Monegasque driver recorded a fourth-place finish for the fifth time this season, though he did close the gap on team-mate Carlos Sainz to just half a point in the battle for sixth in the Drivers' Championship.

After starting third on the grid, Leclerc took the lead at Istanbul Park when eventual champion Valtteri Bottas returned to the pits in lap 37.

However, the two-time Grand Prix winner was boxed himself 10 laps later to replace his used intermediate tyres.

That ultimately cost Ferrari in Turkey as Leclerc struggled to build pace with the new intermediates – as well as what would have been a ninth podium finish for the team.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old maintains that he and his team have no complaints with the consequences of their decision.

"It was a great race. On the first stint, we were very, very competitive. Then unfortunately, we were a little bit out of phase with the others on the second stint, stopping later," he said.

"At first, in the first five, six laps of the others on the new inters, we were quicker than them on the used inters. 

"But after six laps, I think they cleared the graining, and then they found a lot of performance – around three seconds a lap – and then we had no choice, we had to stop.

"For the last 10 laps, I was just trying to switch on those inters that never really came to life. It's a bit of a shame because that made us lose the podium, but I don't regret anything.

"In Russia, I think the communication was not great, but this time the communication was very good. I had a clear picture of the race, and we did the right choice, or what we thought was the right choice at the time."

Max Verstappen regained the lead of the Formula One world championship but the Red Bull star seemingly wanted a tougher test in Turkey.

It was Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas - who had started from pole position after Lewis Hamilton's 10-place grid penalty for an engine change - who triumphed in a damp Istanbul on Sunday.

However, Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez completed the podium, with the former situated inside the top three for much of the race.

In difficult conditions, Verstappen explained how it was too risky to push the tyres early, conceding Bottas' car seemed to have more speed.

Asked what the trickiest part of the race was, Verstappen joked: "To stay awake!"

He added: "No, it was just all about managing the tyres, so you were never pushing to make it to a certain amount of laps and then you'd box for another set, happy to be on the podium."

Bottas, meanwhile, celebrated a first victory of the season.

"I think from my side, I have to say, one of the best races I've had, ever," said the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season.

"Apart from one little slide, everything was under control. But like I said before the race, the car has been really good in every condition, I had really good confidence in it, could really control it.

"It's not easy to choose the strategy here with the conditions, when to stop, when to switch tyre and everything, but I'm glad with how everything went.

"When there's only one dry line, it doesn't need much to go off. A difficult one, it feels like a well-earned victory."

Bottas' jubilance was in stark contrast to the frustration of his team-mate Hamilton, who had to settle for fifth place after a late call to pit by Mercedes.

Hamilton is now six points behind Verstappen in the championship race heading into the United States Grand Prix.

"It's been close the whole year and I'm sure again in Austin it’ll be a good battle with Mercedes, so we just have to keep on pushing, keep on trying to improve and then we'll see where we end up at the end," said Verstappen.

"So far this season has been really good."

Lewis Hamilton cut a frustrated figure over Mercedes' decision to pull him in for a pit stop late in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton seemed determined to finish the race in the rain in Istanbul on the same set of tyres, turning down several calls for him to pit.

Finally, on the 51st lap out of 58, Hamilton – who at the time was in third place having started 11th on the grid due to the 10-place penalty he took into the weekend for changing engine – heeded his team's call to come in to switch onto intermediate tyres.

Yet as the seven-time world champion came back out, he had fallen to fifth place, much to his annoyance.

"Why did you give up that place?" Hamilton questioned over the radio, as he was forced to hold off Pierre Gasly to finish fifth, behind Charles Leclerc, Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who cruised to his first race victory of 2021.

Esteban Ocon finished within the top 10 having not changed tyres at all, and Hamilton was in a prickly mood when interviewed by Sky Sports.

Asked if he was aware he would drop down two places when he went into the pits, Hamilton said: "I didn't know at that time, I could probably have assumed that I would.

"The guys were only 15 seconds behind, it's a 24-second pit stop so I knew that I'd lose perhaps one."

Of the initial tyres potentially lasting the whole race, Hamilton added: "Ocon's did I heard so I assume they probably could.

"The tyres are bald so you don't know how far they're going to go so there's definitely the worry of the life of the tyre but also I wasn't really that fast at the end there.

"I was struggling, had little grip, not really sure why. Then all of a sudden I'd have not such a bad pace but I was losing performance to the guys behind."

Hamilton acknowledged he may have made an error not coming in for a pit earlier in the race, when Mercedes initially advised, but he believes the wrong call was made to switch so late.

"In hindsight I should have either stayed out or come in much earlier," he said. "When you come in with eight laps to go you don't have time to go through the draining phase of that medium tyre on a drying track.

"So I went through this whole sliding change where I nearly lost more positions. A bit frustrated but it is what it is. 

"It felt good to be in third and I thought if I could just hold onto this it's a great result from 11th. Fifth is worse, but it could be worse."

There was an eight-point swing in the championship title race, with Verstappen now six ahead of Hamilton heading into the United States Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, insisted the correct call was made.

"[Pitting earlier] would have been better than what we ended up with. But it was measured and in the car, he didn't see how much he was dropping off. It was clear that had he stayed out then he would have lost out to Gasly," he told Sky Sports.

"The correct call would probably have been taking it very conservative and pitting when everybody else pitted for the inters, coming out behind Perez and Leclerc and fighting with them for P3. That was probably correct, but that is only with hindsight."

Lewis Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix, helping Max Verstappen take over the Formula One championship lead in Istanbul.

Hamilton had claimed pole in qualifying but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, meaning Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas started in first place.

It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to ensure his first win of the season.

With Verstappen claiming second, it was Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions that proved crucial in the title race.

Well in the hunt for a podium place at the time, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in by Mercedes on the 51st lap.

Yet the decision to switch to intermediate tyres did not pay off, with Hamilton left furious with his team, stating: "Why did you give up that place?”.

While one half of the Mercedes garage will be left pondering their decision, the other was celebrating a flawless drive from Bottas, who endured a miserable race in Turkey last year.

Behind Bottas, it was a fantastic outing for Red Bull, with Verstappen securing a six-point lead over Hamilton in the championship standings and Sergio Perez completing the podium places.

Hamilton ultimately finished fifth, holding off Gasly but unable to gain ground on Leclerc, who missed out on the top three after pitting late on himself.

Perez and Hamilton do battle

Hamilton thought he had nipped ahead of Perez heading into lap 35, with the pair going wheel-to-wheel for five corners in a fantastic tussle.

Though Hamilton had the faster acceleration, Perez pushed at Turn One to regain the place and even though the Red Bull driver subsequently pitted, he had done enough to keep the seven-time world champion at bay and hand Verstappen a real boost.

Alonso hits out at Gasly

Fernando Alonso made a strong start in Istanbul, but he found himself spinning off the track on the first corner after a clip from Pierre Gasly.

By the time he rectified the situation, Alonso had dropped from fifth to 15th. Gasly, for his part, explained that he got "sandwiched", though the Frenchman was nevertheless handed a five-second penalty that cost him a place in the top five.

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