Lewis Hamilton's hopes of retaining his Formula One world title have been dealt another blow after being hit with a five-place grid penalty for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The seven-time champion, who trails leader Max Verstappen by 19 points with four races remaining, has been demoted following Mercedes' latest engine change.

It is a second grid penalty in four races for Hamilton, who lost 10 places at the Turkish Grand Prix after having a new engine fitted. He went on to finish fifth in that race after starting in 11th.

Hamilton's penalty was confirmed midway through Friday's first practice session in Brazil, shortly after Mercedes announced he would have a new unit fitted.

The penalty will not affect the 36-year-old's starting position in Saturday's sprint race at Interlagos, but he can now no longer start Sunday's race any higher than sixth.

Max Verstappen is bidding to boost his advantage on a race weekend at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix that could prove crucial in helping him close in on a first Formula One world title.

Consecutive victories in the United States and Mexico have seen Verstappen grow his lead over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton to 19 points with just four races remaining.

The result this week at Interlagos, where 29 points are up for grabs as the third and final sprint race of the season takes place on Saturday ahead of the main event on Sunday, could therefore have a seismic impact.

A third straight win would equal the best run in Verstappen's impressive young career but most importantly put him in prime position for the biggest prize of all, which would deny Hamilton the chance to surpass Michael Schumacher and claim an all-time record eighth title.

Red Bull were clearly the faster car in Mexico as previous form proved an accurate guide to that race. They have also fared well of late in Brazil, with the Dutchman winning the last time a race was held at Interlagos in 2019 after a second-placed finish the year before.

The 19-point lead is the second-biggest gap between Verstappen and Hamilton this season. Only in Austria was it larger (32) in a year when it has been tough to separate the pair.

Red Bull have also closed to within one point of Mercedes in the constructors' championship, the smallest gap between two teams at this stage of any season in the 21st century.

Christian Horner's team have had both drivers on the podium in three straight races, their best run in the hybrid era, and repeating the feat here would put them closer to claiming both crowns, ending a historic spell of Mercedes dominance.

However, Hamilton will have plenty to say about that – he has 17 career wins in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the USA, two in Brazil and two in Mexico). One more would give him the record in that category which he currently shares with Schumacher.

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen roared to victory in Mexico, moving from third on the grid to the lead by the first corner.

Valtteri Bottas – who had started in pole position – dropped down to last after being hit from behind in a frantic start and could not recover to finish in the points, though he did claim the fastest lap to deny Verstappen an additional point.

Verstappen was rarely troubled after his fine start, claiming a 19th career win and ninth of the season by more than 16 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who held on for second in a battle with home favourite Sergio Perez, a result Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said should be seen like a win given the pace difference between the two cars.

Pierre Gasly took fourth to make it three drivers connected to Red Bull in the first four places, with the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz rounding out the top six.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN BRAZIL

While the gap is expected to be closer at Interlagos than it was in Mexico City, Verstappen goes into the race weekend as favourite given Red Bull's strong momentum.

However, he has not fared well in the two previous race weekends when the sprint format took place and is yet to claim a point in the main race under those circumstances.

He did claim pole – and five valuable championship points – when he won the sprint at Silverstone and came second at Monza to Bottas, who served a penalty, only to retire from each race after collisions with Hamilton.

Hamilton will be up for a scrap again as he desperately bids to remain in contention and Wolff insisted this week it is all still to play for, given the Briton impressively limited the damage with second place in Mexico, one of Mercedes' worst tracks.

Wolff added: "We are going to Brazil – that was not much better for us than Mexico in the past but at least we believe that we can have a solid car there, more close to Red Bull than what we had.

"None of us is ever going to have the mentality of this is going away from us. There is four races to go, four wins to take, four DNFs to suffer, and we will just continue fighting.

"We know that we have a great team. When you look at the mathematical probability then I would rather be 19 points ahead than behind, but it is what it is."

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Front row vital – Fifteen of the past 16 winners in Brazil have come from the first row of the grid (eight from pole). Kimi Raikkonen was the last winner to come from further back, doing so in 2007 when he emerged triumphant from third to clinch the drivers' title.

Unwelcome records – If he finishes second, Bottas will surpass Rubens Barrichello as the driver who has the most runner-up finishes in F1 (30) without being a world champion. He is already the driver who has the most career poles (19) without winning a world title.

Fast Fernando – Alpine star Alonso is the driver who has gained the most positions across both of the sprint races held so far in 2021 (six).

Lando luck – Since he retired in Hungary, Lando Norris – who turns 22 this weekend – has finished in the top five just once in seven F1 races (when he came second in Monza). He had been in the top five in nine of the previous 10 events before this poor run.

Fond memories – Eleven years ago on race day, Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) became the youngest driver to win the F1 world championship in Abu Dhabi at 23 years, four months and 11 days old.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 312.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 293.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 165
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 150

Constructors

1. Mercedes 478.5
2. Red Bull 477.5
3. Ferrari 268.5
4. McLaren 255
5. Alpine 106

Lewis Hamilton was critical of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas for leaving the "door open" to Max Verstappen at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix as the reigning Formula One champion's hopes took another hit.

Mercedes locked out the front row for Sunday's race after Bottas claimed pole position ahead of Hamilton, but F1 championship leader and Red Bull star Verstappen reigned supreme.

Verstappen went from third to first following the opening turn as he claimed a 19th career win and ninth of the season by more than 16 seconds ahead of second-placed Hamilton.

Hamilton now trails Verstappen by 19 points at the summit of the drivers' championship with four races remaining.

"I had envisaged it differently, naturally, in the sense that maybe Valtteri had got a better start and I would have tried to get into his tow," Hamilton said.

"But I was alongside him which was good, and then I was just covering my side of the track trying to make sure that no-one could come up the inside.

"So I was trying to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind, and I thought Valtteri would be doing the same.

"But obviously, he left the door open for Max, and Max was on the racing line so did a mega job braking into Turn 1. Because I was on the inside on the dirt, there was no hope for me."

Bottas told Sky F1: "The start was OK, not too bad, but Verstappen got a bit of a tow and he braked really late.

"But then suddenly at the apex at Turn 1 I think Daniel [Ricciardo] hit me in the rear and right there I spun I couldn't do anything and then after that the race was tricky to make progress.

"I was too close to cars and managing engine and brakes so I could manage it until I was getting too close then it was not easy."

Despite Red Bull's pace and losing ground in the race to defend his crown, Hamilton insisted he is not giving up.

"I feel like I maximised what I had," Hamilton told Sky F1. "But jeez... their pace was just unbelievable today. There was nothing I could do to battle that."

"If they carry that pace into the next races then we might be in trouble," said Hamilton. "We've got four races to go and we just have to keep pushing.

"I don't know where this performance has come from today but they were half a second quicker than us a lap, which is what we saw earlier on in the weekend.

"All I can do is just squeeze everything out of this car. They clearly have a stronger car so I think all I can do is just make sure we don't leave any stone unturned and we just maximise all we have, and give it my all."

Max Verstappen extended his lead at the summit of the Formula One drivers' championship to 19 points after roaring to victory in the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 24-year-old had already moved from third to first by the first corner, which saw Valtteri Bottas – who had started in pole position – drop down to last after being hit from behind.

Verstappen was rarely troubled after that, claiming a 19th career win and ninth of the season by more than 16 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second and Red Bull team-mate and home favourite Sergio Perez in third.

The race started in dramatic circumstances, Verstappen blitzing past Bottas and Hamilton before the first turn to take an immediate lead.

Things quickly deteriorated for Bottas, who dropped to 18th after Daniel Ricciardo clipped him as he navigated the first turn – an incident that took Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher out of the running.

Verstappen wasted little time stamping his authority on the race after the safety car departed on lap four, opening up a 3.3-second advantage by the 10th lap.

That lead had reached 8.5 seconds by lap 27, before a pit stop gave the home fans reason to celebrate when Perez briefly became the first Mexican to lead a lap at his country's grand prix.

Verstappen soon resumed his position at the front of the pack and, with a comfortable win looking likely, attention turned elsewhere for drama.

That came in the shape of the battle for second, with Perez's team confidently telling the 31-year-old he would catch Hamilton inside the remaining 24 laps.

Despite falling just short, he could at least celebrate becoming the first Mexican driver to finish on the podium in this grand prix.

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was "as shocked as everyone" after Mercedes outpaced Red Bull to lock out the front row for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was the fastest in qualifying as he and star team-mate Hamilton stunned Max Verstappen's Red Bull on Saturday.

Red Bull had been the team to beat in practice, but that form was thrown out the window after Bottas turned the tables with a 1:15.875 qualifying time to claim pole position.

After Mercedes set a record with their 81st one-two qualifying performance, eclipsing Ferrari, Hamilton revelled in the surprise display.

"I've really no idea," Hamilton said when asked about Mercedes' turnaround. "They [Red Bull] were like six tenths ahead at some stage, then four-tenths, but whatever happened, we went into qualifying and we had better pace. I'm just as shocked as everyone, but we'll still take it."

Defending world champion Hamilton, who is 12 points adrift of Verstappen in the title race, added: "We've come into this weekend from P1 onwards we've generally been behind by half a second, so through the whole weekend working away at trying to improve the car, extract as much as we can from it but knowing they've generally got higher downforce, a bigger wing they use in places like Monaco, but so we've struggled in certain parts of the track.

"It's a real surprise and shock to us to see we're on the front row, I don't really have an answer for it but I'll take it for sure, grateful to be up there with Valtteri to get a 1-2."

After clinching his 19th career pole – 0.145s ahead of Hamilton and 0.350s from Verstappen, Bottas said: "Everything came together even better than I was expecting.

"I definitely surprised myself but as a team it was a big surprise as well that we were one-two because we seemed a bit off [the pace] in FP3.

"So a really rewarding feeling that all the changes we made were still in the right direction, stay calm and still try and execute the best out of the car. And it worked."

"This sport continues to amaze me," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. "You can see that it can change so quickly from one session to the other.

"In Austin we were dominant on the Friday and then we lost the performance. Then here we were far behind then suddenly in Q2 we unlocked the potential of the car and it came together."

Verstappen, however, was not surprised by the pace of Mercedes.

"We just had a terrible qualifying. So nothing surprising," the Dutchman said. "I just think we were really slow and had terrible grip in Q3. I think my last lap, we recovered it a little bit by getting the tyres into a little bit of a better window, but we were still not what we would have liked and how the car was behaving in all the practice sessions. 

"So that was a bit of a mystery. But then tomorrow we maybe race on different tyres anyway so I expect the balance to be good again."

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas revelled in a stunning qualifying performance at the Mexican Grand Prix that saw Mercedes lock out the front row.

Rivals Red Bull had been fastest in practice, with home favourite Sergio Perez leading Saturday's session ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.

But Mercedes turned that result on its head when it mattered most, with Bottas on pole and Hamilton alongside him in second.

This was the Silver Arrows' 81st one-two in qualifying, a new record ahead of Ferrari's 80.

Verstappen took provisional pole from Perez in Q3, but his mark was shattered by Bottas, with none of the leading men able to top the Finn's 1:15.875 on their second runs.

"Valtteri did an amazing job. I'm so proud of Valtteri," Hamilton said. "He's been driving so well in the last few races.

"It's so great for the team, they've been working so hard and we didn't think we had the pace this weekend. To lock out the front row is pretty special, and it gives us a good fight with the others on Sunday."

Bottas added: "They were awesome laps, especially my first lap in Q3.

"I couldn't quite match the same last sector in my second one, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 is one of my best laps, and it's a good feeling."

Looking ahead to the race, he said: "It is a long straight and the guys behind with the tow will have good opportunities, so we'll need a good start.

"At least as a team it's great that we have two cars ahead, and hopefully we can try to keep our positions somehow."

Verstappen will have to start from third – the same position from which Hamilton won the previous Mexican GP in 2019 - with Perez just behind in fourth.

The Dutchman felt he could have challenged Bottas with his final flying lap but then found himself caught behind an incident involving Perez and Yuki Tsunoda, complaining over the team radio of "such a dumb idiot".

"On the last lap, I was on for a good lap but I don't know what happened in front of me," he said.

"There were two guys going off, so I thought there was going to be a yellow flag and I backed off. The lap is of course destroyed."

Qualifying had been delayed after a red flag early in Q1 when Lance Stroll ran wide at the Peraltada onto the dirty part of the track, failed to get his car back under control and hit the barriers.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:15.875
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.145
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.350
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.467
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.581
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.886
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.888
8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.962
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.283
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +20.955

Max Verstappen might lead Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One drivers' championship going into a vital triple-header, but Mercedes are enjoying the challenge.

The Silver Arrows have won the past seven constructors' championships and also gone away with the drivers' title on each occasion, including six wins for Lewis Hamilton – who also triumphed once with McLaren.

Both streaks are under threat in 2021, however, as Max Verstappen holds a 12-point advantage over Hamilton ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, while Red Bull are only 23 points back on Mercedes.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes' team principal, said: "The last race in Texas was more proof of just how intense this championship battle is.

"It's challenging, it's pushing both teams to higher levels, and the positive pressure we're putting on ourselves is making this a hugely enjoyable fight. We wouldn't have it any other way."

It is Red Bull who have the momentum, though, after Verstappen claimed a precious win in the United States.

"It was of course a great feeling to be back on the top step at the US Grand Prix," Verstappen said.

"The last few races were obviously quite difficult with various engine penalties and a few unlucky moments, so it definitely felt good to be back up there with Checo [Perez] beside me.

"It was a very satisfying win, we showed good pace at the US GP, so I'm looking to build on that momentum, and it was of course also very important to score solid points for the championship."

After Mexico, the teams head to Brazil and then Qatar before their next break, and Verstappen said: "I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to get going, although I know the triple-header is going to be busy.

"It's incredibly important for myself and the team to try to nail the next three races now that we are fighting for the championship."

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen won from pole in Austin, an event Mercedes had enjoyed great success at previously. It was not all plain sailing, though.

Despite starting from the front of the grid, the Dutchman was passed by Hamilton at the start.

With contrasting strategies, Red Bull called Verstappen in first for a pit stop as Hamilton stayed out, meaning he emerged behind his rival but with fresher tyres for a final push.

Mercedes promised their man the race would come down to the final three laps, and so it proved, but Hamilton failed to get within DRS range on the closing lap as Verstappen benefited from a tow off backmarker Mick Schumacher.

Verstappen held on as Hamilton's hopes of defending his title took another major hit.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN MEXICO

The big positive for Hamilton in Austin was the pace he had on offer, even if he ran out of laps with which to use it to his advantage.

The contrasting tactics helped in that regard, but Hamilton had also made a flying start, with his car clearly far more competitive now than earlier in the year when Red Bull dominated.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen have found joy previously in Mexico, so neither will be short of confidence, but the Briton must hope he has the opportunity to test his Mercedes again without this time having to make up such a significant deficit.

With little time to work on the cars between races across this double-header, the performances in Mexico should set the tone for a year-defining three weeks.

Verstappen is a long way from home in Mexico, but he and Red Bull should have the backing of a vocal crowd with Guadalajara native Perez in their second car.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Tight at the top – With five races remaining, 12 points represents the second-smallest gap between the top two in the hybrid era. Three points separated Nico Rosberg and Hamilton in 2014.

Standout season – Red Bull come into this race having celebrated nine wins this season, as many as in the previous three years combined. Their most victories were 13 in 2013.

Growing the gap – Hamilton might be second in the table this year, but he is way out in front all-time. Should he earn more points than Sebastian Vettel this week, his advantage over the second-placed Aston Martin man will increase to more than 1,000. Hamilton has 4,053.5, with Vettel on 3,054.

Failing from the front – Through Vettel and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari have taken two of the past three pole positions in Mexico. However, the Scuderia have not triumphed at this event since Alain Prost's win in 1990.

King of the continent – Hamilton has 17 wins in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the US, two each in Brazil and Mexico), meaning he would surpass Michael Schumacher for the most of all time with another. Of course, he failed in that respect in Texas.

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

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

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