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.

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

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."

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 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.

Valtteri Bottas will focus on making the most of starting the Turkish Grand Prix from pole position, and not on the fortunes of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas just missed out on setting the fastest time in Istanbul on Saturday, with championship leader Hamilton claiming top spot.

However, Hamilton will start in 11th due to a penalty incurred from an engine change heading into the weekend, meaning Bottas is promoted to first on the grid.

Seven out of the eight winners in Turkey have come from the first grid line, with the only exception coming last year when Hamilton triumphed from sixth place.

Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen will start in second place and has a real chance to regain the championship lead, as he trails by only two points as it stands – the finest margin after 15 races of a season since 2006.

Asked where his priorities would sit heading into Sunday's race, Bottas said: "I'll focus on my own race tomorrow, I think that's the way to go when you're starting in front and try to keep up a good pace."

Of the session, the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of 2021, said: "It was good. Not easy conditions, especially Q1 was a bit on the edge with damp parts and still Q3, the first corner was a bit damp but also Turn 3 and 4. But also some good laps.

"As a team result, that's really gone to plan. Lewis with his penalty gets the minimum penalty he can, and I'm on pole, so that should be good."

Hamilton is anticipating a tough ask to challenge for a podium place.

"It was a really tricky session in general," Hamilton said.

"There were still some damp patches and getting the temperature in the tyres for the first lap wasn't easy, but a really great job by the team, so happy with the performance in terms of getting us out at the right time. Tomorrow's going to be difficult but I'll give it everything."

Hamilton claimed his 100th race win last time out in Russia, and he added: "It's not the easiest overtaking at the moment, and we're all on the same tyres as well. I imagine tomorrow's going to be difficult to move up. You saw in the last race what happened with Max once he got behind sixth place or something and vice versa for me also.

"We've got the long straight down the back, we'll see what we can do, hopefully we can give the fans here a good race."

Despite spinning off the track at one stage in the session, Charles Leclerc recovered to take P4, and the Ferrari driver will start in third place behind Verstappen, who was pleased with his performance after a difficult Friday practice.

"It was quite tricky at the beginning with the conditions, but compared to yesterday we actually managed to turn it around quite well," said Verstappen. He is hunting his eighth win of the season, which would also see him equal Nigel Mansell as the driver with the second most victories with a Honda engine (13), behind the late Ayrton Senna (32).

"The laps overall were quite good, even if we lost a bit down the straight on the last, we have to look into that, but of course it was not the lap I needed to fight for pole," Verstappen added.

"Overall I'm very happy. We'll try to pick up as many points as we can."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22:868 *
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0:130
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:328
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:397
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:458
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0:609
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0:838
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:086
9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:437
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1:500

*Hamilton will serve 10-place grid penalty

Max Verstappen insists he is not under any pressure to win the Formula One title this season as the Red Bull driver does not believe it will change his life.

The Dutchman trails Lewis Hamilton by two points after 15 races – the smallest margin between the top two at this point since 2006 when Fernando Alonso scrapped it out with Michael Schumacher.

Verstappen recovered from the back of the grid to finish second to seven-time world champion Hamilton in Russia two weeks ago and is seeking his eighth race victory of 2021 at Istanbul Park on Sunday.

Hamilton previously suggested Verstappen would be feeling the pressure as the title race hots up, but the 24-year-old has stressed that is not the case as finishing second would still be an achievement in its own right.

"I always do my best and I know that the team is also doing the best they can," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"And if that's going to be first at the end of the year – that's of course an amazing achievement and that's what we work for, right?

"But, even if we would finish second, I think we'd still have had a great season. And at the end of the day it's not really going to change my life.

"I mean, I enjoy what I'm doing, and I think that's also very important. For me, there is not much to worry about really."

Verstappen started from the back of the grid in Russia after Red Bull opted to have a new engine installed.

Hamilton may face a similar handicap this weekend as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed a fourth engine of the season could be fitted to the Briton's car.

That would take the championship leader over the permitted allowance and leave him starting at the back of the grid, but Verstappen will only focus on his own race regardless of where his rival is positioned.

"At the end of the day, I can't control what they're doing," he told Sky Sports. 

"It's more important to focus on ourselves and then try to get the best out of that and try to score as many points as possible every single weekend. And, of course, I will try to do that again."

With eight wins this year, Red Bull are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). 

They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight) with seven more races in the calendar.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will renew their thrilling Formula One world title battle at the Turkish Grand Prix this week.

The Mercedes driver leads his Red Bull rival by two points, the smallest margin between the top two after 15 races since 2006, when Fernando Alonso had the same narrow lead in his famous scrap with Michael Schumacher.

This week will mark five years since Nico Rosberg claimed his last pole position and race victory. 

He is the last person other than Hamilton to win the drivers' championship, but the Briton knows he still has much more work to do if he is to stop Verstappen from ending that run with seven races to go.

The latest instalment of the rivalry will take place at Istanbul Park in an event which returned to the F1 calendar after a nine-year absence last year.

Verstappen is looking to win his eighth race of 2021. Apart from when Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in 2016, every other driver who has won that amount of races has gone on to be crowned champion.
 

LAST TIME OUT

It was an incredible race in Russia, with Hamilton ultimately claiming his 100th Formula One victory, having failed in his previous four attempts to reach the milestone.

Lando Norris had secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, but he spun off the track with three laps to go after opting not to pit for new tyres as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and McLaren were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish after coming so close to following up team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's win in Italy with one of his own.

The drama in front meant Verstappen made up important ground to finish second, an unlikely bonus after he started from the back of the grid when Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Carlos Sainz claimed the final spot on the podium, with Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Alonso rounding out the top six.
 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN TURKEY

Turkey is one of just four out of 34 F1 venues where Hamilton is yet to claim a pole position, but he has won here twice, including a famous win in the wet last year that clinched his seventh championship.

His chances of repeating the feat this week may depend on whether he opts to receive a grid penalty for taking a new power unit, which Toto Wolff has suggested could be a possibility.

Should Hamilton triumph, he will equal Felipe Massa's F1 record of three victories in Turkey.

But there are other teams getting involved at the front which could provide an added complication to the championship contenders.

McLaren won in Monza and almost repeated the feat in Russia, with they and Ferrari – who have recently introduced an upgraded power unit with a new hybrid system - picking up some impressive results.

Having served his penalty and impressively limited the damage last time out, though, it is Verstappen who goes into the race weekend as narrow favourite for victory.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Grid position key - Seven out of eight winners in Turkey have come from the first row of the grid, with the only exception last year when Hamilton won from sixth place. Only in Germany three years ago has the Brit recorded a F1 victory from a worse starting position (14th).

Fine track for Ferrari – The Italian team have won most races in Turkey (three), achieved eight podiums, set three fastest laps and taken three pole positions.

Red Bull run – With eight wins this year, the team are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight).

McLaren impress – Having set two straight fastest laps (Ricciardo in Italy and Norris in Russia), the team could set three in a row for the first time since 2011 when Hamilton and Jenson Button were their drivers.

Hamilton could level up – If the seven-time world champion wins without being on pole, he will equal up his record of wins to pole at 101 for each category –  this would be the first time they have been the same since 2007, when he went 2-2 at the United States Grand Prix.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

Max Verstappen believes Red Bull made a perfect call to switch tyres as he went from last on the grid to finish second at the Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th Formula One triumph in Sunday's race in Sochi, the reigning world champion passing Lando Norris, who saw his chances of clinching victory from his maiden pole slip away when he lost control in the rain with just three laps to go.

Hamilton's win moves him ahead of Verstappen in the championship standings, but the Dutchman ensured the gap is only two points as he charged up to second.

Verstappen had started at the back of the grid after Red Bull installed a new engine to his car, though he said the key to his podium finish was a decision to switch to intermediate tyres as the rain closed in.

"I'm super happy of course to be second," Verstappen said.

"If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn't believe you. But luckily the call to go from the slicks to the inters was the perfect one I think, the right lap. Super pleased for this.

"When the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box, because the lap before, probably if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.

"So to basically go from seventh to second for us was an amazing result."

Reflecting on what Hamilton's landmark win means for the title race, Verstappen added: "It could of course have been a lot worse in terms of how many points I would lose.

"Especially also with the conditions, it's already very hard to pass. But then also today because of track conditions and whatever, the tyres were graining a lot, so you also couldn't really push or stay close to someone. All in all to come away with second here was, of course, very important."

Norris, meanwhile, was left to lament his misfortune as the win slipped from his grasp.

"I don't know where to start," said Norris, who ultimately finished seventh and took responsibility for the decision not to switch to intermediate tyres.

"Obviously unhappy, devastated in a way. I guess we made a call to stay out; we stand by that call but it was the wrong one at the end of the day.

"I made a decision just as much as the team. In fact, it was more they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. So, my decision – I thought it was the way to go.

"I think I had the confidence beforehand. I knew I was capable of doing it, I've felt capable of doing it for a while so I don't think that’s really changed. Just a bit of heartbreak.

"I felt like I did everything I could, even when it got tricky at the end."

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes still have their work cut out to beat Max Verstappen and Red Bull, despite the victory in an eventful Russian Grand Prix that took him back to the top of the Formula One standings.

Reigning title-holder Hamilton leads Verstappen in the drivers' championship by two points after claiming his 100th F1 triumph in Sochi.

Hamilton passed McLaren's Lando Norris, who was eyeing a maiden victory from pole position, to become the first driver to reach a century of wins.

Norris spun off the track while leading with three laps to go as rain caused late havoc, Hamilton's British compatriot finishing seventh as Verstappen was able to secure second place having started at the back of the grid.

"What a race the weather provided. It's taken a long time to get to 100, and I wasn't sure it would come," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"Lando did such an amazing job, he had incredible pace and is doing such a great job for McLaren. It was bittersweet to see my old team ahead, and they're doing fantastically."

Hamilton made amends having been disappointed with a qualifying performance that saw him start fourth on the grid, though he remains naturally wary of the threat posed by Verstappen.

"Going to bed last night I was not the happiest with the job I did yesterday," Hamilton said.

"I watched the replay and they were subtle mistakes but not ideal. I was so determined when I woke up this morning, and I was determined to just do the best job I could. I lost a lot of ground at the start trying to stay out of trouble.

"Max must have done a really great job to come up to second from last. We've got our work cut out.

"It would have been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn't been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic."

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