Lewis Hamilton has reason for optimism in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix despite starting from the 10th position. 

The Mercedes driver roared up 15 places over just 24 laps in Saturday's sprint, finishing fifth after starting 20th following a DRS infringement in qualifying Friday. 

A five-place grid penalty for taking a new engine will put him further behind front-row starters Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in the main event but Hamilton's speed from the back Saturday should stand as a warning to his rivals. 

"It's not over yet," Hamilton said over the radio after the sprint. 

He later told reporters: "Really it was just the mental state of mind that I went into, which was just never give up, keep pushing, still I rise, you can do this.

"Because it was really difficult to swallow the result that we got [the penalty] but we won’t let that hold us back.

"Now I’ve got to start focusing on tomorrow. I’ll give it everything. It’s a much longer race tomorrow so hopefully we can get further." 

Hamilton can also take solace in Verstappen finishing second to Bottas in the sprint after starting first following Hamilton's penalty. 

While Bottas went with soft tyres, Verstappen opted for medium and had a gear sync issue that also hung him up, a double blow to the Red Bull driver's hopes. 

"All-in-all that didn’t work out for me," Verstappen said of his Saturday setup. "Then of course, I dropped to third on the first lap but then after that, I mean the pace was fine but you can’t overtake around here.

"The tyres just very quickly overheat and you are stuck – especially when the cars are closely matched on pace: there’s not much you can do in the sprint without a pit stop. So, I just sat behind basically."

With significantly hotter conditions expected Sunday, Verstappen was not sure how that might change the setup. 

"Yeah, let’s see," he said. "It’s going to be quite a bit warmer. I mean, today was also quite a late race, so hopefully that will be a bit better for us – but it’s a bit difficult to say at the moment."

Verstappen is 21 points clear of Hamilton in the standings as he bids to end Mercedes' seven-year drivers' championship monopoly and deny the Briton an eighth world title.

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead but was pipped to pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix by Valtteri Bottas, who won Saturday's sprint qualifying race. 

Red Bull driver Verstappen started in first after Lewis Hamilton had his result from Friday's qualifying session – in which he went fastest – ruled out due to a DRS infringement but was denied the maximum three points by Bottas. 

The Dutchman now holds a 21-point advantage over reigning champion Hamilton, who recovered to fifth after being forced to start from the back of the grid. 

However, a five-place grid penalty for taking a new engine means Hamilton will get away from 10th on Sunday. 

Bottas took the lead into turn one as Verstappen complained of a gear sync issue and the championship leader was down to third after going wide at turn four. 

Verstappen regained second from Carlos Sainz on lap four and he gradually ate into Bottas' lead before letting his tyres cool ahead of a late push.

However, Bottas was able to keep Verstappen out of DRS range to cling on for pole, with Sainz holding off Sergio Perez to take third place.

Bottas' performance provides a slight reprieve for Hamilton, who showed he will still be a factor on Sunday by getting from 20th to fifth in the space of 24 laps. 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.170s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +18.723s
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +19.787s
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +20.872s*
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +22.558s
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +25.056s
8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +34.158s
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +34.632s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +34.867s

*Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers 

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 314.5 
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 293.5 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 188 
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 165 
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 150 

Constructors 

1. Mercedes 481.5 
2. Red Bull 479.5 
3. Ferrari 269.5 
4. McLaren 255 
5. Alpine 106 

Lewis Hamilton has been disqualified from qualifying in Sao Paulo due to a rear wing infringement and Max Verstappen has been fined €50,000 for touching and examining his title rival's car in a restricted area.

The 36-year-old's Mercedes "failed the test designed to check the requirements of the last paragraph of Art. 3.6.3 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Technical Regulations."

Hamilton must now start from the back of Saturday's sprint qualifying race in a major blow to his chances of winning the championship, with Verstappen taking pole.

Verstappen is 19 points clear of Hamilton in the standings as he bids to end Mercedes' seven-year drivers' championship monopoly and deny the Briton an eighth world title.

Hamilton was also forced to take a five-place grid penalty ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix as his car was fitted with a fifth engine due to issues with Mercedes' power units.

Verstappen received a sanction of his own, being hit with a hefty fine after a "breach of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code."

A fan video captured the 24-year-old touching the rear wing of Hamilton's car in the Parc Ferme after qualifying on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton could face a second penalty ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix due to a possible technical infringement following qualifying, while Max Verstappen is also at risk of a sanction.

Hamilton has already taken a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's grand prix after receiving a new engine, although he is first set to get the opportunity to add points in the sprint race after qualifying fastest on Friday.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer discovered an issue with the Mercedes man's DRS that could deal a further blow to Hamilton's title hopes.

"The uppermost rear wing element adjustable positions were checked on car number 44 for compliance with Article 3.6.3 of the 2021 Formula One Technical Regulations," Bauer said in his report. 

"The requirement for the minimum distance was fulfilled, but the requirements for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, were not fulfilled."

The rear wing assembly in question has been removed and impounded, and the issue has been referred to the stewards, who delayed a decision until Saturday after calling in a Mercedes representative late on Friday.

"The stewards have adjourned the hearing relating to Document 18 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix as they await further evidence," a spokesperson said.

The stewards have also called in Verstappen and a Red Bull representative over an "alleged breach of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code", which states: "In the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations."

Verstappen was seen approaching Hamilton's car in Parc Ferme and a fan video appeared to indicate he touched the rear wing.

Hamilton and Verstappen must now await the decisions of the stewards, which could prove significant in their pursuit of both victory in Brazil and the title.

Lewis Hamilton made the most of taking a new engine by securing pole position for Saturday's sprint race with a dominant performance in qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Friday. 

Taking a new internal combustion engine (ICE) means Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty hanging over him for the main event on Sunday, but he did his best to limit the potential damage by going almost half a second quicker than anyone else. 

Championship leader Max Verstappen will join Hamilton on the front row on Saturday, denying Mercedes a lockout in the third and final sprint race of the season by narrowly outperforming Valtteri Bottas. 

Verstappen could consequently see his 19-point advantage in the drivers' standings reduced before race day, but he was anticipating a strong display from the seven-time champion. 

"When they take a new engine, naturally they have a bit more power, so it's not a big shock," said Verstappen. 

"I'm just happy to be second. That's a good position to start from. Sometimes you have to be realistic and there wasn't more in it. 

"There are not that many points to gain in the sprint race so I just aim to have a good first lap and see from there." 

It was the first time Hamilton, who went fastest in all three sessions, had won a qualifying session since Hungary in July and he claimed it felt like a maiden pole position. 

"I'm so happy to be back here in Brazil. That's the first pole in a long time," he said. "I feel really grateful. It's crazy because it's been a while so it feels like the first one. 

"A big, big thank you to all the team because they've been working flat out. It's been so hard coming from the last race for everyone. 

"Today was a really good qualifying session. I'm really happy with it. We've got the penalty but we'll give it everything we've got." 

Sergio Perez took fourth behind Bottas, with Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc trailing Pierre Gasly but beating out the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:07.934
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.438s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.535s
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.549s
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.843s
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.892s
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +1.026s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.046s
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.105s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.179s

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.

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