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 insists there is a long way to go in the Formula One drivers' championship race despite a "straightforward" win at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 24-year-old never looked back after moving from third to first after the first turn, wrapping up 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 result meant Verstappen overtook Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Jim Clark as the driver to win most races in the Mexican Grand Prix, with this victory added to triumphs in 2017 and 2018.

Verstappen holds a 19-point lead over Hamilton at the summit of the drivers' championship with just four races remaining, but he is refusing to get carried away.

"There's still a long way to go," he said. "It's of course looking good, but it can turn around quickly. I'm looking forward to Brazil [next Sunday]. I also have good memories there.

"It was quite straightforward today, which was really nice."

Speaking about his electric start, which saw him power past Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen said the key was holding off from breaking for as long as possible.

"It was three-wide, and it was just about trying to brake as late as you can," he explained.

"I went from third to first and that was basically what made my race because then I could just focus on myself. There was incredible pace in the car, so I could just do my own thing."

Verstappen's team-mate Perez put on a superb show in front of his home crowd, becoming the first Mexican driver to finish on the podium in this grand prix.

He also briefly led the race when Verstappen went into the pits to become the first Mexican to lead a lap at his country's grand prix.

"Having Checo [Perez] as a team-mate, coming to Mexico is amazing – actually even before that," Verstappen added. "All the fans here have been incredible, they love Formula One. It's really nice to be here."

Brazil awaits the drivers next Sunday in the second of November's triple-header, before a trip to Qatar.

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

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