Red Bull team principal Christian Horner asserted after the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday that Sergio Perez's form is critical to helping the team take points away from Ferrari. 

Max Verstappen won a tightly contested race while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished within 10 seconds of the reigning world champion. 

Perez came fourth despite being the only driver in the top 10 to pit twice and experiencing a sensor fault that resulted in a loss of power. 

With that, Verstappen has only made an incremental gain in the driver's standings after his wins at Miami and Imola, with the Leclerc now holding a 19-point advantage. 

Horner believes Perez can join the fight and be on the podium but due to the car's reliability concerns was simply not able to do so in Miami. 

"Of course, reliability's going to be an issue," Horner told Sky Sports. "We had a sensor issue on Checo's [Perez's] engine, the guys did well to move them around but he lost about 30 horsepower with that. He was losing half a second a lap and I think without that he might have even been second with the tyre advantage, because we pitted him. 

"We need Checo in there and he's capable of doing that. You saw in Imola how quickly things can turn around and I think we've got some interesting races coming up. 

"The car's running well, we've got some developments hopefully coming later in the summer that will help us, we need to save a little bit of weight, but generally, I think we're on a good trajectory." 

With DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Verstappen has fought off challenges from Leclerc to win the other three races of the season, showing distinct poise under pressure. 

That was particularly the case in Miami, where the Dutch driver stayed consistent and managed to shake off Leclerc from the DRS window. 

Horner was full of praise for Verstappen and how consistent he stayed despite the challenge from Ferrari. 

"Max is under so much pressure in that position, it's easy to lock the wheel and so on, and he kept it clean," he said. "He didn't make any mistakes and then was gradually able to break the DRS after five-six laps and was able to manage it from there." 

Max Verstappen felt Red Bull "were on it" at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and thoroughly deserved their one-two. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen started on pole after winning Saturday's sprint race and he took maximum points at Imola by winning and setting the fastest lap. 

He cut Charles Leclerc's championship lead from 45 points to 27. The Ferrari driver span out from third when trying to take the bonus point from Verstappen and ended up finishing sixth. 

That opened the door for Lando Norris to finish third, with Sergio Perez making it a first one-two for Red Bull since Malaysia in 2016. 

"It's always tough to achieve something like that but already yesterday and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend," said Verstappen. 

"Today, you never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think we did very well and this one-two is very deserved. 

"The start was very important but afterwards, judging the conditions and when to swap to the slick tyres, because in the lead you have to always dictate the pace, and it's always a bit more difficult initially, but everything was well managed." 

Perez defended brilliantly to keep Leclerc at bay after getting past him on the opening lap, though he was lucky DRS was not enabled until after he took a trip across the grass and gave the Ferrari a chance to close the gap.

"It was really intense! The fight since halfway through the race we were fighting, then it was all under control but then they start chasing us again with the stop and it was the fight again to warm up the tyres," said Perez. 

"The most important thing today is to not make mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there. To get a one-two in these conditions, I think it is a great result for the team. We've been so unlucky at the start. It's been so difficult for us. 

"I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today." 

Norris said: "It was an amazing race. An amazing weekend.  

"I'm happy, the team deserves it. From where we were in race one to now scoring a podium, top job by the team. It's just hard work [from the team]. A lot of time of effort back in the factory and here at Imola. 

"It was a mixture of tricky conditions, but we've been able to capitalise on that as well. But I love these conditions, so I always do quite well. Just a mixture of hard work and a great weekend and it all pays off." 

Record crowds at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix might have been welcome to organisers, but drivers on the Formula One grid have expressed concern on where it currently sits on the calendar.

Before a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Albert Park circuit traditionally hosted the first race of the season, since the Australian GP's move to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.

With pre-season testing in Bahrain leading into the season-opener at the Sakhir circuit for the 2021 and 2022 season, however, Melbourne's traditional status has been rendered impractical.

While the crowds underlined the appetite for F1 in the region, the drivers were cool on the Australian GP's scheduling as a standalone week, before the series continues in Italy.

"It works well at the moment because we are doing the winter testing in Bahrain, it makes sense to stay there," Red Bull's Sergio Perez said. "Just coming to Australia for a single race is quite painful for everyone.

"We all want to come here, but there are ways we can improve and in fairness to F1, Australia hasn't been on the calendar for the last [two] years. I'm sure that going forward they can have a look at it."

While Mercedes' George Russell said the previous scheduling at Albert Park was "cool", the back-to-back arrangement with Bahrain requires a rethink for Australia.

"I think Melbourne here as the season opener was really cool because everybody came up here early and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation," he said.

"But I think having Melbourne in between races, especially as a stand-alone is too tough for the teams and everybody."

Before the Australian GP moved to Melbourne, Adelaide traditionally held the final race of the Formula One calendar, circumventing these logistical issues.

If Bahrain was to retain the opening of the season, Russell believes pairing Melbourne with other Asian races is a possible solution.

"If it is geographically correct…we are happy for it to be at any point of the season," he said. "We obviously race very far east with Japan and Singapore, China obviously not this year, but it is on the calendar from next year onwards.

"I just think there is a better compromise to be had. I know there is a huge amount of limitations involved."

Charles Leclerc saluted his team's work across the Australian Grand Prix, as the Ferrari driver claimed his second win of the 2022 Formula One season in Melbourne.

The Monegasque led from pole throughout to claim victory in the third race of the year, driving a masterfully composed race out in front at Albert Park.

With presumptive title rival Max Verstappen forced into a DNF behind him with another mechanical failure, Leclerc has now opened up a 46-point gap on the reigning world champion.

Even before then, Leclerc had looked comfortable in the lead, and he was quick to pay tribute to his crew back in the Ferrari garage for helping him take his game up a level.

"It's the first win where we have controlled the gap," he stated. "Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car.

"Especially in the race pace, we were extremely strong. [The] tyres felt great - from the first lap to the last lap, we were managing the tyres extremely well. I am just so happy."

Leclerc was forced to navigate both physical and virtual safety car restarts throughout, and almost lost his place to Verstappen when the former came in midway through the race.

"It was very difficult, especially the safety car restart," he added. "I thought it was going to be difficult to keep the first position, but then we managed to do so.

"We are only in the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship, but we have a very strong car, a very reliable car.

"That makes me smile after the last two years, which have been difficult for the team and myself, so it is great to be back in this position."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez came home second to capitalise on team-mate Verstappen's latest car woes, and the Mexican was muted on the missed chance to lock out the rest of the podium.

"That race was a bit tricky," he added. "We were a bit unlucky losing positions with the safety cars which we recovered later. It would've been great to have a double podium, but we lost Max."

Mercedes' George Russell was the biggest beneficiary of both the safety car and Verstappen's withdrawal, with the Briton edging team-mate Lewis Hamilton for his first podium of the year.

"We have got to be in it to win it and capitalise on others' misfortune," he added. "Obviously we got lucky today twice, but you have got to take it.

"We are never to give up. We have got to keep fighting. This weekend we were a long way behind our rivals but here we are standing on the podium."

Max Verstappen believes the Australian Grand Prix has been hindered by the FIA removing a DRS zone. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen was pipped to pole position for Sunday's race in Melbourne by Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. 

The Dutchman questioned the FIA's decision to continue with three DRS zones for the rest of the weekend after removing one between turns eight and nine for "safety reasons".

"Of course, with taking away one DRS zone, it's going to be harder," Verstappen said of overtaking at a restructured Albert Park. 

"I don't really understand why they took it away, because it was much safer than what we did in Jeddah, for example. So, it's a bit of a mystery to me why that happened. But we'll give it our best. 

"There was only one team who complained about it and it got removed this morning, so I don't really understand because, for me, it was way easier than doing it in, for example, in Jeddah because there were way more corners. 

"For me, there was never any issue with driving there with the DRS open. You'll have to ask the FIA why they took it away. It's a shame because it would have helped the racing." 

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who qualified third, added: "I think it's a bit of a shame because I think definitely the racing could have been a lot better. 

"And it sounds like when you look at Jeddah where we have the DRS within the corners, within the walls ... but I think I'm not the right one to answer." 

Max Verstappen admits he is still finding it a "struggle" to drive his Red Bull after being pipped to pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix by Charles Leclerc.

Championship leader Leclerc outpaced Verstappen with his final lap of a dramatic qualifying session in Melbourne on Saturday to ensure he will start at the top of the grid.

The Ferrari driver, who has finished first and second in the opening two races of 2022, posted 1:17.868 late on in Q3 to finish 0.286s ahead of Verstappen.

"It feels great and very happy to be starting on pole," Leclerc said. "Again, we were quite surprised by our pace in qualifying, so we will see what happens.

"Overall, I'm very happy because it's a track where I've always struggled in the past and I've struggled this weekend.

"You probably couldn't see from outside because we were quite fast, but I was struggling quite a lot with mistakes, being inconsistent.

"I really worked on that to try to put a good lap together in Q3. I knew it was just all about putting it together and I managed to do it in Q3, so I'm very happy."

Verstappen was edged out by Leclerc in a thrilling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix two weeks ago and is third in the drivers' standings, with Carlos Sainz occupying second place.

Leclerc's Ferrari team-mate Sainz will start Sunday's race down in ninth, however, after being caught by red flags that were brought out following a crash for Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull's Verstappen will therefore have a chance to climb the standings this weekend, but the Dutchman is not entirely pleased with how the weekend has gone thus far.

"I would have hoped to start first, but we have to accept where we finish, but the whole weekend has been a bit tricky for me," he said.

"I've never really found a stable grip whether it's front or rear and that's just not nice. For me, that's really been the case all year.

"I've never found a comfortable balance where I could attack corners, especially in qualifying and that's a big limitation – it's something very new for me in the last three years.

"Of course, I'm talking like I'm P18, but I think we have a lot of potential in the car we're not showing and I think that's a bit of a shame.

"But I expect it to be tight [on Sunday]. Maybe Ferrari will find something, but I hope not and hopefully we can have a good battle again."

 

Despite his complaints, it is Verstappen's first front row start at Albert Park as he seeks just a second podium finish in six appearances Down Under.

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez finished third in qualifying, though that will be reviewed as he is under investigation.

That is due to the Mexican failing to slow for double waved flags after Lance Stroll inadvertently turned into Nicholas Latifi, with both drivers blaming each other for the crash.

Perez, who could only finish four in Jeddah last time out after claiming pole – the first Mexican to ever do so – was more upbeat than Verstappen.

"It felt good. Q1, Q2 things were going good. With all the red flags, it's always very hard to keep the momentum going," he said.

"I regret a bit the decision to go into Q3 with our strategy on the tyres, but I think P3 is a decent start for tomorrow."

Elsewhere in Saturday's qualifying session, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who has taken a record eight poles in Australia, finished fifth, narrowly behind McLaren's Lando Norris.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari are a challenger for this year's Formula One drivers' and constructors' titles, despite Max Verstappen's victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Following his DNF in the season opener in Bahrain, Verstappen bounced back to claim the 25 points in a tightly contested race.

With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium in both races, however, Ferrari have opened up an early 40-point lead in the constructors' championship. Leclerc has also added to his respective first and second-placed finishes with two bonus points from fastest laps.

According to Horner, it is a sign of their legitimacy and strength this season.

"Ferrari have got a great car, they've got great drivers," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really tough battle. If that's what we're set for the rest of the season... from what we've seen in the first two races, it's been epic.

"They're all competitive teams. Ferrari are a big team, they've been a sleeping giant for a couple of years. They've got great strength in depth. It was just a great motor race. We enjoyed it, it was good hard racing between the drivers, and let's see what happens in Australia."

In the second consecutive race this season, Verstappen and Leclerc were locked in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle, with the defending champion seeing off the Ferrari challenge in Jeddah this time.

Horner praised the reigning world champion's race management, with Verstappen well placed to hold off Leclerc's late charge, while also saving some words for fourth-placed pole-sitter Sergio Perez.

"It was a very patient race from Max," Horner said. "He looked after the tyres for the end of the race there, and then after the last safety car, he really went for it.

"[Sergio] has driven brilliantly all weekend. He got that pole, his race pace was great, and he's just got unlucky with track position with the safety car. We've seen that happen sometimes."

The F1 season resumes in April with the Australian GP in Melbourne.

Sergio Perez expects to be even quicker in Sunday's race than he was during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Perez took pole position for the first time in his career by going two hundredths of a second faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Q3.

Carlos Sainz was fastest in Q1, Q2 and after the first runs in the final session, but the Spaniard had to settle for third on the grid, ahead of reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Perez, who looked set for a podium in the season-opening race in Bahrain until technical issues forced him to retire on the final lap, suggested there is more to come from the Red Bull duo.

"We've been focusing more on race pace than qualifying," Perez told a news conference.

"We've felt that we've given away some qualifying performance to gain it in the race, but obviously we're going to see [on Sunday].

"I expect these two [Leclerc and Sainz] are going to be very strong, but I really hope that we can have a strong race."

Leclerc took the win in Bahrain ahead of Sainz, and he feels is in a good position to make it back-to-back victories at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

"I think it's very strange because we're actually quicker with the used tyres than the new tyres, and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for the next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window," said Leclerc.

"But overall, I think for the race, I'm quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident."

Ferrari's Sainz was looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel with the Red Bulls, with the stage set for the drama to begin from lights out.

He said: "I expect an exciting start. Honestly, Checo [Perez] in front, Max behind, Red Bulls on the dirty side, us on the clean side but at the same time here in this tarmac, there's so much grip, clean or dirty side I don't think makes much of a difference.

"I think it's just going to be an exciting race. And I look forward to it. I think it's great for Formula One to have all four drivers just battling it out there. And I think we all have good respect for each other."

Sergio Perez brought an end to his long wait for a first Formula One pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, cutting short Ferrari's early-season dominance.

The Scuderia had looked set to continue their outstanding form, potentially locking out the front row in a hectic qualifying session that was delayed for an extended period following a terrifying crash for Mick Schumacher, son of former Ferrari superstar Michael.

Schumacher hit the concrete barrier at Turn 12 at 170mph, although he showed no signs of injury when he was eventually pulled from his Haas, heading to hospital for precautionary scans.

That incident came in the middle of Q2, with Lewis Hamilton having sensationally bowed out in Q1, leaving Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to battle with Red Bull duo Perez and Max Verstappen.

Defending champion Verstappen struggled to stay in touch, and it had appeared as though Sainz might be the man celebrating a first pole when he set the benchmark in Q3.

But he was passed by team-mate Leclerc and then Perez in his 220th grand prix, marking the longest wait for a driver before qualifying fastest, with ex-Red Bull man Marc Webber (131) the previous record-holder.

With Sunday marking 11 years to the day since Perez's first entry, he said: "It took me a couple of races, no?

"What a lap, unbelievable. I could do 1,000 laps and I don't think I could beat that one. It was unbelievable.

"We were not expecting too much from qualifying, we were focusing mainly for the race, so hopefully we get [the win] tomorrow."

Earlier, there had also been a red flag in Q1 following a crash involving Nicholas Latifi, after which Hamilton could not recover from a slow start.

His third time was his fastest but enough only for P15, where he soon fell below Lance Stroll to bow out in Q1 for the first time since the 2017 Brazilian GP and the first time on pure pace since the 2009 British GP.

Mercedes struggled to explain the result, as George Russell ran fourth fastest in that initial session, and Hamilton would not use the distraction a day earlier – when practice was halted due to a missile attack near the track – as an excuse.

"I just struggled with the balance of the car," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "It's not where we want to be."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 1:28.200
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.025s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.202s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.261s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.868s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.904s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.947s
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.983s
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.388s

Red Bull say they have located and fixed the problem that forced the team into a double DNF at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez saw their respective challenges falter in the final laps after both suffered mechanical malfunctions.

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, along with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, instead made up the podium as their rivals were left empty-handed.

But ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Red Bull revealed they have identified the issue as a lack of fuel pressure late on, and have now rectified the problem.

"The correct amount of fuel was in both cars, but a vacuum prevented the pumps from drawing fuel and delivering it to the engine," said a team spokesperson.

"We've taken the necessary steps to correct this issue and we expect no problems this weekend."

Red Bull will look to get their first points of the season on the board in Jeddah, where Verstappen took a second-place finish behind Hamilton last year.

The race will proceed without Sebastian Vettel, as the Aston Martin driver and four-time world champion continues to recover from COVID-19.

Sergio Perez believes "it makes sense to have a discussion" around the idea of Formula One drivers being allowed to race with coronavirus.

The 2022 season will be the third affected by COVID-19, already impacting the grid for Sunday's opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel has contracted the virus, meaning he will be absent for Aston Martin, while Daniel Ricciardo missed the end of pre-season testing but has recovered to take up his McLaren seat.

Red Bull's Perez missed two races in 2020 due to COVID-19 and suggests drivers – already isolated within their cars during races – should not be ruled out if they are otherwise fit and healthy.

"Going forward, we should discuss whether we allow the drivers to race if the symptoms are mild," the Mexican said.

"The drivers can obviously be the judge, but I think it makes sense to have a discussion.

"There is only so much you can do. I think it's just luck-dependent. It is difficult to not do anything. I'm just very sorry for Seb and for Daniel, but it can happen to anyone."

Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin's reserve driver, has replaced four-time world champion Vettel this week.

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.

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 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."

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