Hamilton puts new engine to use by besting Verstappen in Brazil qualifying

By Sports Desk November 12, 2021

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

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    Lewis Hamilton says his fifth-placed finish at the Spanish Grand Prix felt "better than a win" after he recovered from a first-lap puncture that left him in 19th position.

    Starting from P6, Hamilton suffered the puncture following contact from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on the first lap in Barcelona and suggested to his Mercedes team he should retire from the race to preserve the car's engine after rejoining at the back of the field.

    But the seven-time champion produced an excellent drive after his enforced pit-stop and looked on course to finish fourth before a coolant leak allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to edge him out late on.

    Speaking after the race, Hamilton considered the circumstances he was forced to overcome en route to a strong points finish.

    "To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

    "I was thinking it was impossible to get back into points, but the team said 'no, you're on for eighth'. I thought they were being super-optimistic.

    "I'm glad we didn't [retire] and it just shows you never stop and never give up, and that's what I did.

    "A race like that is like a win, and it actually feels better than a win when you have come from so far back."

    Since losing out on a record eighth world title in the closing seconds of the final race of the 2021 campaign, when Max Verstappen clinched his first championship in controversial circumstances, Hamilton has endured a frustrating time.

    The 37-year-old, who has only secured one podium this campaign, has been critical of Mercedes' W13 car on numerous occasions this year, calling it "undriveable" after finishing 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month. 

    But Hamilton believes the team's work on the car has improved it greatly, and he suggested he could have joined team-mate George Russell – in third – in challenging the two Red Bull drivers, who secured their second one-two in three races, if not for his early problems.

    "We have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better, the car is much nicer in the race," he added. "We have some improvements to make in qualifying.

    "If I hadn't had that [issue], I would have been fighting with the Red Bulls."

  • Verstappen triumphs in Barcelona after 'not nice' early struggles Verstappen triumphs in Barcelona after 'not nice' early struggles

    Max Verstappen tried to keep his frustration at bay as he overcame a "not nice" start to the Spanish Grand Prix before ultimately recovering to earn a crucial win.

    The reigning world champion claimed his third consecutive Formula One victory in Barcelona on Sunday, profiting after title rival Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue when seemingly on course to win.

    Verstappen now holds a six-point lead at the top of the standings, an outcome that did not look likely when the Dutchman dropped from second to fourth after spinning in the early stages, as Leclerc built a huge lead.

    The Dutchman also voiced his concerns on team radio as persistent issues with his DRS system hindered his attempts to pass Mercedes' George Russell during a thrilling tussle between the duo.

    Verstappen, though, kept his focus and, after some help from team orders, recorded his first win in Spain since 2016, when he took his first-ever F1 victory at the same circuit.

    Team-mate Sergio Perez was second in a great result for Red Bull, with Russell taking the final spot on the podium ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

    "Of course I went off - I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear and went off," Verstappen said about his ninth-lap error.

    "Then I was obviously in the train and trying to pass but my DRS was not always working. That made it very tough.

    "But we managed use strategy to get ahead again [with three pit stops]. We tried to do our own race and eventually we got the win. So it was a difficult beginning but a good end.

    "I just tried to stay focused - of course it is not nice when stuff like that happens - but at the end I am very happy to win and happy for Checo." 

    Verstappen insisted his anger on team radio related to his car issues, not at the way Russell was defending his position. 

    "It was more frustration because of my DRS," he said. "It is a great result for the team. The behaviour of the car was good on the softs."

    As for Russell, third place represented a continuation of his strong start to the F1 season with Mercedes even as the team lacks its normal pace.

    The Briton has finished in the top five for all six races so far, with this being his second podium.

    "I gave everything I could do to hold Max off," he said. "I would love to say that [that Mercedes are back], I am proud to be standing here [in the top three]. 

    "It hurt us a lot but when I had the Red Bull in the mirrors all I was doing was the maximum to keep them behind. It is a lot of points on the board for us and well done to Max."

    Next up for the drivers is the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place on May 29.

  • Verstappen takes championship lead with win in Spain after Leclerc retires Verstappen takes championship lead with win in Spain after Leclerc retires

    Max Verstappen recovered from an early spin to win a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix and take the championship lead after Charles Leclerc retired.

    Leclerc looked set to increase his advantage over Verstappen in searing heat at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but the Ferrari driver's race was over when he lost power while leading comfortably on lap 23.

    Verstappen had been in the gravel on lap nine and also suffered DRS issues, but the Dutchman led a Red Bull one-two for his third consecutive win to move above Leclerc in the driver standings after Sergio Perez let him through under team orders on lap 49 of 66.

    George Russell finished third, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton worked his way back through the field to take fifth place behind Carlos Sainz despite suffering a puncture on the first lap.

    Leclerc got a good start to retain his lead, but Hamilton's miserable start to the season was summed up when his he made contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen - who went into the gravel - at Turn 4 on the opening lap.

    Hamilton limped to the pits with a front-left puncture and was told to continue after suggesting over the team radio that he retires from the race, having returned to the track in 19th place.

    Sainz was back in 11th after spinning off at Turn 4 on lap seven and Verstappen was in the gravel at the same section of the circuit two laps later, dropping back from second to fourth.

    Russell pitted from second place and Verstappen was also called in on lap 14, with Leclerc leading by over nine seconds.

    Verstappen was furious as he was hampered by DRS issues attempting to pass Russell, who fended the Dutchman off to keep second place as they went wheel-to-wheel.

    It was all going so well for Leclerc until he lost power with a win there for the taking and Perez soon passed Russell on fresher tyres to take the lead after Verstappen pitted for a new set of softs.

    Verstappen was out in front on lap 38 after team-mate Perez and Russell pitted for mediums, then a quick stop for the defending champion put him back on track in third place behind his team-mate.

    Perez allowed Verstappen to pass him under team orders and there were no further twists in a pulsating race, with a surging Hamilton passing Sainz to finish fourth until a late technical issue caused him to concede the place back.

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