Max Verstappen's dramatic victory at the United States Grand Prix gave Red Bull the Formula One constructors' title, a day after the death of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

A record-equalling 13th win of the season for the irrepressible Verstappen, who already has the drivers' championship sewn up, secured the poignant achievement at the Circuit of The Americas.

Mercedes had monopolised the constructors' championship since 2014, but it has been a matter of time this season before they were dethroned.

Verstappen, hampered by an extended pit stop, slipped back to fifth place at one stage but roared back to the front of the field and produced a skilful overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton during the 50th lap to reclaim first position.

Mercedes had been chasing their first win of the season, but once Verstappen was in front of Hamilton it was game over. Verstappen and team boss Christian Horner dedicated the team success to Mateschitz immediately at the end of the race.

Charles Leclerc's Ferrari took third place, his first podium in Austin, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez fourth, Mercedes' George Russell fifth and McLaren's Lando Norris sixth.

Ferrari pole-sitter Carlos Sainz had the start of his nightmares, being overtaken by front-row rival Verstappen before the first corner and then spinning after colliding with Russell. Russell was handed a five-second penalty and Sainz's race was soon over as he came into the pits to retire, with radiator damage causing a water leak.

The safety car came out twice, firstly when Valtteri Bottas lost the back end of his Alfa Romeo and beached in the gravel on the 18th lap, and then when Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll collided, a flash point between the future Aston Martin team-mates.

Leclerc was a factor for much of the race, having done well to tear through the field after a 10-place engine change penalty meant he started from 12th on the grid.

A huge twist came with 20 laps remaining when Verstappen had his shocking pit stop. The world champion sarcastically told his team radio it had been "beautiful" but was told to focus on the race, and he subsequently showed why he and the team have been so dominant.

Verstappen matches Schumacher and Vettel

Michael Schumacher won 13 times for Ferrari in the 18-race 2004 campaign, while Sebastian Vettel won 13 in a 19-race 2013 season for Red Bull. Vettel was briefly a podium contender in this race but a 16.8 second pit stop scuttled his hopes.

Now Verstappen has equalled the single-season wins record Schumacher and Vettel shared, and as he said at the end of the race, he has "three more chances" to take the mark outright.

Aston thriller

The yellow flag came out when Alonso's Alpine ran into the back of Stroll's Aston Martin. The pair will be team-mates at Aston Martin next season, and as Alonso looked to overtake Stroll, it appeared Stroll moved to block the manoeuvre. That led to Alonso's car spectacularly bucking onto its rear wheels and running out of control before colliding with barriers.

Alonso was remarkably able to continue and reach the pits for repairs, but Stroll lost a tyre, amid strewn debris, and his race was over, with the stewards electing to leave it until after the race to pass any judgement.

Lewis Hamilton is praying Mercedes can cling on to the coattails of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton will start third with Silver Arrows team-mate George Russell fourth after they were both promoted up the grid due to penalties for Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

The pair had originally qualified fifth and sixth, each over half a second adrift of Ferrari pole-sitter Sainz.

While Hamilton does believe the Mercedes has better race pace compared to qualifying, he feels it is unlikely it will be enough for them to stay in touch with Sainz and the Red Bull of world champion Verstappen.

"I’m praying it's going to be better tomorrow [Sunday]," Hamilton said.

"I'm really just hopeful that… If we can hold onto the guys [ahead], at least keep them in [viewing] distance, that would be awesome, because then strategy can come into play. But I think they're too quick."

Russell appeared to offer a more optimistic assessment, envisioning plenty of chances for Mercedes to improve on their performance in qualifying.

"It's sort of rare that as a driver you go into the weekend more excited about the race than qualifying, because qualifying is where the car is alive and you're going [at your] fastest," added Russell.

"But [I'm] definitely really excited, because I think there's going to be a lot of opportunities, lots of pit stops and a lot of unknowns – that's good news for us."

Lewis Hamilton says the future of the budget cap in Formula One is dependent on the punishment that is dished out to Red Bull for their breach in 2021.

The FIA confirmed Red Bull had committed a "minor" breach of the $145million (£114m) cap last year and has submitted an "accepted breach agreement" to the team.

That proposal, which is confidential, outlines the penalty that the FIA will hand to Red Bull if they accept the cap, although they could fight the judgement and send the matter to an adjudication panel.

With 2021 having been the first season of the budget cap's implementation, there is uncertainty over what action the FIA will take and Hamilton believes the regulations will be pointless if no serious consequences result.

"If they are relaxed with these rules, all the teams will just go over," he told the BBC.

"Spending millions more and only having a slap on the wrist is not going to be great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in the future."

Lewis Hamilton is adamant Mercedes will have a better car next season that should allow them to provide a greater challenge to Red Bull after Max Verstappen wrapped up the 2022 Formula One title.

Verstappen won a second successive championship on Sunday thanks to victory in the Japanese Grand Prix combined with his rival Charles Leclerc receiving a five-second penalty that demoted him to third.

Initially there was confusion over whether full points were to be awarded as the normal race distance was not completed due to a lengthy rain delay, with even Verstappen suggesting the title was not his yet at first.

After several minutes, Verstappen's success was confirmed as the Dutchman retained his crown with four races to spare, far more straightforward than last season when he only moved ahead of Hamilton at the end of a controversial final grand prix.

But Mercedes have never really been a threat to Verstappen this year, with George Russell fourth in the standings and Hamilton a further two places down the ladder – neither driver has claimed a single victory in 2022.

Hamilton congratulated Verstappen afterwards but swiftly turned his attention to 2023, optimistic Mercedes can build a car that is not dogged by the design issues the W13 car has had following the introduction of new technical regulations.

"Congrats to Max," Hamilton said, before refocusing on Mercedes.

"I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe that we as a team, we've not gone from being world champions to not being able to build a good car.

"I have no doubts we'll build a better car next year.

"Whether or not we rectify every issue from the car this year, we'll find out when we get there."

Hamilton finished fifth in Suzuka, spending much of the shortened race stuck behind Esteban Ocon, who held on to take fourth.

Despite what many might have perceived as a frustrating day for the seven-time world champion, Hamilton insisted he had "a blast".

"I don't feel frustrated," he told Sky Sports. "It was a sprint race. I think I did the best I could and I'm happy we got some points.

"We were just so slow in a straight line. I was getting close, as close as I could, and as soon as I pulled out, they would just pull away.

"I wish it was a longer race. I'm glad we got some laps for the fans here, although it's not really a massive race for them considering how long they've waited.

"In terms of the conditions, the restarting was awesome. That's what motor racing is about. I had a blast. It was so tough, so hard to see. Really hard to see the car skating around, but that's motor racing.

"I think the restart we had at the end was the perfect time and I just wish we could have gone longer into a bit of the dark."

F1 now heads to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix on October 23.

Mercedes openly accepted the presence of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at the top of Friday's Japanese Grand Prix practice time sheets was misleading.

Ahead of a weekend that could see Red Bull's Max Verstappen clinch a second successive title in the drivers' championship, it was the Mercedes pair who had the fastest cars on the track in wet conditions.

Their pace could to some extent be attributed to Mercedes' decision to allow both to use new tyre sets, however, as other teams equipped their cars with used sets, giving the Silver Arrows an advantage.

Russell had been 18th quickest in first practice, and Hamilton 13th, but in the later session it was Russell who set the fastest lap of one minute and 41.935 seconds, with Hamilton just 0.235 seconds behind him.

Verstappen was third on the time sheets, some 0.851secs adrift, just ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Andrew Shovlin, the Mercedes track-side engineering director, said there were grounds for cautious optimism, while acknowledging the team had not suddenly taken a giant leap ahead of their rivals.

"The time sheets are not a fair reflection of pace as our times were set on new tyres," Shovlin said. "But, like for like, we seemed to be in a reasonable position compared to Red Bull and Ferrari. We are expecting a dry qualifying session and most likely a dry race."

Ahead of Saturday's qualifying, Hamilton said: "Looking to tomorrow, I don't really know what to expect. I guess Ferrari and Red Bull will be rapid, and I hope that we are fast too – like I do each week!"

Russell said it was hard to predict how the Mercedes cars would contend over the weekend.

Quoted on the team's website, Russell said: "It is always nice to end the day top of the time sheets, and it was a decent improvement from FP1 when we were pretty much at the bottom.

"The wet conditions today were probably not that representative for the rest of the weekend, but it was a good learning opportunity for the future; it's important to understand things like the tyre crossover from wet to intermediate, and even if that doesn't pay dividends this weekend, it will in the future.

"I've no idea what to expect tomorrow in the dry – we will be battling for the top six positions, and hopefully we have a shot at something better than that. Let's wait and see."

Lewis Hamilton has urged the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) to take action against any team in the event of the budget cap being breached.

Formula One's governing body was due to issue their publication on the 2021 budget cap on Wednesday before announcing a delay, with the outcome now to be shared on October 10.

Widespread reports have suggested that there are two teams guilty of exceeding the cap last season, with speculation mounting one of them is Red Bull, and Mercedes star Hamilton wants the FIA to take firm action against any guilty parties.

"I like to think that if it's being delayed, it's because it's being taken very seriously. It would be bad for the sport if action wasn't taken if there was a breach," he told reporters.

"It is imperative, for transparency, [that punishments are handed out]. We need to continue to have transparency for the fans and the integrity of the sport.

"I know there are a lot of conversations in the background. No one truly knows. There are different numbers and things being said here and there."

Lewis Hamilton feels he can continue in Formula One for another five years, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who is certain the 37-year-old will renew his contract with the team.

Hamilton has won six of his joint-record seven F1 world championships while representing Mercedes, also helping the Silver Arrows to eight consecutive constructors' titles since joining in 2013.

That run is set to end this season, with Mercedes in third and Hamilton winless and struggling in sixth in the drivers' standings.

But Wolff insists his superstar's appetite for the sport remains undiminished.

He believes Hamilton – who he described as "the greatest personality" in F1 history – is sure to extend his Mercedes stay beyond the expiration of his contract in 2023.

"The advantage is we speak a lot together," Wolff told Channel 4. "Just last week we sat down, and he says 'look, I have another five years in me, how do you see that?'

"He's the shining star on and off track. I think we would lose the greatest personality that Formula One ever had.

"Over time we have just grown together. We are totally transparent with each other. 

"Lewis will be the first one to say 'I can't do this anymore, because I feel I haven't got the reactions anymore' or 'I've just lost fun doing it, and there is another generation growing up that is just very strong'.

"I have no doubt that whatever we agree on a contract extension – which is going to happen – that we both are always going to discuss, very openly, what the future holds."

Hamilton indicated earlier this year he has "plenty of fuel left in the tank", and Wolff believes he can replicate the longevity of rival Fernando Alonso and NFL legend Tom Brady by competing after his 40th birthday.

"I don't know if 40 is that age where you say that is not adequate anymore for a racing driver," Wolff said.

"If you look at where Fernando is with 41 years, he's still very much there. Now, is he the same Fernando that he was at 25? I don't know, but he's very competitive still.

"You look at Tom Brady, who is somebody I really admire for having the discipline in how he manages his life and his sport, he's 45 – and he's on the pitch.

"So Lewis, with the way he leads his life, with the full, ultra-narrow focus on his Formula One racing – all the other things are just hobbies – I think he can take it quite far."

Hamilton was joined by George Russell at Mercedes ahead of this season, and the former Williams driver sits fourth in the drivers' standings after recording seven podium finishes in 2022 – one more than Hamilton.

Wolff believes Russell will have the opportunity to compete for titles in the future, adding: "George has been great joining the team.

"He's a good personality, he acts with integrity, he's very transparent working with Lewis – these two really have added to the team's development slope this year.

"He was obviously hoping to be in a Mercedes and winning races and championships, which he got that timing wrong, but at least he has progressed to the midfield now.

"That time is going to come – he will win races, he will race for championships, and I think he absolutely has it in him. I feel very good to have him in the team over the long term."

Max Verstappen bemoaned a "messy" performance at the Singapore Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton vowed to "live and learn" to recover from another disappointing showing.

Red Bull driver Verstappen had won five straight races and recorded 12 victories in 2022 to head into Sunday's race with a 116-point championship lead.

But the Dutchman struggled on a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit, finishing seventh as Charles Leclerc – who came in second behind Sergio Perez – cut Verstappen's advantage to 104 points.

Perez also trails his Red Bull team-mate by 106 points, though Verstappen could still secure the world title at the next race in Japan.

"It's not where we want to be," Verstappen told Sky Sports. "Yesterday, you put yourself in a spot like that and it can either work brilliantly and you can drive back to the front. Or you don't and it's very frustrating like we had [today].

"Seventh is better than eighth but it's not what I'm here for, not with a car like that and what we showed in practice. It's just incredibly messy."

Hamilton was another left frustrated as Formula One returned to Singapore for the first time in three years, slipping down to ninth after starting on the grid in third.

The seven-time world champion was initially edged out by Carlos Sainz on the first corner before crashing into the barriers later in the race when attempting to overtake the Ferrari driver.

"I think we started off with a pretty decent weekend and were just really, really unfortunate at the end," Hamilton added to Sky Sports.

"It was difficult to overtake and that lock-up into Turn 7 – when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.

"But you get back up again and you try. It wasn't the greatest day, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

"It all went out the window when I locked up, so my apologies to the team, but we live and learn, and I'll recover."

Sergio Perez secured a fourth Formula One triumph and second of the season as he dominated at the Singapore Grand Prix, ending Max Verstappen's five-race winning streak.

Verstappen headed into Sunday's race with a 116-point lead at the top of the championship, aiming for a sixth straight win and 12th victory of 2022 as he edges towards the title.

Yet it was Red Bull team-mate Perez who added to his Monaco Grand Prix crown earlier in the year by winning at a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit, where safety cars were a regular feature.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished in second and third respectively, with Verstappen's championship lead over the Monegasque driver dropping to 104 points after the Dutchman came in seventh.

After an hour-long delay, Perez raced out the blocks to take the lead from Leclerc, while Lewis Hamilton recovered after being forced off the track in a battle with Sainz.

A plethora of safety cars followed as Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi, Fernando Alonso, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon all retired inside the first 28 laps.

Perez continued to clock the fastest laps at the front before Hamilton – frustrated by Sainz in third – slammed into the barriers, with Lando Norris overtaking his fellow Briton.

Yuki Tsunoda's crash saw another safety car deployed before Verstappen swerved off the track to drop down to 12th, though he recovered to overtake Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas.

Perez's domination under the lights continued despite the push of Leclerc as the Red Bull driver claimed victory at the first F1 race in Singapore in three years.

'I TOLD YOU' – HAMILTON BEMOANS MERCEDES TYRE DECISION

Hamilton started the race in third but fell down a place after a first-corner battle with Sainz saw the seven-time world champion edged off the track.

"I told you about these tyres, in future you need to listen to me. No grip," Hamilton declared on the team radio soon after, lamenting Mercedes' late decision to operate on intermediate tyres.

It was not the first time Hamilton – who ended in ninth – has exchanged such words with his team, adding to a frustrating season that could end without a single victory for the first time in his career.

ALONSO DENIED HISTORY

Alpine's Alonso was aiming to surpass Kimi Raikkonen for the most Grand Prix finishes in history as the Spaniard looked to complete his 351st race.

But after stating "engine, engine" on the team radio, Alonso was forced to withdraw before the halfway point in Singapore, leaving him waiting to overtake Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton hopes he can belatedly celebrate his first win of 2022 at the Singapore Grand Prix, believing such a result would pay back Mercedes and his fans for their support in a difficult year.

Hamilton is facing the first winless season of his Formula One career after falling out of title contention.

The seven-time world champion has made six podiums this year but is still waiting to return to the top step with only six races remaining in the season.

Hamilton at least appears to have the pace in Singapore, where he qualified third-fastest on Saturday and revealed only "an oversteer moment" at Turn 16 denied him the chance to take pole ahead of Charles Leclerc.

It was still the Briton's best qualifying performance of the season – which came as a surprise to him – and he is looking to improve further on race day.

"It feels incredibly rewarding, I think, for everyone in the team [to get this performance]," Hamilton said in a press conference.

"We've really started with a real handful, a difficult deck of cards that we've created for ourselves, and [it has meant] reshuffling and lots and lots of work.

"Everyone [has been] staying really positive, or as positive as possible, and everyone is just being incredibly diligent and never giving up.

"So, it's been an inspiring year for me, witnessing what my team do and being a part of that, and yeah, I so badly want to [win].

"Naturally the will and desire to get a good result for them, to pay them back for all their great work is part of it.

"Also, my fans have been the most incredible this year, on and off track. And we couldn't have survived the year without them. So, I also want it for them.

"But I think we've got a great turnout here this weekend. And I hope that tomorrow we can give them a good show."

This weekend, in which Max Verstappen can clinch a second straight title, albeit the Dutchman's chances have been reduced by a frustrating qualifying session, has been overshadowed by speculation of a major salary cap breach.

Red Bull, Verstappen's team, have been forced to deny claims they are the guilty party, and Hamilton was not interested in engaging in gossip.

"I'm not really giving it much attention, to be honest," he said. "It's all whispers at the moment.

"I don't know enough about it to be able to make a sensible comment. I'm not thinking particularly anything.

"I'm proud of my team for the diligence that they've done to run to the rules.

"And honestly, I have full confidence in Mohammed [bin Sulayem, FIA president] in the way that he's conducted himself to this point and in terms of being strict and being clear with the rules.

"The rules are rules, and for those sort of things, which can lead to real alterations in terms of car performance, those sorts of things, we definitely have to take it seriously.

"But as I said, I don't know if it's true or not, so we'll see."

Charles Leclerc clinched a ninth pole position of the season in Singapore, with Max Verstappen struggling in the wet conditions.

Intermediate tyres were used across the grid in the first two rounds of qualifying, with the deck only being shuffled in Q3 as eight of the 10 runners made the jump to slicks – though there were initial difficulties to find pace.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were the first to hit their stride while others tiptoed around the wet sections of the track, with each claiming provisional pole twice before a resurgence from others on the grid.

Leclerc, who held pole the last time F1 visited Singapore in 2019, punched home a blistering lap to initially open a lead of a second and a half before others responded, Sergio Perez joining him on the front row as Hamilton lines up third – just five hundredths of a second away from his first pole of the 2022 season.

It was an entirely different story for a furious Verstappen, who will start eighth on the grid after being forced to abandon his final lap, unleashing his anger over the team radio.

Verstappen could seal the championship under the lights in Singapore if results go his way, though it now seems even more unlikely given his lowly start.

Leclerc admitted the conditions made for a tricky challenge for the drivers, with his call to move away from the intermediate compound coming just before the start of the final session

"It's been a very tricky qualifying, Q1 and Q2 with the intermediates, then in Q3 we didn't really know what to do," he said. "We went for the soft at the very last minute, and it paid off.

"It was really tricky, I made a mistake in my last lap, so I thought we wouldn't get through, but it was just enough, so I'm really happy."

Perez, starting second, will have a big role to play in Verstappen's charge up the grid and intends to immediately put Leclerc under pressure.

"It's an opportunity tomorrow to attack Charles from the start and go for the win," he said.

"It's disappointing to miss out on pole by two hundredths, but at the end of the day, it's a great result."

Hamilton was also disappointed to narrowly miss out on pole, saying: "I was pushing so hard, it was so close. These guys are always so quick, but I just thought that maybe with a perfect lap we could be pushing for first place.

"We just didn't have the grip in the last lap, but I'm grateful to be on the second row. I'm grateful for the team to keep pushing, and we'll keep our head down. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:49:412
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.022
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.054
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.171
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.554
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.172
7. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.799
8. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.983
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +2.161
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.571

Lewis Hamilton has declared he "feels for the fans" after Max Verstappen's dominance of the F1 championship battle this season.

The Red Bull ace tops the standings by a whopping 116 points heading into Sunday's race at Singapore, where he can clinch the crown if a series of permutations are met.

It is unlikely that Singapore will be the race where Verstappen wins the title, with a more likely scenario seeing him crowned champion the following week in Japan.

Either way, a second title in a row for Verstappen is inevitable and Hamilton has declared it is "never great" when the battle is concluded prematurely.

"I definitely feel for the fans because for everyone and even for us, last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody. So, it's never great when the season finishes early," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Even when I've experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico. For you as the one individual, it's great but for the actual sport it's not spectacular.

"I'm really grateful to have had 2008 right down to the last 17 seconds, and obviously last year, pretty much the same thing. Let's hope for the future, it's a bit better."

Lewis Hamilton is adamant it will not be the "end of the world" if Mercedes fail to a win a race during the 2022 Formula One season.

A sequence of eight-consecutive constructors' championship titles looks set to come to an end this year, with Mercedes sitting 139 points behind Red Bull.

Hamilton is also on course for an unprecedented experience in F1, having never gone a season without a race victory during his time on the grid.

Mercedes' fall from grace has been one of the major stories in the 2022 season, but Hamilton has played down the significance of not topping the podium in the campaign.

"I do not look at it as a dry spell. I feel this year has been a year of growth," he said ahead of Sunday's race in Singapore.

"It has been a good experience for all. There are six races [left] so there's six opportunities and we will try to get a win, but if we do not do well, I do not think it is the end of the world."

Mercedes' focus for the remainder of the season is to assure their second-place finish in the constructors' championship ahead of Ferrari, with six races left before the end of the season.

"We just need to understand the car," Hamilton added. "Our goal is a second placing. Hopefully, in the next six races, we will do well."

Max Verstappen's coronation as Formula One world champion is imminent and could be marked as early as Singapore.

On the back of five victories in a row, Verstappen has opened a whopping 116-point gap at the top of the standings with six races remaining in 2022.

Verstappen will be crowned as champion if he wins under the lights in Singapore alongside clinching the fastest lap but would need Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to finish eighth or lower and team-mate Sergio Perez to finish fourth or lower.

Given the sequence of requirements for Verstappen to win on Sunday, the following week's race in Japan stands as the most likely to see the Red Bull ace secure his title, but individual records are also up for grabs.

A victory would also mark Verstappen's 12th of the season, putting him behind only Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel (both 13) for the most wins in a single season.

Qualifying will likely be vital to any hopes of another Verstappen win, with 66.7 per cent of race winners in Singapore starting from pole - Vettel being the last to win in 2019 when not starting from the front.

Mathematically, three drivers are still able to usurp Verstappen from his throne, George Russell also within distance alongside Leclerc and Perez, but the dominance of Red Bull this season makes any late turnover nigh-on impossible.

Hamilton's history

With six races remaining in 2022, Lewis Hamilton is without a victory this season and it could see the British driver fail to win a race in a campaign for the first time.

Mercedes have strong history in Singapore, however, securing more wins at the circuit than any other team (four), though Red Bull and Ferrari (both three) could equal that tally this weekend.

Spare seats

Alfa Romeo's new deal for Zhou Guanyu leaves three remaining seats on the grid for 2023, with Williams, Haas and Alpine yet to fill their quota for next year.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo are the two on the grid that could be on the move, with Ricciardo set to leave McLaren and Gasly heavily linked with Alpine, which would result in a seat up for grabs at AlphaTauri.

Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a "fun" Italian Grand Prix after securing an impressive points finish, while Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff made a pointed jab over the race's safety car finale.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton started at the back of the grid after taking new parts but drove a fine race to secure a fifth-placed finish, as Max Verstappen secured a maiden Monza win.

The podium always looked a long shot for Hamilton, but he still recovered points and actually found a less trying race weekend something to relish.

"It was a good race," Hamilton stated. "The guys were saying that anything between sixth and fourth was possible, and that felt a stretch for me. But I had fun.

"I struggled at the beginning, but I'm really, really grateful that I made my way through and got those points. I think at the end, the two cars behind had fresher tyres, so I'm kind of glad it finished like it did."

The late mechanical failure of Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren meant the race finished behind the safety car.

Hamilton was not in contention this time, but he lost last season's title decider in similar circumstances when then race director Michael Masi ended the safety car early on that occasion and saw Verstappen pass his title rival at the last.

Apparently referring to that incident, Wolff said: "The race directors are always going to be under criticism, but I think this time they followed the rules – maybe they could have done it a lap sooner – and they accepted the race ends under the safety car. This is how it should be."

With a 35-point deficit to Ferrari now for second in the constructors' championship, Wolff has a clear target in his sights ahead of the end of a difficult campaign.

"It's all to play against Ferrari; we just need to do the best every single weekend," he added. "It would [soften the blow] of this year's car a bit."

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