Lewis Hamilton is aiming to be the "smarter" driver as he bids to outrun Max Verstappen in a remarkably close Formula One title challenge.

Hamilton is hunting a record seventh world title, but currently trails Verstappen by eight points heading into the final two races of the season.

The 36-year-old has won the last two grands prix, however, having followed up his triumph in Sao Paulo with success in Qatar last weekend.

Hamilton and Verstappen's contest has regularly boiled over onto the track, the former penalised for a collision at Silverstone, while the latter was punished at the Italian Grand Prix and was fortunate to escape a penalty for a near-miss in Brazil.

"Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that's what's going to happen," Hamilton told BBC Sport.

"So you always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because you want to see the end of the race, right? If you're stubborn and you hold your ground, you're going to crash.

"So that's what I've just tried to do. You can't always get it perfect.

"I am not too big or too successful to have to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one.

"And sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it's not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and through that selfish decision I could make. That costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also."

Hamilton believes driving, and winning, in as pure a fashion as possible is the best way for him to prove his quality.

"It's just how my dad raised me," said Hamilton. "He said to always do your talking on the track.

"I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.

"Then, there is no denying that you're better. I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there's no denying at the end what I've accomplished."

Of Verstappen's aggressive approach, Hamilton said: "He's not the only driver I've raced against that's like this.

"I've raced so many drivers in my time and they've all been very different in the way they behave. And it's interesting.

"Now I'm older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing. Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with."

Lewis Hamilton was "really, really grateful" for a Qatar Grand Prix win that closed the gap at the top to eight points, but Max Verstappen is pleased to be pushed all the way for his first Formula One title.

Hamilton is bidding for a record-breaking eighth championship but has work to do to reel in leader Verstappen.

The Briton followed up his Losail pole with victory on Sunday, although Verstappen recovered from seventh – following a grid penalty – to finish second and take the fastest lap, limiting the damage as much as possible.

It was ultimately a day both men could enjoy, even if Verstappen's penalty meant the only real jeopardy for Hamilton was avoiding the fate of others in the field who saw their tyres punctured.

"It was pretty straightforward. It's pretty lonely at the front," Hamilton said. "Of course, I enjoy those races where you're battling through, but we needed those points today.

"It was a really solid job from the team with pit stops and with the car.

"I can't wait to watch the replay of the race to see what happened behind me. I'm not really sure why people's tyres were going – I'm sure it's the kerbs.

"But I'm really, really grateful for these points. It's been a hell of a year, so to be at this point in the year and have back-to-back wins is a great, great feeling. It puts us in good stead for the next two."

Verstappen added: "Of course our starting position was a bit compromised, but luckily we had a really good start. From there, I was quite quickly back into second.

"At the end of the day, to get that fastest lap was very nice. I know it's going to be difficult to the end, but I think that's nice. It keeps it exciting."

Lewis Hamilton celebrated consecutive Formula One wins for the first time since May as a precious victory at the Qatar Grand Prix moved him to within eight points of Max Verstappen.

The Mercedes superstar followed up his Sao Paulo success with another triumph, although Verstappen limited the damage despite a five-place grid penalty due to a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying.

The championship leader recovered to finish second and also took the extra point for the fastest lap, assured of beating Hamilton to that feat due to a late virtual safety car following a series of punctures.

The two title rivals were joined on the podium by Fernando Alonso, the two-time champion's first top-three finish since 2014.

Both he and pole man Hamilton enjoyed strong starts, although Verstappen wasted little time in wiping out his penalty.

Starting from seventh, the Dutchman gained three places from the start but was then shut out by Alonso, who passed Pierre Gasly into second.

Verstappen stayed on Gasly's tail and eased past on lap four before quickly hunting down Alonso, yet Hamilton had already disappeared into the distance.

Hamilton continued to stretch his advantage out towards 10 seconds before Verstappen pitted and the Mercedes man immediately responded, following him in to maintain the lead.

That gap closed very slightly as Hamilton worked his way through the backmarkers, but drama was limited at the front until Valtteri Bottas, running in third, suffered a puncture as he attempted a one-stop strategy.

That was the first of several such issues, meaning Verstappen took no risks and pitted a second time soon after, with Hamilton again heading in on the next lap.

Sergio Perez questioned Red Bull's call to bring him in twice as he pursued a podium, and it was a move that ultimately did not pay off as he failed to reel in Alonso due to the virtual safety car.

BOTTAS BLOW ADVISES STRATEGY

Mercedes expected a two-stop from Verstappen, so promised Bottas there would be "opportunities" if he went longer and took care of his tyres. Unfortunately, that strategy failed.

Bottas, who qualified in third, was penalised to sixth and then fell to 11th, had recovered to third place on lap 36 when he sustained a puncture and was forced to limp back to the pit, ruled out of contention entirely as he re-emerged in 14th. He later retired, just as Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi each also suffered punctures to the same front-left tyres.

Perez might have been less than impressed, but the single stops proved a huge gamble.

ADD LOSAIL TO LEWIS' LIST

Hamilton already held the record for poles (30 of 34) and wins (29 of 34) at the most different circuits and added to both tallies at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix.

Alonso also enjoyed his Losail bow, collecting points at the 34th of 34 tracks in real style.

Formula One title leader Max Verstappen was handed a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix after a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying.

The Red Bull driver was due to start second in Lusail behind Lewis Hamilton, but he instead started from seventh as a gripping title race took another twist.

Verstappen had been under investigation, along with Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, for not slowing down under yellow flags near the end of Saturday's qualifying session after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture on the pit straight.

The stewards confirmed the Dutchman's grid drop around 90 minutes before Sunday's race, while Bottas was docked three places to put him sixth due to his breach being under single waved flags.

Sainz avoided punishment as he "made a significant reduction in speed".

Explaining the decision to penalise Verstappen, a statement released by F1 ahead of the race read: "Notwithstanding the fact the team argued that the turning off of the yellow sector on the FIA marshalling system some 34 second prior to the driver reaching the yellow flag, signified that it was 'play on', it was the driver's responsibility to take the appropriate action when entering what was a double yellow flag area.

"The driver acknowledged his awareness of the presence of Car 10 on the right side of the track.

"Having seen a disabled car, it is reasonable to expect, as was the case of the driver of Car 55 [Carlos Sainz], that there was a potential danger and that a yellow flag situation probably existed and therefore to take the appropriate action (i.e. to reduce speed)."

Verstappen leads Hamitlon by 14 points in the standings.

Max Verstappen conceded Red Bull are struggling for pace after a "beautiful" lap from Lewis Hamilton saw the Mercedes driver take pole for the Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who cut Verstappen's lead in the drivers' championship to 14 points with his victory in Sao Paulo last time out, was quickest on Saturday with a blistering lap of 1:20.827.

Verstappen could not get close to that and was left to settle for second for the first Formula One race in Qatar, the Dutchman finishing 0.455 seconds off the pace.

Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes, with Red Bull's setback of Verstappen being unable to get ahead of Hamilton on the grid exacerbated by Sergio Perez failing to make it out of Q2.

Perez will start in 11th, meaning it is Hamilton who has a clear edge going into another crucial race.

Speaking after qualifying, Verstappen said: "[We're] lacking a bit of pace, it's been just a bit more tricky for us, again, in qualifying.

"It just shows we're struggling a bit more than normal. All to play for, but I wish we could have fought for more.

"There's a lot of unknowns, we just need to work on our start and we'll see where we end up."

The difference between Hamilton and Verstappen marked the largest pole margin in dry qualifying this year, with things looking up for the seven-time world champion after a challenging week.

"Yesterday was a really difficult day, Thursday and Friday I wasn't feeling too well, really had to dig deep," said Hamilton.

"I was here until midnight last night, working with the engineers, we found a lot of areas where I could improve. 

"We didn't have any traffic, that last lap was beautiful, this track is amazing to drive.

"I felt fantastic today, slept really well last night, that made a big difference."

Asked about strategy for the race, Hamilton added: "It's not the easiest of circuits to follow, but it's also not massively degrading on the tyres.

"It could be a one or two [stop], we'll find out tomorrow. It's nice and wide into turn one, so we'll be giving everything."


PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.455s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.651s
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.813s
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.843s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.904s
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1.013s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.201s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.958s

Mercedes have failed with an appeal over an incident involving Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix last weekend.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

The race stewards "noted" the incident while the race was ongoing, but did not see any reason to penalise Red Bull's championship leader.

Hamilton went on to win the race, reducing the Dutchman's lead to 14 points with three races to go.

The Silver Arrows on Tuesday revealed they had asked for the stewards to take another look at the incident on the basis of "new evidence" from onboard camera footage.

It was confirmed on Friday Verstappen will not face any punishment after the stewards rejected the appeal.

The stewards explained: "There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.

"Whether or not stewards' decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees' decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC [International Sporting Code] is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document."

Although the stewards agreed Mercedes had provided new and relevant evidence, they disagreed that it was "significant" in this case.

Their statement said: "The stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved.

"Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 [Verstappen] was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so."

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

The verdict was announced after Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen did not appear concerned on Thursday by a looming decision over Mercedes' attempt to have an incident at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix reviewed.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

That was initially deemed a fair move, and Hamilton eventually passed the championship leader anyway, cutting the gap at the top to 14 points with a precious win.

But Mercedes subsequently appealed for the incident to be reviewed again on the basis of "new evidence".

The FIA has said stewards will announce whether the clash will be fully re-examined on Friday ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, teeing up another nervous wait.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

But Dutchman Verstappen is not letting this latest controversy worry him ahead of a potentially pivotal grand prix.

"Listen, if it would have been the other way around in Brazil, it would have exactly played out like that," he told Sky Sports.

"It's hard racing. We are fighting for a championship; we are not here to be in a kindergarten."

Hamilton said: "I'm just putting all my energy to setting up the car and making sure I'm in the right headspace this weekend."

Formula One technical director Ross Brawn believes the sprint qualifying race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix was the best yet ahead of an expansion of the format in 2022.

A dramatic race weekend in Brazil saw Max Verstappen top qualifying on Friday, Valtteri Bottas win the sprint event to claim pole position on Saturday, before Lewis Hamilton triumphed in a thrilling main event on Sunday.

Hamilton had started the sprint at the back of the grid and charged all the way up to fifth to improve his grid position for the main race, which he ultimately battled to win from 10th after a grid penalty.

His move up the field was the highlight of an entertaining sprint that had more fireworks than the previous two held in 2021 at Monza and Silverstone.

The sprint schedule also leads to more meaningful action on the Friday, when qualifying takes place rather than the normal practice sessions.

"Saturday's F1 Sprint was, in my view, the best one of the three," Brawn wrote in his column for the F1 website. "It had plenty of action, with loads of battles – including Lewis carving his way through the field. 

"It was a great Saturday afternoon of entertainment, an appetiser for the main course on Sunday.

"We had a fabulous Friday, too, with a dramatic qualifying session. It can never be underestimated how much of an impact the Sprint has on a Friday.

"With only one hour of practice, it creates some jeopardy heading into the rest of the weekend, as the teams are not as prepared as they can be."

Brawn has previously revealed F1 plans to double the number of sprint race weekends to six in 2022 and are pondering some small but significant changes.

Presently points are only awarded to the top three drivers in the sprint but that could be increased to the top 10 to align with the main race and encourage more daring overtakes further down the field.

New cars that promote overtaking are already coming in for next year, while Brawn has accepted that the formal award of pole position should come after Friday qualifying rather than for the Saturday sprint.

He added on Wednesday: "We think the foundations are very strong for the Sprint and will be presenting more details of our plans for six events in 2022 in the coming weeks in discussions with the FIA and the teams.

"There are things we need to tweak but Brazil showed the Sprint is a great addition to the weekend. 

"It has made Friday, Saturday and Sunday big moments that are exciting for all of us."

There are three races to go in the F1 season, with Verstappen leading Hamilton by 14 points going into the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this week, with the constructors' championship also finely poised.

"We're seeing a titanic battle for this year's two championships," added Brawn.

"The race in Brazil was just another twist in an engrossing tale. It’s been fantastic. No one knows what will happen next.

"We have got two new venues to visit in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, before heading to the finale in Abu Dhabi where the circuit has had a series of modifications. The stage is set."

Lewis Hamilton will continue his late push to keep his crown as Formula One world champion at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this week.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has three races left in his quest to deny Red Bull rival Max Verstappen glory.

Verstappen leads the championship by 14 points, a lead that was reduced by Hamilton's memorable win at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton started the sprint qualifying race at the back of the grid and then the main event on Sunday in 10th on the grid, sitting 21 points adrift.

Damage limitation would have been a reasonable aim, but instead Hamilton turned the tables with a famous win that hauled him back into contention.

A tense and thrilling title race has also proven controversial, with Mercedes this week requesting a review of the decision not to take any action against Verstappen for an incident involving the pair in Brazil.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded Verstappen's defence while Hamilton attempted to pass him as "over the line", but Red Bull boss Christian Horner saw nothing untoward.

Verstappen still has the precious lead that means he has the title race in his hands. The Dutchman knows he will be world champion if he wins the next two races while also setting the fastest lap.

In a remarkable year, he has finished in the top two for 15 of his 16 finished grands prix this year.

But a surging Hamilton - looking for a record eighth championship that will see him surpass Michael Schumacher - will not relinquish his title without an almighty scrap, and a night race at Losail Circuit will provide the latest twist.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton claimed a crucial win with a magnificent performance in Brazil.

Verstappen had extended his lead in the title race on Saturday to 21 when he finished second behind Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the sprint qualifying race.

Hamilton had his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the Saturday sprint in last, but impressively charged up from 20th to fifth.

A five-place grid penalty meant he still had to start back in 10th for the main event on Sunday, yet the reigning world champion delivered, gaining eight places within the early exchanges before, at the third attempt and after the controversial moment, he overtook Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

Poleman Bottas had been unable to keep control of the race after Verstappen and Sergio Perez nipped ahead to make it a Red Bull one-two early on, but Hamilton ensured it was Mercedes' weekend as he cut the Dutchman's lead in the championship.

Bottas ultimately took third, with Perez settling for fourth as well as a point for the fastest lap which stopped Hamilton from making further gains on Verstappen. Charles Leclerc was the best of the rest in fifth for Ferrari.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN QATAR

A new circuit means there is no past form for teams or drivers to look back on, but Hamilton goes into the week as favourite for victory on the back of his Brazil brilliance.

The Briton has won five of the last seven GPs raced in Arabian Peninsula, most recently this year in Bahrain when he won despite Verstappen starting from pole.

This will be Hamilton's 35th different circuit – he has won at 29 of the previous 34 he has appeared at during his F1 career and taken pole at 30 of them.

As well as the thrilling battle in the drivers' standings, Mercedes are now 11 points clear of Red Bull in a race for constructors' glory that looks poised to go down to the wire.

McLaren, meanwhile, have fallen to 31.5 behind Ferrari in the battle to finish third as they continue to lose momentum, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in need of a morale-boosting result in Qatar.

After this race, the Qatar Grand Prix will move to a new purpose-built circuit from 2023 as part of a 10-year contract for the event.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

F1 history - Losail in Qatar will be the 75th circuit to host an F1 race, the 11th in the Asia and the third in the Arabian Peninsula after Sakhir in Bahrain and Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton thrives - In Brazil, Hamilton become the F1 driver to win the most races in the Americas (18) and the Briton will now be looking to be the driver to win the most races in the continent of Asia, surpassing Sebastian Vettel (28).

Masterful Max - Verstappen comes to this contest after equalling the tally of podiums (57) earned by Nico Rosberg, the last person other than Hamilton to win the title. The Dutchman is six points away from being the eighth F1 driver to surpass the 1,500 mark.

Three in a row? - Mercedes have taken the pole position in the last two qualifying sessions (both by Bottas in Mexico and Brazil) and are now looking to equal their best run this season, the three taken between Emilia Romagna and Spain (Hamilton x2 and Bottas).

900 up - McLaren will become the second team to reach 900 GPs in F1 after Ferrari (1,027). The British team appeared for the first time in Monaco 1966 with only one driver, Bruce McLaren, who failed to finish that race. This year they are the only team to have recorded a one-two finish (in Monza).

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers 

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 332.5 
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 318.5 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 178
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 151

Constructors 

1. Mercedes 521.5 
2. Red Bull 510.5 
3. Ferrari 287.5 
4. McLaren 256
5. Alpine 112

Mercedes have requested a review of the decision not to take any action against Max Verstappen for an incident involving Lewis Hamilton during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Hamilton and Verstappen went off track when the Brit tried to pass the Red Bull driver and move into the lead at Turn 4 on lap 48 of the race on Sunday.

The stewards "noted" the incident, but did not see any reason to penalise the Dutchman.

Hamilton went on to win the race, reducing Verstappen's lead in an enthralling Formula One title race to 14 points with three races to go.

The Silver Arrows on Tuesday revealed they have asked for the stewards to take another look at the incident on the basis of "new evidence."

A short statement from the team read: "The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team confirms that we have today requested a Right of Review under Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code, in relation to the Turn 4 incident between Car 44 and Car 33 on lap 48 of the Brazilian Grand prix, on the basis of new evidence unavailable to the stewards at the time of their decision."

F1 confirmed that the stewards will now meet with representatives from the team to assess the new evidence.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded Verstappen's defence as "over the line", but Red Bull boss Christian Horner saw nothing untoward.

He said: "Penalty for what? I mean, there's no advantage gained, there's no contact been made, so… I think it's just hard racing between the two of them.

"And yes, I think that the stewards actually made the right decision on that. We've talked about this many, many times, about the 'let them race' mentality. I think they made the right call today.

"It's two guys running hard. Lewis has got a run around the outside, Max has gone in deep, they've both gone wide. It would have been really unfair to penalise on that. If it had been the other way round, I'd have told my sporting director to have a moan about it, but I wouldn't have expected to get anything from it.

"You want to see the guys going hard at it. You know with Max, he's going to race hard, Lewis is exactly the same. That's two guys fighting for a world championship so it's going to be tough racing. I think it was fair, there was no contact, and they rejoined and recommenced it a few laps later."

Lewis Hamilton acknowledged his stunning fightback victory at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix felt as good as his first in Formula One.

The Mercedes driver saw his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the sprint race in last, but went from 20th to fifth, only for a five-place grid penalty to mean he started 10th on Sunday.

However, the Briton delivered a memorable win, gaining eight places early on and overtaking Max Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

The reigning world champion cut Verstappen's lead in the battle for the title to 14 points with three races to go.

"It feels like a first as I haven't had a win for a long time," Hamilton said.

"I never thought we would close the gap like we did today when things just seemed to be going against us.

"It just shows you should never give up whatever you are facing. You need to keep pushing, keep tumbling and never ever stop fighting. That's what I have done this weekend.

"The team did an amazing job and Valtteri Bottas did a great job to [finish third and] get as many points as possible.

"I just pushed as fast as I could, but from last on the grid and another five-place penalty this is my hardest weekend I have had [this season]."

Hamilton has now won 17 races in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the United States, two in Brazil and two in Mexico).

It means he overtakes the legendary Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most F1 victories across the four nations.

He dedicated the victory to his father Anthony and to the Brazilian fans who supported him at Interlagos.

He added: "My dad reminded me of when I was in F3 in Bahrain around 2004, when I started last and finished first - so this one is for my dad.

"I am so grateful for the incredible support I have had this weekend. I have not had this much support since Silverstone, and since then it has been really difficult.

"To hear these fans throughout the weekend has been humbling. I have been saying 'obrigado Brasil' because I am so grateful."

Next up is the Qatar Grand Prix and Red Bull driver Verstappen vowed to finish the campaign strongly as he eyes his first F1 title.

He said: "We tried everything we could today, it was a good battle but at the end we missed a little pace. But it was good fun.

"We still have a decent lead so today was a bit of damage limitation. I'm confident, in the coming races we will come back stronger."

Lewis Hamilton claimed a crucial win in his bid to clinch the Formula One championship with a magnificent performance at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Verstappen had extended his lead in the title race on Saturday when he finished second behind Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the sprint qualifying race.

Hamilton had his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the sprint race in last, but went from 20th to fifth, only for a five-place grid penalty to mean he started 10th on Sunday.

Yet the reigning world champion delivered a memorable win, gaining eight places within the early exchanges before, at the third attempt, he overtook Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

Verstappen and Sergio Perez had nipped ahead to make it a Red Bull one-two early on, with Bottas unable to keep control of the race, but Hamilton ensured it was Mercedes' weekend.

The safety car was deployed early on, with Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll colliding, while Lando Norris sustained a puncture on the first lap and was forced to pit immediately.

Hamilton had made a brilliant start, however, and his charge up the track saw him catch leader Verstappen on the 48th lap.

Verstappen did not open up space at turn four, forcing Hamilton wide, with both cars going off the track before straightening up with the Red Bull retaining its lead.

To Mercedes' frustration, the incident was noted by stewards, but not investigated. Hamilton tried again 10 laps later, yet again found his path blocked by Verstappen, who weaved on the straight.

It only delayed the inevitable, however, as Hamilton made it third time lucky when he finally got beyond his title rival ahead of turn four on lap 59.

Verstappen's frustration was compounded by a penalty for his weaving a lap previous, though Perez did at least collect the fastest lap to take a point away from Hamilton, with Bottas rounding off the podium.

DID VERSTAPPEN GET LUCKY?

It was an almighty tussle between the title rivals on turn four at lap 48, with Verstappen just managing to hold onto his advantage.

Hamilton, who labelled the incident "crazy", was sure there had been an infringement, but with it unclear as to whether Verstappen had driven his counterpart off the track, the FIA decided not to investigate, much to Mercedes' chagrin.

HISTORY FOR HAMILTON

Hamilton has now won 17 races in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the United States, two in Brazil and two in Mexico).

It means he overtakes the legendary Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most F1 victories across the four nations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

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

*Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers 

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

Constructors 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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