Max Verstappen received a further 10-second penalty plus two penalty points following a wild Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton levelled the Formula One title race with victory on Sunday.

Verstappen had already been slapped with a five-second penalty for the Turn 1 incident – the Red Bull star and championship leader was deemed to have gained an unfair advantage going off track.

The stewards imposed a further punishment after the race for a Turn 27 collision, which ultimately did not impact Verstappen's finish, having crossed the line in second behind Mercedes rival and reigning F1 champion Hamilton.

As a result, Hamilton and Verstappen will still head into the final Grand Prix of the 2021 season, Abu Dhabi, level on 369.5 points.

Verstappen's secondary penalty was for causing a turn 27 collision with Hamilton when he braked suddenly, causing the Briton to clip the car head, damaging his front wing.

Hamilton was critical of Verstappen after the race, saying his driving was "over the limit" while claiming he brake-tested him in the Turn 27 incident, leading to the 10-second penalty.

"I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case," Hamilton told reporters when asked if he thought Verstappen drove dangerously.

"This is not the first time that I've had to avoid a collision, that's how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently but in the moment that's how it felt. But I really just tried to recompose myself and chase down and keep fighting."

The incident was the latest flashpoint between the two title rivals, but Verstappen indicated he felt he was harshly penalised.

"I find it interesting that I am the one who gets the penalty when both of us ran outside of the white lines," Verstappen told reporters after the Turn 1 incident. "In Brazil it was fine and now suddenly I get a penalty for it.

"You could clearly see both didn’t make the corner, but it's fine. I mean I also don’t really spend too much time on it. We have to move forward.

"We're equal on points on now and I think that's really exciting, of course, for the whole championship and Formula 1 in general but I said it earlier on my in-lap, I think lately we're talking more about white lines and penalties than actually proper Formula 1 racing and that's, I think, a little bit of a shame."

The stewards report on the Turn 27 incident said: "In deciding to penalise the driver of car 33 [Verstappen], the key point for the Stewards was that the driver of car 33 then braked suddenly [69 bar' and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration.

"Whilst accepting that the driver of car 44 [Hamilton] could have overtaken car 33 when that car first slowed, we understand why he [and the driver of car 33] did not wish to be the first to cross the DRS [line]. However, the sudden braking by the driver of car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic and hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident, is imposed."

Lewis Hamilton described Max Verstappen's driving conduct  as "over the limit" after landing a drama-filled victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to pull level in the title race.

Hamilton and Verstappen will head to the final race of a remarkable Formula One season tied on 369.5 points, the Briton prevailing in Jeddah on Sunday after a race dominated by their intense rivalry and a string of controversies.

Having started on pole, Hamilton lost the lead after diving into the pits on lap 10 following Mick Schumacher's crash that brought out the safety car, with a subsequent red flag allowing Verstappen to change tyres without using a pit stop.

The Mercedes driver looked to have got ahead on the restart, only for Verstappen to illegally maintain the lead by going beyond track limits, with several crashes behind the pair forcing another red flag. Esteban Ocon was on pole for the second restart, but Verstappen – after Red Bull agreed to cede position to Mercedes – surged down the inside of both Ocon and Hamilton to take the lead again.

Yet a series of virtual safety cars kept Hamilton in touch with Verstappen and the Dutchman went beyond track limits again on lap 37 to remain in the lead on turn one.

Red Bull instructed Verstappen to give the place back but, as he slowed to do so, Hamilton crashed into the back of him, accusing his rival of "brake-testing" him.

Verstappen's second effort at letting Hamilton past, which he did successfully before using the DRS zone to immediately take the place back, was deemed unsatisfactory.

The third time proved the charm and a five-second time penalty and tyre degradation ended Verstappen's hopes, setting up a thrilling finale next Sunday in Abu Dhabi.

The battling drivers were set to go before the stewards in the meantime, and speaking to reporters after the race, Hamilton said: "For me, I really had to try and just keep my cool, which was really difficult to do.

"I've raced a lot of drivers through my life, I've come across a lot of different characters, there are few that are over the limit, rules don't apply. I just tried to keep my car on the track, do it the right way."

On the collision, Hamilton said: "He obviously brake-tested to try to get the DRS into the last corner. I thought that I lost my wing.

"He's over the limit. I've avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy. I didn't get the information [that Verstappen was conceding position] so I didn't really understand what was going on, it was very confusing.

"The message started coming through as he hit the brakes so hard. It will be interesting to see what happens [with the stewards]."

Lewis Hamilton won an extraordinary Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to move level on points with Max Verstappen in the Formula One drivers' championship as the race set new standards for drama.

Saturday's qualifying session saw Hamilton take pole as Verstappen crashed while on a lap that would have put him at the front of the grid, but that proved just a mere taster for an utterly remarkable main event dominated by a plethora of controversial incidents.

Verstappen got ahead after the season's penultimate race was red-flagged twice in the first 16 laps, but a series of virtual safety cars kept Hamilton in touch with his Red Bull rival, who went beyond track limits to keep the lead at the first corner on lap 37 in an incident eerily similar to their famous tangle in Brazil.

Verstappen was subsequently instructed to give the place back, only for Hamilton to crash into the back of him as he seemingly attempted to do so. Then Verstappen successfully gave it back at turn 27, but did so in a DRS zone, enabling him to immediately retake the lead.

At that point, Verstappen was again told to give the position back, with that incident to be investigated after the race, and he was served with a five-second time penalty for the previous tangle at turn one, effectively ending his hopes of victory.

Rear tyre degradation saw second-placed Verstappen back off and Hamilton claimed the fastest-lap bonus point to level matters on 369.5 points, though it is the Dutchman who still holds first place having won nine races to the Mercedes driver's eight.

The safety car was brought out after Mick Schumacher went into the wall between turns 21 and 22, prompting Hamilton to dive into the pits on lap 10 to switch to hard tyres while Verstappen stayed out and took track position.

With race officials wanting to repair damage to the tyre wall, the red flag was then waved, stopping the race, giving Verstappen the chance to switch his tyres without using a pit stop – infuriating Hamilton.

The subsequent standing restart brought more drama. Hamilton got a much better getaway, with Verstappen going off track but staying ahead of Hamilton, who lost a further place to Esteban Ocon.

Behind that tussle, Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was sent careering into the wall, while Nikita Mazepin and George Russell also crashed, resulting in another red flag.

A tense negotiation between Red Bull and race director Michael Masi saw Verstappen cede a position to Hamilton with Ocon on pole for the second restart.

Hamilton and Ocon touched going into the first corner and enough room was left for Verstappen to dive down the inside for the lead. However, the following laps saw debris from incidents further down the field led to a collection of virtual safety cars, leaving Hamilton in striking distance on lap 37, where the tension was ratcheted up further as Verstappen kept his place in contentious circumstances.

His attempt to give up his position took Hamilton by surprise and led to a collision that damaged the front wing of the Mercedes, the Briton accusing Verstappen of 'brake testing' him in the aftermath.

Whether an intentional action from Verstappen or a product of miscommunication, it meant the outcome of the race was essentially settled over team radio, the Red Bull driver left in no mood to spray champagne on the podium with Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who took third.

Verstappen quickly walked off to leave the Mercedes drivers to celebrate together, the fallout from the most dramatic race of an incredible season sure to last until the title is decided in Abu Dhabi next week.


AN UNFORGETTABLE WIN

Hamilton's win was his 103rd in Formula One, though he surely would have liked it to have come in less contentious circumstances.

But the manner of this success means it is certainly one he will never forget and Hamilton won't mind the nature of the victory if he is soon celebrating a record eighth F1 world title in the United Arab Emirates.

'MORE ABOUT PENALTIES THAN RACING'

In a radio interview for the 'Driver of the Day' honour, which Verstappen was given by the fans, he used the platform to voice his displeasure at the race effectively being settled by the officials.

"Luckily the fans have a clear mind about racing," Verstappen said. "I'm just trying to race. This sport is more about penalties than racing. I'm pleased the fans enjoyed it and I gave it my all today."

With their collision under a stewards' investigation, there could yet be more penalties to come.

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was red-flagged twice in the space of 16 laps as the Formula One drivers' championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton was hit by yet more drama.

Hamilton started on pole at Jeddah, with a crash in qualifying by Verstappen giving the Mercedes driver the chance to potentially take the lead in the standings with one race to go.

However, the safety car was brought out after Mick Schumacher spun into the wall between turns 21 and 22, with Hamilton choosing to dive into the pits on lap 10 to switch to hard tyres as Verstappen stayed out and took track position.

With race officials wanting to repair damage to the tyre wall, the red flag was then waved, forcing all drivers to return to the paddock and giving Verstappen the chance to switch his tyres to the harder compound without using a pit stop.

Hamilton expressed his annoyance on team radio, saying: "Why is there a red flag? The tyre wall looks fine. I know the reason for the red flag."

He continued: "Have they said what the reason was? The tyre wall that looks fine. [Chief strategist] James [Vowles], that was a huge gamble we took."

Vowles replied: "It was a risk we knew, but we didn't think it [the red flag] would happen."

However, there was then another twist from the subsequent standing start, from which Hamilton got a much better getaway.

He looked to have the lead going into the first corner, but Verstappen went off track and swooped ahead of him, with Esteban Ocon also getting ahead of the Briton.

Behind that exchange, Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was sent careering into the wall, while Nikita Mazepin and George Russell also crashed, resulting in another red flag.

Verstappen was not allowed to keep the lead, with a tense radio negotiation between Red Bull and race director Michael Masi resulting in another standing restart with Ocon on pole, Hamilton second and Verstappen third.

Lewis Hamilton is braced for an "intense" Saudi Arabia Grand Prix after claiming pole position for Sunday's showdown as the reigning world champion fights to keep his title defence alive.

Hamilton will start from the front of the grid in Jeddah, where Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen crashed into the wall on his final flying lap.

Verstappen went fastest in the first two sectors but hit the barriers on the last corner and had to stop, meaning he will start the main race from third behind Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton has won the past two races to close the gap to Verstappen in the drivers' standings to eight points and evaded a serious punishment for impeding Nikita Mazepin and failing to comply with yellow flags during FP3 earlier on Saturday.

If the Saudi Arabia GP finished in the order started among the top three – Hamilton-Bottas-Verstappen – it would see seven-time world champion Hamilton regain the lead heading into next week's Abu Dhabi decider.

"This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge," said Hamilton. "Trying to pull out the maximum with the tyres was so tough.

"It's difficult to understand why - it's so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap.

"I'm very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it's going to be an intense race. It's always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he's been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together."

Mercedes team principle Toto Wolff added: "What a crazy session! We expected to be stronger today, we have a quick car and it looked like those quick corners would suit us, but like so many times this season, you're constantly surprised.

"Austin should have been our track and wasn't, and then suddenly in Brazil we were performing really well, so you just never know. It was important today that we kept attacking and attacking, and we've ended up with a front row lockout which is a big advantage for tomorrow.

"There is a brutal energy running through the whole Team. We just look forward and keep pushing, and pushing, and when you go in the debrief room or in the garage, you don't need to talk because you can feel the energy and how buzzed everyone is."

Despite the painful ending to qualifying, Red Bull's Dutchman Verstappen remains upbeat.

"I was on a really good lap until I lost it on the final corner, I thought I had approached it in the same way I had been doing all session, but I lost the rear," he said.

"I'm upset with myself and it is of course disappointing but there are two races to go and anything can happen. We had a good car in qualifying and everything was coming together which gives me hope going into the race tomorrow, also knowing that the pace was there today.

"I hope we can follow well tomorrow and if that’s the case, there should be some good opportunities and we should have a good shot."

Max Verstappen felt "terrible" after hitting the wall on his final flying lap in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, handing title rival Lewis Hamilton pole position. 

Championship leader Verstappen went fastest in the first two sectors but hit the barriers on the last corner and had to stop, meaning he will start Sunday's race from third behind Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas. 

The Dutchman will hope the crash did not result in any damage to his gearbox, having taken a new one ahead of the grand prix in Jeddah. A replacement would result in a five-place grid penalty that could have huge ramifications on his title challenge. 

Asked about his crash, Verstappen said: "It's of course terrible. It was a good qualifying. I knew the pace was there and it showed in the last lap. 

"I don't really understand what happened but I locked up and I still tried to keep the car and finish the lap but clipped the rear and had to stop. 

"P3 today is a bit disappointing knowing what lap I was on, but it shows the car is quick and let's see what we can do in the race. 

"I don't know [if the gearbox was damaged]. I immediately stopped so let's see." 

Hamilton has won the past two races to close the gap to Verstappen in the drivers' standings to eight points and evaded a serious punishment for impeding Nikita Mazepin and failing to comply with yellow flags during FP3 earlier on Saturday. 

The seven-time defending champion paid tribute to the efforts of Bottas in the build-up to qualifying and expects Verstappen's Red Bull to be a significant factor on Sunday. 

"We were quick through practice but particularly FP3 and qualifying were just lacking pace, struggling with the tyres, so for us to get a one-two I'm really proud of Valtteri and the men and women in our team who have been working so hard. It's a great result," said Hamilton. 

"This was the goal. We worked so hard through simulation, set-up. Collaboration has been epic with Valtteri, he's the best team-mate there has even been in this sport, for sure. We've worked together to get the car where it needs to be. 

"Those guys [Red Bull] were just so fast. That Bull round this track is just something else, but given where we are and what we've managed to pull out I'm happy. 

"We always get closer in race pace. I anticipate there'll be a close battle on Sunday, but Valtteri and I will be on it." 

Bottas will have getting the win in the back of his mind but his priority will be helping Mercedes clinch the constructors' championship and Hamilton maximise his title chances. 

"Of course I want to get a race win, but first things first we need to concentrate on the team championship and Lewis is still fighting for the title, I'm not," said Bottas.

"I'll do my best with whatever I can and at the same time try to enjoy it." 

Max Verstappen shrugged off pressure as the championship leader insisted it does not matter where he finishes, despite being a win away from claiming the Formula One title.

Verstappen can clinch the F1 title at Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – the Dutchman holds an eight-point lead over defending world champion and Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton with two races to go.

While Verstappen stands on the cusp of glory, Red Bull star Verstappen said his approach would not change.

Hamilton has stated he is "more relaxed than ever", putting pressure on Verstappen, especially after winning the past two races to narrow the margin.

"Like I've done the whole season, there's no change in that," Verstappen, 24, told reporters about his approach in Jeddah for the first Grand Prix at the circuit.

"It's a new track, first of all we need to learn the track and see how that goes in FP1. For the rest, I just focus on the weekend and try to be as competitive as I can be."

Verstappen continued: "It’s just been of course a great year for us. We had a lot of good moments and it's more enjoyable. Last year was pretty boring for me, because basically all the time I was just in third… to be in this title fight to the end I think is very impressive from our side.

"And of course, I'll try to keep enjoying the last two races. It doesn't matter where we end up; we've had a really, really good season as a team."

Verstappen is 12 years younger than Hamilton, who is a seven-time world champion, and admitted that experience plays a part.

However, Verstappen said he has learned a lot since entering F1 in 2015, finishing third overall in both 2019 and 2020.

"I think it's natural of course that when you are in this stage of your career you are better prepared than what you were in your first or second, when Lewis was fighting for his first title," Verstappen said.

"I think it's a natural progression and it's very normal. I also feel much better prepared and more experienced than when I first came into Formula 1.

"No, I don't think that makes a big difference, because otherwise it would have shown already throughout the season."

Lewis Hamilton is not comfortable racing in Saudi Arabia due to the country's human rights record and says it is "not his choice" to be there. 

Saudi Arabia is hosting its first Formula One race this weekend in Jeddah as part of a reported 10-year deal. 

In the build-up to the race, a number of human rights groups have accused F1 of being complicit in 'sportswashing' for the regime. 

However, reigning world champion Hamilton is hoping the race weekend will at least help raise further awareness around the issue. 

"I feel that the sport and us are duty bound to help raise awareness for certain issues that we've seen, particularly human rights in these countries that we're going to," he said.  

"I can't pretend to be the most knowledgeable or have the deepest understanding of someone who has grown up in the community here that is heavily affected by certain rules. 

"Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn't say I do. 

"But it's not my choice to be here – the sport has taken the choice to be here. Whether it's right or wrong, while we're here, I feel it's important that we do try to raise awareness." 

Mercedes driver Hamilton heads into the penultimate race of the season eight points behind championship leader Max Verstappen. 

Verstappen could win his maiden title on Sunday if results go his way, but Hamilton has won the last two races in Brazil and Qatar and feels in good shape. 

"I'm more relaxed than I've ever been," he said. "I've been around a long time. I remember how it was with my first championship, even my second and third... the sleepless nights. 

"Now I am a lot more sure about myself and have applied myself better than ever before. 

"I can't change the past – all I can do is prepare 100 per cent for what's ahead of me and I am sure I have." 

One of the most memorable Formula One title races in history could be settled this weekend as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton continue their thrilling 2021 battle at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A high-speed street race in Jeddah will become the 76th circuit to host an event in F1 history and could be the scene of Verstappen being crowned world champion for the first time.

Verstappen takes an eight-point lead to Saudi Arabia and after the event there will only be 26 left up for grabs in the Abu Dhabi season finale.

But it is his in-form title rival Hamilton who will be feeling the best heading to a new venue as he seeks a third consecutive race victory for the first time in 2021.

Hamilton has launched a stunning late-season charge in his bid to win an eighth world title that would take him above Michael Schumacher for the all-time record but still finds himself with little margin for error.

Should Verstappen win the title, it would be the first time a championship has been decided at a debuting circuit since 1981 when Nelson Piquet was crowned in Las Vegas.

There is also a scenario where the two drivers could, fittingly, go into the last race of the season tied.

If Hamilton wins while setting the fastest lap and Verstappen comes second, the top two would be level going into the final event for the first time since 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi did battle against Clay Regazzoni.

It has been an incredibly consistent season for Verstappen, who has nine wins, nine pole positions and finished in the top two for 16 of the 17 races he has finished.

Verstappen could earn a 17th podium in Saudi Arabia that would equal the record jointly held by Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher for the most in a single season.

But victory is all that really matters to both drivers on Sunday, with a brand-new circuit containing 27 corners – the most on the F1 calendar – set to play a huge role in determining the outcome of a dramatic season.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton celebrated consecutive Formula One wins for the first time since May in the first-ever edition of the Qatar Grand Prix.

Verstappen limited the damage despite a five-place grid penalty due to a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying, impressively recovering to finish second.

The Dutchman 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.

That outcome set up a tantalising final two races of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

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

Valtteri Bottas, running in third, suffered a puncture as he attempted a one-stop strategy and ultimately retired, while Sergio Perez questioned Red Bull's call to bring him in twice as he pursued a podium.

The Mexican could not catch Alonso and had to settle for fourth place, ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN SAUDI ARABIA

With all the momentum behind him, Hamilton goes into the race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit as the favourite for victory, a result which would put the record eighth title within his grasp.

But for Verstappen this event is the first of two opportunities he will have to be crowned world champion. Even a small mistake from either driver at this stage could prove pivotal and the stakes could not be higher.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said their W12 car is performing better than it has been all season ahead of the event, with Red Bull under pressure to bounce back.

The constructors' championship is also up for grabs. Red Bull have closed to within five points of their rivals, while Ferrari are looking to lock up third place ahead of McLaren.

Aside from the championship implications, the debut of the fastest street circuit on the calendar at another new F1 venue should be intriguing.

F1 have revealed average speeds are predicted to be over 155mph with top speeds almost reaching 200mph in what could be a spectacular night race under the lights.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Hamilton history – The Briton has become the F1 driver with the most seasons (eight) that contain at least seven victories, surpassing Schumacher (seven seasons).

Maiden Mercedes – The team have won the race and taken pole position in the last five circuit debuts in F1. As well as in Qatar time out, it also happened in Sochi (2014), Baku (2016), Mugello (2020), Portimao (2020).

Pole position – If Mercedes claim pole it will be their fourth in a row and best run of the season. However, Red Bull have had the better of qualifying this season, as Hamilton and Bottas combined (eight) have fewer poles than Verstappen alone (nine).

Max milestones – Should Verstappen be crowned world champion, he will be the first Dutchman to achieve the feat, the first non-Mercedes driver to do it in the eight hybrid era years and the fourth-youngest in history at 24.

Perez progress – While Verstappen's team-mate will not be thrilled to sit fourth in the standings, he has still collected nine points more in 20 races for Red Bull (190) than his predecessor Alex Albon did in 26 races (181) for the team.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 351.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 343.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 190
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 153

Constructors

1. Mercedes 546.5
2. Red Bull 541.5
3. Ferrari 297.5
4. McLaren 258
5. Alpine 137

Williams founder and former team principal Frank Williams has died at the age of 79.

Having founded the team alongside Patrick Head in 1977, Williams saw the team he built become one of the most successful in Formula One.

They won nine constructors' championships and seven drivers' championships across his time with the team. Williams have not claimed either since winning both in 1997 when Jacques Villeneuve won the drivers' crown.

The team sold to US investors in 2020. Williams and his daughter Claire, who had served as deputy team principal, moved away from F1 last year.

A statement from Williams read: "It is with great sadness that on behalf of the Williams family, the team can confirm the death of Sir Frank Williams CBE, founder and former team principal of Williams Racing, at the age of 79.

"After being admitted into hospital on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family.

"Today we pay tribute to our much loved and inspirational figurehead. Frank will be sorely missed. We request that all friends and colleagues respect the Williams family's wishes for privacy at this time."

Referencing the spinal cord injury suffered in a car crash in 1986 that left Williams in a wheelchair, F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali said: "He was a true giant of our sport that overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track.

"We have lost a much loved and respected member of the F1 family and he will be hugely missed.

“His incredible achievements and personality will be etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and friends at this sad time."

Lewis Hamilton is hopeful that future team-mate George Russell will be the next Briton to win the Formula One world championship.

The British drivers will link up next season, with Russell set to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

The 24-year-old is 15th in the drivers' standings, having achieved his first podium with Williams at the Belgian Grand Prix, while also recording top-10 finishes in Hungary, Italy and Russia.

Many expect Russell to offer a genuine challenge to Hamilton, who recently signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes, with the latter seeking an eighth world title and just eight points behind leader Max Verstappen heading into the final two races of the 2021 season.

The 36-year-old is anticipating a healthy rivalry with his compatriot and hopes he can be a positive influence on the 2018 Formula 2 world champion.

"You've seen George is hugely respectful," he said in an interview published by BBC Sport.

"He's a super-talented young man and I think there's a huge amount of respect already going in, and we've got a nice balance at the moment.

"But he's going to want to be quick, he's going to want to show up and win, and do all those things that you do when you enter a new role.

"I remember in 2007 when I went up against [Fernando] Alonso [at McLaren]. Of course, I wanted to beat him at the first race, so I appreciate and expect George to have that mentality; otherwise he's not a winner.

"But I'm in a different place. I really want to see him succeed. There's going to be a point where I don't continue in this sport. He's my team-mate, and he's going to be the next Brit that I want to see win a world championship.

"So, while we are going to be competing, and I want to win on track. I really hope I can have a positive influence on how he conducts himself within the team, whether it's the time he commits to engineering or how he churns through the data, or even just how he drives on track."

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."

Formula One "woke up the lion" in Lewis Hamilton when he was disqualified from qualifying due to a DRS issue in Brazil, Toto Wolff says.

Hamilton, who was already serving a penalty for taking a new engine at last week's Sao Paulo Grand Prix, was forced to start from the back of the grid in the sprint race but recovered to take fifth.

In the main race, the Mercedes man then triumphed from 10th despite an incident that saw title rival Max Verstappen force him wide and avoid punishment.

The FIA dismissed an appeal for that incident to be reviewed again this week, while a stewards' inquiry in Brazil saw Verstappen only fined after he touched Hamilton's car.

These factors may have frustrated Hamilton, but he has not become distracted, instead adding another victory at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday to close to within eight points of Red Bull's Verstappen.

"Lewis is totally in the zone," Mercedes team principal Wolff told Sky Sports. "They woke up the lion in Interlagos on that Saturday and you see that."

Hamilton added: "The last two weeks have been fantastic, just amazing. But there's no time for celebration.

"I'll be back with the team already again next week and training tomorrow, stay on it, heads down.

"I don't have too much emotion other than being driven right now, but it's just amazing to be able to close so many points in the last two races which has been important.

"[Red Bull are] obviously still very fast, as you could see today with their fastest lap and both their cars getting past pretty much everyone quite easily. So we've still got our work cut out.

"I'm loving it. I love the close battle, the pressure, the demands it puts on you and the whole team.

"So I thoroughly enjoyed it, but these next two races need even better performance, so we'll be bringing our 'triple A' game for those ones."

Fernando Alonso was delighted to return to a Formula One podium for the first time in seven years as he finished third at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Alonso was a two-time champion with Renault, now Alpine, and a regular title contender in his time at Ferrari before he quit the series at the end of 2018 having struggled with McLaren.

The Spaniard twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans while away from F1 but is back with Alpine this year.

Heading into Sunday's race at the Losail International Circuit, where he started from third following penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, Alonso had registered 13 points finishes this season without reaching the podium.

Indeed, his last top-three finish had been in Budapest in 2014, but that wait came to an end with a little help from a virtual safety car.

Alonso struggled to stick with race winner Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Verstappen beyond the first few laps but clung on to third when Sergio Perez, who pitted twice, was slowed in the closing stages.

The Alpine man had been ailing at that point, having benefited from one of several tyre punctures when Valtteri Bottas fell from third and later retired.

"Unbelievable. Seven years but finally we got it," Alonso said of his 98th F1 podium. "We were close [in] a couple of races but not [close] enough. Sochi was the last possibility.

"Here today, honestly, I thought I could be leading after lap one. I thought with the red tyre I could have a go at Lewis, but I couldn't.

"Then Checo was very close at the end, but I'm so happy for the team. Also with Esteban [Ocon] P5, it's a good Sunday."

Alonso maintained his spotless record of having collected points at all 34 circuits at which he has raced in F1 following this first Qatar GP.

He added: "I'm enjoying it. F***, I was waiting so long for this, so I'm happy."

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."

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