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 heads into Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix well off the pace of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes and under investigation by the stewards, with the fallout over the title rivals' battle in Brazil refusing to die down.

Verstappen is under investigation for refusing to slow down under waved yellow flags in qualifying.

The world championship leader has been summoned to the stewards having apparently failed to respond to single waved yellows on his final lap after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture on the pit straight.

If found guilty, he will likely face a grid penalty having qualified second behind Hamilton, who set a blistering time of 1:20.827.

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas (third) and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz (seventh) are also under investigation for the same offence.

Qualifying came after an elongated drivers briefing that lasted over an hour as they sought clarification over what represents fair driving following the tussle between Verstappen and Hamilton in Sao Paulo, which saw the latter forced off track as they fought for the lead.

Asked if the FIA had succeeded in clarifying the issue, Verstappen told the drivers' media conference: "I think it's always trying to align everyone in having the same process in the way you think, everyone.

"Everyone is different, right? And everybody I think has their own way of racing and defending and overtaking, and of course very hard for the FIA as well to, how do you say it? To get everyone on the same line.

"Of course, they decide but every driver has a different opinion. And I think yesterday [Friday] it was all about sharing their opinions, and then the FIA explaining their process of thought behind it. So, I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing. So, yeah, I think at the end it was pretty clear."

Hamilton, though, had a very different view.

"It's not clear. Every driver, except for Max, was asking just for clarity, most drivers were asking for clarity, but it wasn't very clear," he said. 

"So, yeah, it's still not clear what the limits of the track are. It's clearly not the white line anymore, when overtaking but… yeah, we just go for it. We just ask for consistency. So, if it's the same as the last race then it should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it's fine."

With victory, Hamilton could trim Verstappen's lead to seven points were the Dutchman to finish second, and he has every reason for confidence with his Mercedes taking pole by a gap that surprised even himself.

"Probably the last three races in qualifying we have been ahead of them, which has been a bit of a surprise," added Hamilton. 

"Today definitely wasn't expecting to have as big a gap as that. I looked, I was relatively comfortable and was around tenth or so ahead throughout the session, but to be able to pull out that extra time felt great and it's a great showing of the hard work, all the guys, as I said we were here until midnight last night. The guys were here even later than that. Really great work from everyone.

"Long-run pace is good. We always end up getting closer… or our pace closes up to each other when it comes to race pace and yeah, I think the car is in a good place. It's a difficult circuit to follow so, yeah, I'm looking forward to the start."

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."

Guanyu Zhou is to become the first ever Chinese Formula One driver after signing with Alfa Romeo for the 2022 season.

The 22-year-old will join Valtteri Bottas as a new pairing, with the Finnish driver set to leave Mercedes to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen.

Zhou is currently second in the F2 championship with three wins this season and two rounds still to go next month. He will replace Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa.

He was part of the Ferrari driver academy between 2014 and 2018, before joining Renault in 2019 as a test driver. 

Zhou will reportedly bring with him a sizeable financial package to Alfa Romeo.

"The financial side can't be hidden," team principal Frederic Vasseur said to BBC Sport, while also pointing to the success that his new driver has had in F2, with victories in Bahrain and Silverstone this year.

"I don't know if in the end he will be a champion or not in F2. But this won't change the potential that he is a frontrunner against some other very experienced guys.

"He also has the advantage that he was able to do some test days this season in F1, so he is not with zero mileage."

Zhou expressed his excitement about joining the team, telling the Alfa Romeo Racing website: "I dreamt from a young age of climbing as high as I can in a sport that I am passionate about and now the dream has come true.

"It is a privilege for me to start my Formula 1 racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past. Now the dream is reality. I feel well-prepared for the immense challenge of Formula 1, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas. 

"Next year the target will be to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible."

On becoming the first F1 driver from China, Zhou added: "To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula 1 is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history. I know a lot of hopes will be resting on me and, as ever, I will take this as motivation to become better and achieve more."

Lewis Hamilton was punished as Sao Paulo Grand Prix stewards criticised the seven-time world champion for undoing his seatbelt to grab a flag after his stunning victory.

Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows was asked by race chiefs to explain the incident that saw Hamilton stop to collect a Brazilian flag from a marshal at the end of a remarkable race win.

In reaching for the flag, stewards noticed Hamilton had loosened his seatbelt, which goes against the rules that stipulate drivers must always be "properly restrained in their seat by safety belts... at all times during a competition when it is mobile on a circuit, pit lane, special stage or competition course".

Hamilton was hit with an immediate €5,000 fine, with a further €20,000 punishment suspended until the end of next year. His race result was unaffected.

The stewards said in their ruling: "The driver of car 44, Lewis Hamilton, undid his seat belts on the in-lap at the end of the race.

"While the stewards are sympathetic to the desire to celebrate, it is fundamentally unsafe to undo the seatbelts while the car is in motion. Slow speeds in these cars are very fast for an unrestrained occupant.

"Further, Formula One drivers set the example for junior categories. It is critical that junior category drivers learn the importance of using all the safety devices of the car at all times."

The British driver scored a superb victory for Mercedes to close the gap on championship leader Max Verstappen to 14 points with three races remaining in the season.

Hamilton started from 10th on the grid, after two pre-race penalties hampered his preparation, but he gained eight places in the early stages before overtaking Verstappen with 12 laps left to run.

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.

Valentino Rossi joked he might opt to quit MotoGP again in 2022 after enjoying all the fanfare that accompanied his final race in Valencia before retirement.

Rossi, a seven-time MotoGP champion and legend of the sport, took to the track for the final time on Sunday having confirmed the 2021 season would be his last back in August.

The 42-year-old qualified in 10th and ultimately finished in the same position, achieving the top-10 finish he had identified as his goal heading into the weekend.

Rossi was mobbed at the end of the race, with his rivals, fans and crew all swarming around him before lifting him aloft of the track shortly after old friend Ronaldo waved the chequered flag.

A party then began as Rossi returned to the pits, and he could not hide his enjoyment of all the adoration.

"[There's been] a lot of surprises, we've had fun," he told Sky Sport Italia. "It was my style, we drank, broke a few things. I'm not that drunk yet!

"I'm happy to have had a good race, I finished among the 10 strongest riders in the world. Slowly now I'll realise that I'm stopping, but for now [it just feels like] the championship is over.

"I've always tried to do one last race in my style. They tried to make me cry, but in my opinion this was supposed to be a party.

"Quitting was an excuse to make a bit of a mess, maybe I'll quit next year too! No, you know how proud I am to have gone out strong.

"I was in shape today, I was inspired. I like that I've left in this way. At least I can say that at the last race I finished 10th."

Fittingly, VR46 academy product Francesco Bagnaia was victorious on the day.

He and the other riders to have come through the academy who were involved in the various races over the weekend wore replicas of Rossi's most iconic helmet designs, and he appreciated that tribute.

"Yesterday, when they surprised me with the helmets, it was tough but nice," Rossi added. "Today, it was great to see them in action."

Francesco Bagnaia dedicated his Valencia Grand Prix victory to Valentino Rossi as the MotoGP great hangs up his leathers.

Rossi, a seven-time world champion and legend of the sport, took part in the final race of his illustrious career on Sunday, having confirmed the 2021 season would be his last back in August.

The 42-year-old qualified in 10th and ultimately finished in the same position, achieving the top-10 finish he had identified as his goal heading into the weekend.

Rossi was mobbed at the end of the race, with his rivals, fans and crew all swarming around him before lifting him aloft of the track.

He was then treated to special tributes from other teams as he headed back down the pitlane for the last time, before something of a party began in the Yamaha paddock.

Bagnaia won the race after seeing off Jorge Martin, and the Italian – who came through Rossi's VR46 academy – dedicated the win to his hero.

"It was very exciting because with a helmet like this I could only win," the Ducati rider told Sky Sport Italia while holding a replica of Rossi's 2004 helmet.

"It is the only way to celebrate the greatest of all, it was beautiful. The hug with Vale was wonderful, I was able to pass on to him what he is for me, and all the gratitude for what he's done. Without him I would not be like this at the moment.

"I wanted to give Valentino a gift with my helmet and dedicate this race to him. I thank him for what he did for us at the academy.

"Before the weekend I wasn't sure I could do performances like this here. In the end, we were among the fastest and I'm happy to have won. It's the best way to end a season."

 

Valentino Rossi brought the curtain down on his illustrious MotoGP career with a 10th-placed finish at the Valencia Grand Prix while his protege Francesco Bagnaia crossed the line first in the final race of the campaign.

Seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi, 42, confirmed in August he would be hanging up his leathers at the end of the 2021 season, and he closed things out with a drama-free ride as he achieved his pre-weekend goal of a top-10 finish.

Danil Petrucci, who finished in 18th, is also departing MotoGP.

Rossi received a hero's reception at the end of the race as riders, fans and crew swarmed and held him aloft, with his old friend Ronaldo having waved the final chequered flag of his career.

The veteran enjoyed a solid performance in qualifying, securing a respectable 10th place on the grid, but it was his countryman Bagnaia and rookie Jorge Martin at the front who occupied the main in-race focus.

Martin started on pole for the fourth time this season and showed excellent poise to hold off Bagnaia for a while, but he left the door open at the end of the 15th lap as the Italian's persistence paid off.

Bagnaia was then in a class of his own for the rest of the race as Martin failed to reel him back in, though the latter did just enough to hold off Jack Miller to secure second.

Ducati bikes locked out the podium as their factory team secured the teams' title in emphatic fashion, but all the attention was on Rossi at the end, with various teams producing their own tributes to him as he rode back down the pit lane for the last time.

 

 

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