Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller both lauded the impact Casey Stoner had on their rides after the Ducati duo sealed a one-two in qualifying for the Algarve Grand Prix.

Though Fabio Quartararo already has the MotoGP world title sewn up, the rest of the field are still fighting for position and second-placed Bagnaia set a record lap time at Portimao in Q2 on Saturday.

That effort saw the Italian sensationally claim pole position for a fifth straight race. This is the second run of the same rider taking five poles in a row this season after Quartararo also did so.

Miller had provisional pole, but Bagnaia snatched first place on the grid away from his team-mate and then improved to a final time of 1:38.725.

With Stoner a guest of Ducati throughout the weekend, as well as for the Valencia Grand Prix, both Bagnaia and Miller expressed their desire for Ducati to employ a rider coach for next season, with the Australian – who won the MotoGP title in 2007 and 2011 – a prime candidate.

Bagnaia told a news conference: "It could be a nice present from Ducati to have Casey as a coach next year.

"It's a different point of view, he's a legend and it's different to have a coach, because in Ducati we don't have a coach and for me it helps a lot.

"Maybe next year we can have him. But for me today he helped a bit for the last corner, the exit of the last corner, and it was useful."

Miller, a compatriot of Stoner, added: "It's fantastic to have Casey at the last two grands prix.

"He's got a family and lives on another side of the world, so the idea of that working out I think could be too hard logistically and whatnot.

"But I'd be all for it 100 per cent. But like Pecco said, it is really nice, I've worked with spotters on track and he's not a normal spotter – let's say it like that.

"It's Casey Stoner, a legend, one of the best ever. But I think it is something we're missing in our programme and I think it is definitely something we need to look at maybe introducing into the programme.

"I'm not saying we can get Casey, I'm more than happy to have him, but somebody."

Behind the Ducati duo, Joan Mir of Suzuki Ecstar claimed third. Remarkably, it is the first time the Spaniard, who won the title in 2020, will start on the front row in a MotoGP race.

"Maybe starting in the first row it will help to be more in front and have the situation a little bit more under control," said Mir, who expanded on a heated exchange he had with Alex Marquez at the end of the session.

"Well, Alex was following me I think until FP3 in all the sessions, also FP4 and the first exit in qualifying and the second one he was waiting again," he explained.

"If he didn't disturb me then it's not a problem, but in that moment I made the first lap quite slow to warm up the tyres; the lap time was not bad, but I was warming the tyres and I had just one lap left, but then he decided to overtake me on the braking and went wide. 

"That's why I was angry. Alex came to the box to apologise which is something I appreciate. At that moment I was not happy because I could not get the 100 per cent today."

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas revelled in a stunning qualifying performance at the Mexican Grand Prix that saw Mercedes lock out the front row.

Rivals Red Bull had been fastest in practice, with home favourite Sergio Perez leading Saturday's session ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.

But Mercedes turned that result on its head when it mattered most, with Bottas on pole and Hamilton alongside him in second.

This was the Silver Arrows' 81st one-two in qualifying, a new record ahead of Ferrari's 80.

Verstappen took provisional pole from Perez in Q3, but his mark was shattered by Bottas, with none of the leading men able to top the Finn's 1:15.875 on their second runs.

"Valtteri did an amazing job. I'm so proud of Valtteri," Hamilton said. "He's been driving so well in the last few races.

"It's so great for the team, they've been working so hard and we didn't think we had the pace this weekend. To lock out the front row is pretty special, and it gives us a good fight with the others on Sunday."

Bottas added: "They were awesome laps, especially my first lap in Q3.

"I couldn't quite match the same last sector in my second one, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 is one of my best laps, and it's a good feeling."

Looking ahead to the race, he said: "It is a long straight and the guys behind with the tow will have good opportunities, so we'll need a good start.

"At least as a team it's great that we have two cars ahead, and hopefully we can try to keep our positions somehow."

Verstappen will have to start from third – the same position from which Hamilton won the previous Mexican GP in 2019 - with Perez just behind in fourth.

The Dutchman felt he could have challenged Bottas with his final flying lap but then found himself caught behind an incident involving Perez and Yuki Tsunoda, complaining over the team radio of "such a dumb idiot".

"On the last lap, I was on for a good lap but I don't know what happened in front of me," he said.

"There were two guys going off, so I thought there was going to be a yellow flag and I backed off. The lap is of course destroyed."

Qualifying had been delayed after a red flag early in Q1 when Lance Stroll ran wide at the Peraltada onto the dirty part of the track, failed to get his car back under control and hit the barriers.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:15.875
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.145
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.350
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.467
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.581
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.886
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.888
8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.962
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.283
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +20.955

Formula One has re-affirmed its commitment to China, announcing Saturday that its deal with the Chinese Grand Prix has been extended through 2025. 

The Shanghai race has not been contested since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The stop was omitted from the 23-race F1 calendar for the 2022 season that was announced last month, with the series saying it would return as soon as possible. 

F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali echoed those sentiments in Saturday's announcement of an extended deal. 

"While we are all disappointed we could not include China on the 2022 calendar due to ongoing pandemic conditions, China will be restored to the calendar as soon as conditions allow and we look forward to being back with the fans as soon as we can," Domenicali said in a release. 

Lewis Hamilton won the last race there and has been victorious in six of the 16 editions of the event, four more than any other driver. 

 

 

Max Verstappen might lead Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One drivers' championship going into a vital triple-header, but Mercedes are enjoying the challenge.

The Silver Arrows have won the past seven constructors' championships and also gone away with the drivers' title on each occasion, including six wins for Lewis Hamilton – who also triumphed once with McLaren.

Both streaks are under threat in 2021, however, as Max Verstappen holds a 12-point advantage over Hamilton ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, while Red Bull are only 23 points back on Mercedes.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes' team principal, said: "The last race in Texas was more proof of just how intense this championship battle is.

"It's challenging, it's pushing both teams to higher levels, and the positive pressure we're putting on ourselves is making this a hugely enjoyable fight. We wouldn't have it any other way."

It is Red Bull who have the momentum, though, after Verstappen claimed a precious win in the United States.

"It was of course a great feeling to be back on the top step at the US Grand Prix," Verstappen said.

"The last few races were obviously quite difficult with various engine penalties and a few unlucky moments, so it definitely felt good to be back up there with Checo [Perez] beside me.

"It was a very satisfying win, we showed good pace at the US GP, so I'm looking to build on that momentum, and it was of course also very important to score solid points for the championship."

After Mexico, the teams head to Brazil and then Qatar before their next break, and Verstappen said: "I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to get going, although I know the triple-header is going to be busy.

"It's incredibly important for myself and the team to try to nail the next three races now that we are fighting for the championship."

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen won from pole in Austin, an event Mercedes had enjoyed great success at previously. It was not all plain sailing, though.

Despite starting from the front of the grid, the Dutchman was passed by Hamilton at the start.

With contrasting strategies, Red Bull called Verstappen in first for a pit stop as Hamilton stayed out, meaning he emerged behind his rival but with fresher tyres for a final push.

Mercedes promised their man the race would come down to the final three laps, and so it proved, but Hamilton failed to get within DRS range on the closing lap as Verstappen benefited from a tow off backmarker Mick Schumacher.

Verstappen held on as Hamilton's hopes of defending his title took another major hit.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN MEXICO

The big positive for Hamilton in Austin was the pace he had on offer, even if he ran out of laps with which to use it to his advantage.

The contrasting tactics helped in that regard, but Hamilton had also made a flying start, with his car clearly far more competitive now than earlier in the year when Red Bull dominated.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen have found joy previously in Mexico, so neither will be short of confidence, but the Briton must hope he has the opportunity to test his Mercedes again without this time having to make up such a significant deficit.

With little time to work on the cars between races across this double-header, the performances in Mexico should set the tone for a year-defining three weeks.

Verstappen is a long way from home in Mexico, but he and Red Bull should have the backing of a vocal crowd with Guadalajara native Perez in their second car.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Tight at the top – With five races remaining, 12 points represents the second-smallest gap between the top two in the hybrid era. Three points separated Nico Rosberg and Hamilton in 2014.

Standout season – Red Bull come into this race having celebrated nine wins this season, as many as in the previous three years combined. Their most victories were 13 in 2013.

Growing the gap – Hamilton might be second in the table this year, but he is way out in front all-time. Should he earn more points than Sebastian Vettel this week, his advantage over the second-placed Aston Martin man will increase to more than 1,000. Hamilton has 4,053.5, with Vettel on 3,054.

Failing from the front – Through Vettel and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari have taken two of the past three pole positions in Mexico. However, the Scuderia have not triumphed at this event since Alain Prost's win in 1990.

King of the continent – Hamilton has 17 wins in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the US, two each in Brazil and Mexico), meaning he would surpass Michael Schumacher for the most of all time with another. Of course, he failed in that respect in Texas.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 287.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 275.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 150
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 149

Constructors

1. Mercedes 460.5
2. Red Bull 437.5
3. McLaren 254
4. Ferrari 250.5
5. Alpine 104

Marc Marquez will miss the Algarve Grand Prix this weekend after suffering a "slight concussion" when he crashed in training.

The six-time MotoGP champion suffered the accident last Saturday while preparing for the penultimate round of the season in Portimao, where he would have been going in search of a third successive win..

Marquez was still feeling unwell on Tuesday following a few days of rest at home and the Repsol Honda rider will not race at the Algarve Motorsports Park as a precautionary measure after a medical check-up.

The Spaniard's team said in a statement: "This past Saturday Marc Marquez, while preparing for the Algarve Grand Prix with one of his standard off-road training sessions, suffered a fall that caused a slight head concussion.

"After a few days of rest at home and seeing that he was still unwell, today Marquez has been assessed by doctors in a medical check-up to evaluate his current status.

"As a precautionary measure, this coming weekend Marquez will not contest the Algarve Grand Prix."

Marquez missed the start of the season as he continued to recover from a serious arm injury.

He returned at the Portuguese Grand Prix in April and is sixth in the standings with 142 points following back-to-back victories in Austin and at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, when Fabio Quartararo sealed the title.

Lewis Hamilton said he is not thinking about the Formula One championship race after losing ground on leader and rival Max Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen opened a 12-point lead heading into the final five races of the season thanks to Sunday's enthralling F1 showdown in Austin, where the Red Bull star pipped reigning world champion Hamilton by 1.333 seconds.

Dutchman Verstappen has now won eight races in 2021. Only in 2016, when Hamilton lost out to Nico Rosberg despite winning 10 grands prix, has a driver who has collected at least eight victories failed to win the championship.

Hamilton reflected on the result as he expects tough races ahead in the Mercedes driver's bid to overhaul Verstappen atop the championship standings.

"Not thinking about it at the moment," Hamilton told reporters when asked about the 12-point gap in the drivers' standings.

"Just got to be happy with the job I did today and live in the moment, and we didn't unfortunately… weren't quick enough to win today, but just look forward and take it one race at a time.

"There are two circuits strong for Red Bull so we'll have to minimise how strong they can be and do a better job."

Hamilton added: "I really thought for a second we might be able to win, I gave it absolutely everything out there.

"I think they were quicker all weekend and on all tyres today. Just in the heat, that’s their real strength has shone through this weekend, a bit like other places, Bahrain this year, yeah did the best I could with what we had."

Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen enjoyed his head-to-head battle with Lewis Hamilton at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen came out on top in an enthralling race, pipping his title rival by 1.333 seconds in Austin.

It marked Verstappen's first race win in the United States, with Red Bull's decision to pit early in Sunday's race paying off.

Mercedes told Hamilton it was "all about the final three laps" and, though the reigning world champion came close, he just did not have enough to overcome Verstappen, who takes a 12-point lead into the final five races.

Verstappen has now won eight races in 2021. Only in 2016, when Hamilton lost out to Nico Rosberg despite winning 10 grands prix, has a driver who has collected at least eight victories failed to win the championship.

Red Bull did not have it all their own way, with Hamilton coming from second on the grid to nip ahead of Verstappen with a brilliant start, but the Dutchman regained the lead and held his nerve.

"We lost some time at the start, so we had to try and do something else," Verstappen said. "The tyre wear is quite high around this track, so we had to go aggressive but I wasn't sure if it was going to work.

"The last few laps were fun. A bit sideways through the high-speed corners, but super happy to hang on."

Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago, but on this occasion, the Briton – who has won a record six times in the United States – had no such complaints.

"Congratulations to Max, he did such a good job today," Hamilton said. "It was such a tough race, had a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day [Red Bull] just had the upper hand this weekend.

"I couldn't have asked for more, a big thank you to my team for great pit stops, great work throughout the weekend."

Both Verstappen and Hamilton also hailed the 140,000-strong crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, with F1 returning to Austin for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"What an amazing crowd, to perform in front of you guys is such an honour," Hamilton added. "I think this is definitely our acceptance into the US.

"What a place to be, I hope we have more races out here, hope the sport continues to grow because you can see how great the fans are."

Verstappen echoed the sentiment, saying: "[The fans] have been incredible. It's amazing to be here and to see so many of you around the track."

Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium.

Perez's efforts were made even more outstanding by the fact the water system in the Mexican's car had a malfunction, leaving him unable to take on any fluid in scorching track conditions in Texas.

"Struggled massively. You know, since lap one, I ran out of water. I couldn't drink at all," he said.

"I think by the middle of my second stint it was starting to get pretty difficult, you know, losing strength. I think my toughest race ever, physically."

Max Verstappen kept his cool in the Texas heat to hold off Lewis Hamilton and clinch a vital victory in the Formula One title race at the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at this race on Saturday and despite Hamilton – who had previously won three times from second on the grid in Austin – enjoying a fantastic start, the Red Bull driver got back ahead and held his nerve in a tense final tussle to clinch his maiden success in America by 1.3 seconds.

Having been told by his Mercedes team that it was "all about the last three laps", Hamilton trailed by just 3.046 seconds heading into the final 10 at the Circuit of the Americas, which did not host a race last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reigning world champion, who has won more races (six) in the United States than any other driver, cut the gap with five laps remaining, with that promise of a frantic final three laps proving correct.

In fact, it came down to the final lap, Verstappen utilising DRS early to get an extra boost that just kept him ahead of Hamilton, as Red Bull's decision to pit the championship leader early paid off in style.

It brought up an eighth race win of the season for Verstappen, and a drive described by his team as "sheer class" propelled the Dutchman 12 points clear. 

Red Bull had a great day all-round, with Sergio Perez coming in third to seal the team's 200th F1 podium, though Hamilton did take an extra point for the fastest lap.

Charles Leclerc took fourth place for Ferrari, while Valtteri Bottas overcame Carlos Sainz late on to grab sixth place behind Daniel Ricciardo – the latter pair having clipped on lap 43.

Verstappen matches Mansell

Verstappen has now equalled Nigel Mansell as the driver to have recorded the second most victories with a Honda engine, on 13, behind only the late Ayrton Senna (32). 

With eight wins to his name in 2021, victory is on Verstappen's side. Apart from Hamilton in 2016, who won 10 without claiming the title, all drivers who have won at least eight races in a season went on to seal the championship.

Alonso's unhappy Austin hunting ground

Only in Belgium (16, three podiums) has Fernando Alonso raced on more occasions without a win than in the United States (13, two podiums). 

There was no change in that record on Sunday as the Alpine driver was forced to retire due to a broken rear wing.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1:333
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +42:223
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +52:246
5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:16:854
6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:20:128
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:23:545
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:24:395
9. Yuki Tsuonda (AlphaTauri) +1 LAP
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1 LAP

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 287.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 275.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 150
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 149

Constructors

1. Mercedes 460.5
2. Red Bull 437.5
3. McLaren 254
4. Ferrari 250.5
5. Alpine 104

WHAT'S NEXT?

Mexico is next up to start a triple-header that also includes trips to Brazil and Qatar in November. Only five grands prix remain in what is shaping up to be a sensational title race.

Fabio Quartararo is "living the dream" after becoming the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP title following an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old, who is competing in just his third season, was crowned 2021 world champion after closest challenger Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of Sunday's race.

Bagnaia started from pole and was leading with five laps to go, only to come off his bike and effectively end his chances of catching Quartararo in the drivers' standings with two grands prix remaining.

Yamaha rider Quartararo still had to see out the race to pick up the three points needed to seal top spot and did that with a fourth-placed finish in Italy.

Quartararo's triumph, which ends Yamaha's six-year wait for a title, was achieved the hard way as he started the race in 15th after his worst ever qualifying session on Saturday.

He gradually made his way through the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth when Bagnaia crashed.

The Frenchman said on the eve of the race he expected the title battle to continue into the Grande Premio do Algarve next month and he felt the pressure at the start line.

"It was tough for me because I made a really bad start and I never experienced a MotoGP start at that far back," he said. 

"I think our front tyre pressure goes so much up [in a pack]. When I braked, I had a lot of moments almost crashing, so to be close to the podium was amazing.

"It was a new experience, and also with the pressure of the championship I was feeling really bad this morning.

"Let's say I had pain in the belly, it is the first time that I found it difficult to eat before the race, so it was a big day and we managed to be world champion.

"After this I think the weight of trying to be world champion, from now, will totally lose the pressure and I can enjoy the two last races."

Bagnaia had just stretched away from eventual race winner Marc Marquez when he crashed and cut a desolate figure at the end of the race.

The Italian, who was one of the first to congratulate Quartararo, denied losing focus with the winning line in sight and also backed the call to use hard front tyres.

That was a decision that also cost Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who crashed early on at the same corner as Bagnaia.

"Medium for me was worse than soft; soft was already on the limit yesterday and this morning, so the hard was the correct choice," Bagnaia said.

"The only thing is with the hard you just need to push every single lap like hell, to let the tyre be hot.

"As for the crash, that was not because I lost concentration. I was pushing – it was winning or gravel, and I tried all to achieve this win.

"I'm happy about my performance. Of course I'm a bit frustrated about the result because I think we were deserving of more.

"But we just try to be always more competitive, and for next year we are for sure in a good way."

Fabio Quartararo has been crowned 2021 MotoGP world champion for a first time following a dramatic conclusion to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that saw title rival Francesco Bagnaia crash out.

Yamaha rider Quartararo had to outscore Bagnaia by three points in Sunday's race to bring an end to the title battle with two races to go, but a career-worst finish of 15th in qualifying meant the Frenchman had plenty of work to do.

The 22-year-old gradually climbed the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth, well off leader Bagnaia, with five laps to go in Italy.

Then came an incredible moment as Bagnaia, on course for a third victory in four races, lost the front of the Desmosedici into turn 15 to effectively hand Quartararo the title – and a first for Yamaha since 2015.

Quartararo continued his ascent into third place before dropping behind Enea Bastianini into his eventual final position of fourth, with Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro leading a one-two for Repsol Honda.

It is a second successive triumph for Marquez on the back of his victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Bagnaia's Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who started in second, had earlier crashed out in a drama-filled race, while Valentino Rossi battled to 10th in his final race on home soil.

Max Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at the United States Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton repeatedly described his runs in Texas as a "struggle" but the rivals are geared up for another head-to-head showdown Sunday. 

Verstappen, Hamilton and Sergio Perez each held pole position at various points in qualifying before the Red Bull star emerged on top. 

That has not been the norm in Austin, but Verstappen noted the real work remains to be done on race day. 

"Yeah, maybe a tiny bit of a surprise but you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit throughout the whole season," Verstappen told reporters. "Luckily it’s still doing that and yeah, we’ll see.

"I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try and make it work.

"It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out and that’s what happened for us, for example, in Turkey."

Verstappen and Perez finished second and third behind Valtteri Bottas a fortnight ago in Istanbul and will look to get Red Bull back to the top of the podium in Texas, where Mexico native Perez in particular has enjoyed strong support from the crowd. 

Perez will start third but said he does not believe starting positions will play a significant factor Sunday. 

"I think it’s going to be a pretty long race tomorrow, so not too concerned about the qualifying," he said. "I think there are plenty of opportunities for tomorrow."

Hamilton, a six-time winner at the circuit, will share that hope as he tries to bounce back after a fifth-place finish in Turkey, though his comments Saturday did not suggest much confidence in the way his car has felt this week. 

"It was definitely a difficult session," Hamilton said. "I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car.

"But it’s been a real challenge, and going into qualifying I think the first session wasn’t that great. Q1 wasn’t spectacular but it started to improve, particularly on the medium tyre, and the last two runs were pretty good.

"I think [Red Bull] have just been pretty quick all weekend and I think we were able to match them or be ahead in P1 but since then they have really pulled a lot.

"You can tell that the car is quick because obviously both of them are up there and pulling in some seriously good laps. But we are in a good position to fight them tomorrow and I hope we can."

Max Verstappen took pole for the United States Grand Prix to end a Mercedes stranglehold – but the championship leader will have Lewis Hamilton for company on the front row at Sunday's race in Austin.

The Red Bull star knocked Hamilton off first place in the fading moments of qualifying, and his Mercedes title rival could not pull off a sufficiently quick final lap to snatch back top spot.

It means Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles in the US is over, reflecting the challenge they have faced, particularly from Verstappen, this season.

Setting aside immediate disappointment, Hamilton said: "It's good positioning for tomorrow, so hopefully it'll be a good race down to turn one."

Hamilton said the spectactors at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin could be in for a treat.

"The mindset is to win the race and give these guys the best race they've seen," said the British driver.

"I gave it everything. Today was a bit of a struggle through qualifying. I was happy with my last lap, of course there's always areas that we can improve but I think that's pretty much everything we had. We'll work hard tomorrow."

The seven-time world champion has won this race a record six times, and only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton enjoyed more race victories in Formula One. He has also sealed titles twice in Austin, but this year's campaign could go down to the wire.

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took third place on the grid, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will also start on the second row. Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest but must serve a five-place grid penalty after an engine change.

Satisfied with his Saturday shift, Verstappen said: "It was quite exciting out there. In Q3 [the third qualifying session] my first lap wasn't amazing, but in the final lap it started spitting, drizzle in the last sector especially.

"I was not sure I was going to hang on to my lap time, but it was enough and of course to put a lap time in and be on pole position, but also to be on P1 and P3 as a team, I think was a very strong performance."

He will relish another battle with Hamilton, and said: "I guess that's what people like. From here onwards we of course hope to have a good start and work together as a team to get the best possible result."

Mexican Perez, whose high ranking on the grid was a popular one with spectators, said his position was perhaps "not too relevant", given the long race ahead, but added: "I'm looking forward to it."

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel and the Alpine duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were among those to go no further than the second round of qualifying, with the Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri teams also sending two drivers through to Q3.

Verstappen holds a slender six-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers' championship after a handy second-place finish in Turkey two weeks ago, when his title rival finished only fifth.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:32.910
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.209 seconds
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.224
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.565
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.696
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.882
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.898
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.997
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.208
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.008

*Bottas must serve five-place grid penalty

Francesco Bagnaia's gameplan will remain the same in Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, despite Fabio Quartararo starting the race down in 15th after struggling in qualifying.

Quartararo leads Bagnaia by 52 points with three races left and will be crowned 2021 MotoGP champion this weekend should he outscore his title rival by three points.

However, the Yamaha rider has his work cut out on Sunday as tough conditions at the Misano Circuit meant he failed to qualify for Q2 for the first time in his MotoGP career.

The Frenchman's best lap would have had him in 13th, but that was voided and he now has 14 places to make up on Bagnaia if he is to come out on top.

Bagnaia had no such trouble in both qualifying sessions, setting the fastest time in both en route to claiming his fourth successive pole.

And the Ducati rider intends to pick up from where he left off by going all out for victory on Sunday and claiming a third triumph in four races to keep the title race alive.

"I was needing to push if he was starting Q2, and I have to push the same now he's 15th," Bagnaia said. 

"The only thing that I can do to leave open the title championship is to try to win tomorrow. The objective would be the same even if Fabio was starting further in front."

Quartararo has only been off the front row once this season, when starting fifth in Qatar, and he doubts the title will be won for at least another week as a result of Saturday's setback. 

"Of course it's a tough situation for me," he said. "To be honest, I have not thought about the championship, because he is P1 and I'm P13 or P15.

"But he has the pressure, it's not only me. He has the pressure to do well, and maybe he will make a mistake. I don't wish him that, but it's something that we will see.

"My feeling is that if everything is normal, we will fight [to decided the title next time] in Portimao."

The front row is dominated by Dacia as Luca Marini finished qualifying in third and Jack Miller second, the latter just 0.025 seconds behind team-mate Bagnaia.

With Quartararo so far down the grid, it sets up the possibility of Miller potentially being given room to push Bagnaia for victory.

"Nobody's said anything to me about team orders up until this point," Miller said. "It's just me as being a rider and having common sense is the main thing.

"We all want the same thing, we all want to see Ducati win, we all want to get the best for that, and at the moment Francesco is our biggest chance.

"It doesn't change anything for me. I'm there to do the best I can do. We'll see what happens in the race tomorrow, but for sure Francesco's speed around here is not doubted."

Last week's Grand Prix of the Americas winner Marc Marquez will start seventh on the grid, while Valentino Rossi is 23rd on home soil.

 

Qualifying results

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 1:33.045
2. Jack Miller (Ducati) +0.225s
3. Luca Marini (Ducati) +0.85s
4. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) +0.268s
5. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull) +0.394s
6. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.481s
7. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.805s
8. Iker Lecuona (Tech3) +0.848s
9. Danilo Petrucci (Tech3) +1.095s
10. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.642s
11. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +1.198s
12. Jorge Martin (Aprilia) ++51.586s

Max Verstappen fumed at "stupid idiot" Lewis Hamilton and aimed a middle-finger salute at his title rival in a heated United States Grand Prix session.

The fight for the Formula One title intensified when the pair came close to making contact during FP2 at the Circuit of The Americas on Friday.

Championship leader Verstappen snapped over the team radio after going wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton, saying: "Ha! Stupid idiot!" and making his feelings clear with a gesture to the Mercedes driver.

A Red Bull engineer told Verstappen to "ignore it" as the Dutchman endured a frustrating day, having been caught in traffic at the start of the mid-session short runs.

He could only finish down in eighth in the second session as Sergio Perez set the pace, with Hamilton third behind Lando Norris.

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in the first session, but will take a five-place grid penalty in Austin after having a sixth engine of the season – with three being the limit – fitted and a sixth exhaust.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff says there is a risk that Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by only six points, could take another grid penalty this season

He added: "I can't say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there.

"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven’t come to the right answers yet."

Williams driver George Russell, Bottas' replacement at Mercedes for 2022, and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel will start on the back row after they had multiple new engine parts fitted.

Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Sebastian Vettel have taken grid penalties for the United States Grand Prix this weekend.

Bottas won in Turkey last time out, but a repeat would appear unlikely at the Circuit of The Americas on Sunday after the Mercedes driver had a sixth engine of the season – with three being the limit – fitted and a sixth exhaust.

The Finn, who sits third in the driver standings and was fastest in the first practice session on Friday, will take a five-place penalty for the race in Austin.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff said: "I think you see that we are suffering with reliability this year, we're going onto the sixth engine for Valtteri, and it is not something we choose to do, but on the contrary; we are trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven't understood fully [what they are]."

Wolff says there is a risk that Lewis Hamilton could take another grid penalty this season as he battles for the title with Max Verstappen.

He added: "I can't say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there.

"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven’t come to the right answers yet."

Williams driver Russell, Bottas' replacement at Mercedes for 2022, and Aston Martin's Vettel will start on the back row after they had multiple new engine parts fitted.

Hamilton was 0.045 seconds slower than his team-mate Bottas in FP1, with his championship rival Verstappen third-quickest – almost a second slower than Bottas.

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