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."

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.

Lewis Hamilton cut a frustrated figure over Mercedes' decision to pull him in for a pit stop late in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton seemed determined to finish the race in the rain in Istanbul on the same set of tyres, turning down several calls for him to pit.

Finally, on the 51st lap out of 58, Hamilton – who at the time was in third place having started 11th on the grid due to the 10-place penalty he took into the weekend for changing engine – heeded his team's call to come in to switch onto intermediate tyres.

Yet as the seven-time world champion came back out, he had fallen to fifth place, much to his annoyance.

"Why did you give up that place?" Hamilton questioned over the radio, as he was forced to hold off Pierre Gasly to finish fifth, behind Charles Leclerc, Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who cruised to his first race victory of 2021.

Esteban Ocon finished within the top 10 having not changed tyres at all, and Hamilton was in a prickly mood when interviewed by Sky Sports.

Asked if he was aware he would drop down two places when he went into the pits, Hamilton said: "I didn't know at that time, I could probably have assumed that I would.

"The guys were only 15 seconds behind, it's a 24-second pit stop so I knew that I'd lose perhaps one."

Of the initial tyres potentially lasting the whole race, Hamilton added: "Ocon's did I heard so I assume they probably could.

"The tyres are bald so you don't know how far they're going to go so there's definitely the worry of the life of the tyre but also I wasn't really that fast at the end there.

"I was struggling, had little grip, not really sure why. Then all of a sudden I'd have not such a bad pace but I was losing performance to the guys behind."

Hamilton acknowledged he may have made an error not coming in for a pit earlier in the race, when Mercedes initially advised, but he believes the wrong call was made to switch so late.

"In hindsight I should have either stayed out or come in much earlier," he said. "When you come in with eight laps to go you don't have time to go through the draining phase of that medium tyre on a drying track.

"So I went through this whole sliding change where I nearly lost more positions. A bit frustrated but it is what it is. 

"It felt good to be in third and I thought if I could just hold onto this it's a great result from 11th. Fifth is worse, but it could be worse."

There was an eight-point swing in the championship title race, with Verstappen now six ahead of Hamilton heading into the United States Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, insisted the correct call was made.

"[Pitting earlier] would have been better than what we ended up with. But it was measured and in the car, he didn't see how much he was dropping off. It was clear that had he stayed out then he would have lost out to Gasly," he told Sky Sports.

"The correct call would probably have been taking it very conservative and pitting when everybody else pitted for the inters, coming out behind Perez and Leclerc and fighting with them for P3. That was probably correct, but that is only with hindsight."

Lewis Hamilton could start the Turkish Grand Prix at the back of the grid on Sunday as Mercedes are considering taking an engine penalty for the Formula One championship leader.

Seven-time F1 world champion Hamilton leads Max Verstappen by two points in the battle for the title after winning a dramatic Russian Grand Prix to secure his 100th race victory last month.

Verstappen worked his way through the field from the back to finish second after the Red Bull driver had a new power unit fitted in Sochi

Hamilton may face the same challenge at Istanbul Park as his team mull over whether to fit his car with a fourth engine of the season, which would take him over the permitted allowance.

Asked if the Silver Arrows could take the penalty this weekend, team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports News: "It's a possibility."

Although the German added: "When, and how, is not yet decided."

Wolff says it is vital Mercedes avoid putting Hamilton in a position where he is danger of not finishing a race.

"Most important is that you don't DNF because of a reliability issue," said Wolff.

"You can cope with swings, whether you finish second, third, I think that is okay, the championship is going to go long. But if you don't finish...

"So we are looking at the parameters of the engines, making sure we don't suffer from any reliability problems."

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas started in 17th in Sochi after taking an engine penalty.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton's crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix as a "tactical foul" by the Red Bull driver.

The drivers' championship front-runners collided at Monza, having also come together at the British Grand Prix, forcing both to retire from the race.

After labouring behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, who led a McLaren one-two, Verstappen's hopes of victory were seemingly dashed with a pit stop that saw him stationary for 11.1 seconds.

Hamilton then emerged from his pit stop at the start of lap 26 alongside Verstappen, who attempted to sneak down the inside at turn two, only to catch the kerbs and send his car airborne before it landed on top of the Mercedes, with both ending up in the gravel trap.

Having come second in the sprint race, Verstappen extended his championship lead by two points. He now holds a five-point advantage.

The incident is the subject of a stewards' investigation, but Wolff indicated he believes the blame lies with the Dutchman.

"The stewards are going to decide who is to blame. There is predominantly to blame, I guess, we've seen that in the past. I think in football you'd say it was a tactical foul," Wolff told Sky Sports. 

"He probably knew that if Lewis stays ahead, that is the race win possibly.

"I think when you look at turn four, Lewis backed out and that was quite a thing because probably you know he's staying ahead of you. And then incidents where they actually crash, it was clear for Max in there that they would crash.

"I think if we don't manage that in the right way, this is going to continue. They had a high-speed crash at Silverstone, we had one car ending on top of the other one on Lewis' head here, so how far can you go? Maybe next time we'll have a high-speed crash and land on each other."

Hamilton added: "I was racing as hard as I could, finally got past Lando [Norris], I was in the lead so they pitted me, pit-stop was obviously slow, lost a couple of seconds.

"I came out, saw that Daniel came past, Max was coming, I made sure I let a car's width on the outside to him. I went into Turn 1 and I was ahead, I was ahead going into turn two, then all of a sudden he was on top of me."

Asked if Verstappen could have backed out of the corner, Hamilton replied: "Absolutely. Exactly the same scenario that happened in turn four, where I went around the outside, I was in exactly the same position, but I gave way. And that's racing.

"He just didn't want to give way today, he knew when he was going into turn two what was going to happen, he knew he was going over the kerb but still did it. We'll speak to the stewards and we'll see."

George Russell said he is "absolutely buzzing" for next season's Formula One world championship after he agreed a move to Mercedes.

It was confirmed on September 6 that Valtteri Bottas would be ending his Mercedes stint after five seasons with the team, joining Alfa Romeo for 2022 on a multi-year deal.

Bottas has served as the second-seat driver to Lewis Hamilton, helping Mercedes to four constructors' titles.

However, with the Finn now joining Alfa in the wake of Kimi Raikkonen's impending retirement, Mercedes have signed up Hamilton's fellow Briton Russell from Williams.

"Looking ahead to next season, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely buzzing," Russell said in a statement released by Mercedes.

"It's a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I'm under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it's going to be a steep learning curve.

"For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team.

"Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022."

The 23-year-old, who has signed a long-term contract with Mercedes, has spent the last three seasons with Williams and has achieved one podium finish in his Formula One career to date.

However, that came in contentious circumstances at this season's Belgian Grand Prix as Russell was awarded second after only two laps had been completed in sodden conditions.

When Hamilton returned a positive positive coronavirus test before the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Russell stepped in to replace him, finishing ninth.

Russell revealed he is excited to become a team-mate of Hamilton's.

"I've looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts," Russell said of the seven-time F1 champion.

"The opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off the track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being."

 

Russell was on the Mercedes young driver programme in 2017 and won that season's GP3 Series championship before he became Formula Two champion the following year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Woolf claimed Russell and Hamilton will provide a formidable team over the next few seasons.

"We are very happy to confirm that George will have the opportunity to take the next step in his career and join Mercedes," Woolf added.

"He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1.

"Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.

"I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years to come.

"It's a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced."

Toto Wolff has revealed only paperwork is preventing Mercedes from announcing their 2022 driver line-up, with George Russell expected to join Lewis Hamilton.

Much of this season has been dominated by talk around the second Silver Arrows seat, with the incumbent Valtteri Bottas under pressure from Russell.

Bottas finished third at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to move up to third in the drivers' championship, but Russell claimed his first Formula One podium in the previous race at Spa.

The Williams man – a junior Mercedes driver – is now expected to make the step up, with Kimi Raikkonen's imminent retirement potentially opening space for Bottas at Alfa Romeo.

Alex Albon, who drove for Red Bull in 2019 and 2020 and remains on their books, has been linked with Russell's Williams seat.

Asked after Sunday's race if Mercedes' next move could be confirmed as soon as next week, at the Italian Grand Prix, team principal Wolff told Sky Sports: "Yeah, I think there's a pretty good chance – at least 50-50. The reason for waiting is the signature on the paper."

First, however, Mercedes still have a fight on their hands this year, just ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' championship but with Max Verstappen leading Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

Red Bull's superior pace was evident at Zandvoort, where Verstappen became the first Dutchman to win his home event.

"When [the other team] have the quickest car on track, whatever you try on strategy is difficult," Wolff said.

"Credit to Max, credit to Red Bull, they were really faultless today."

Of Monza, the Mercedes boss added: "I think [it will be] good. It's so close together, and here Max was the quickest, his home track, you see the crowds.

"Monza is maybe going to be a bit of a different environment. We feel that we are still in the run for the championship."

Lewis Hamilton explained that he is still feeling the after-effects of coronavirus after producing an incredible fightback at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who started on pole as he chased a 100th Formula One race win in his stellar career, had to charge up the field after a mistake following a restart – a red flag having come out after Valtteri Bottas caused an early crash.

Five drivers were forced to retire early, with Bottas handed a five-place grid penalty for the next grand prix in Belgium at the end of August, but by the time the remaining competitors had finished a formation lap, the rain which had been around at the start had cleared and the track was dry.

Hamilton, however, elected not to change his tyres, so started on his own from the grid while the others pitted. By the time he had rectified his mistake he was last, but a mighty effort saw him clinch third place behind Sebastian Vettel and unlikely winner Esteban Ocon.

The seven-time world champion now leads Max Verstappen, who finished 10th after suffering damage in the earlier crash, in the standings, though Hamilton was handed a further boost late on Sunday when Vettel was retrospectively disqualified for not having enough fuel left in his car at the end of the race. Aston Martin announced they plan to appeal that decision.

However, during the podium presentation, Hamilton looked visibly exhausted and even struggled to hold up the bottle of champagne handed to him. He then saw Mercedes' team doctor and missed some of his post-race media duties.

"I'm ok, had real big dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium," Hamilton, who contracted COVID-19 in December last year, told a news conference.

"I've been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it's still a battle.

"I haven't spoken to anyone about it, but I think [the effects of covid are] lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training has been different since then. The level of fatigue you get is different and it's a real challenge.

"I continue to train and prepare the best way I can. Today, who knows what it is? Maybe it's hydration, I don't know, but I've definitely not had this experience. Had something similar at Silverstone but this is way worse."

When asked why he did not to pit at the end of the formation lap, Hamilton said: "Through the formation lap I was just giving the team information. I mean, it was dry through all the corners and I kept telling them 'it's dry, dry, dry, dry' but they said just to stay out.

"I don't really understand but I'm sure it's definitely a mistake from us all but we win and lose as a team and we bear the burden of the mistake together and we just keep fighting, so the team did an amazing job with the strategy, with pitstops, and I just had to make it work out there."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team – who now lead the constructors' championship – made the right call, however.

"To be honest, I think we did absolutely the right thing," said Wolff. "As a leading car it's always difficult to take the decision.

"These things can happen – I stand absolutely behind the decision to stay out – and that's why I'm fine."

Valtteri Bottas recorded the fastest time of second practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix, 0.027s ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas' fastest lap of 1:17.012 helped Mercedes lead the way on their soft-tyre simulations, while championship leader Max Verstappen had to settle for third after his car struggled in the hot temperatures.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez came in fifth, while the Alpine duo of Esteban Ocan and Fernando Alonso finished fourth and seventh respectively.

Three-time World champion Sebastian Vettel finished eighth, with team-mate Lance Stroll completing the top 10 behind McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Toto Wolff believes assessments of Mercedes' season to date have been overly negative, even as Max Verstappen and Red Bull have control of the title race.

The Silver Arrows had Valtteri Bottas second and defending champion Lewis Hamilton fourth at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton is now five races without a win for only third time over a single season since 2014. Red Bull have won all five of those, with Verstappen triumphing in four.

Damage to his car apparently sustained over a kerb at Turn 10 saw Hamilton fall behind both team-mate Bottas and third-placed McLaren man Lando Norris.

But Wolff, despite describing himself as "a sceptical person, cup is half empty rather than half full", tried to look at the positives.

"First of all, the result looked worse than it was in terms of pace," he told Sky Sports. "We were stuck behind the McLaren.

"In terms of pace, we probably could have been there, maybe not enough to win the race but right there, which is a step forward.

"The damage occurred at Turn 10, over the kerb; I don't think he was particularly running too hard over the kerb – it was just the part that fell away.

"We looked at the loads and they were the same as in the laps before, so we need to find out why that happened.

"So, overall, damage limitation? Maybe. I think we're going to go to Silverstone, blow everybody away, finish one-two, 30 seconds in advance of everyone else."

He added: "We're one DNF away from being right there in the constructors' and in the drivers' championship, so this is far from over."

This was not the result Hamilton – still two victories shy of a landmark 100 – would have wanted to celebrate his new two-year contract.

But Wolff said: "The morale is good, but we have to be working on these feelings actively.

 

"If you come from a run of seven world championship titles, everything looks like a defeat, whatever result you have. I think this is a switch in mindset we have to achieve now.

"Today we finished second and fourth, it's not the end of the world. You see how happy the McLaren guys are about their position [P3] and I think we have to just recognise this is a tough, tough championship.

"This is the Formula One world championship and you can't expect every year to cruise away in the sunset.

"We will make everything that's needed to not make Red Bull do exactly that."

Perhaps Hamilton himself could use a more optimistic outlook, rueing "a lot of damage" despite insisting he "wasn't going over the kerb any more than anyone else".

"There were a lot of points lost today," Hamilton said, adding: "I would have been second. I was in second when all of a sudden it obviously broke.

"It would have been an easy second generally, but obviously not able to catch up with the guys ahead."

A home race for the seven-time champion at Silverstone is up next, but Hamilton said: "We're miles away from [Red Bull], so we've got a lot of work to do.

"We need all hands on deck, which I know there already are. They brought a lot of upgrades, clearly, over these last few races, and we haven't brought any.

"We've got to find as much performance as possible, otherwise this will be the result most often."

Lewis Hamilton has confirmed he has held "positive" talks with Mercedes over his future.

Speculation surrounded Hamilton for the majority of the 2020 Formula One season as he won a record-equalling seventh drivers' championship.

The Briton returned to Mercedes for this campaign but only signed a one-year deal, meaning he is again out of contract at the end of the year.

Hamilton is engaged in a gripping title tussle with Max Verstappen, who leads the championship for the first time in his career.

P7, P15 and P2 finishes across the past three races have opened up a 12-point gap at the summit.

Only in 2016 (five, twice) has Hamilton gone longer without a victory since 2014, but the Silver Arrows remain keen to keep their prized asset on board.

"[There is] not a lot to say too much on, but we have had discussions and things are positive," said Hamilton ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix.

 

Should he wish to commit to Mercedes, Hamilton is assured of a seat, having claimed 98 wins and 100 poles in his F1 career – two records.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas is less secure, with Mercedes' team principal openly discussing the option of promoting George Russell.

But Hamilton said: "Valtteri is my team-mate now. Both of us have had ups and downs in our careers, but he is a fantastic team-mate and I don't necessarily see that it needs to change.

"We have worked well for many years. Valtteri has been my best team-mate overall, and when I say team-mate it's not just driver performance, it's about team morale and how you work in the team-mate environment."

On Russell, who drove for Mercedes in Hamilton's place late last season, the reigning champion added: "He's not my team-mate currently, so [there is] no need to say anything on it."

Toto Wolff insisted Mercedes had to pit Valtteri Bottas first at the French Grand Prix and allow Red Bull to set up Max Verstappen for a stunning undercut.

After an early Verstappen error, the championship leader was running in third, between two Silver Arrows.

Lewis Hamilton led, with Bottas back in third, but Mercedes team principal Wolff explained the Finn had issues with his tyres that meant he had to head for the pit lane.

That call prompted Verstappen to pit next and he enjoyed an out lap described by Wolff as "phenomenal" while Hamilton followed him in and narrowly lost the lead.

Red Bull took a further risk by bringing Verstappen in a second time to attack the Mercedes pair on fresh medium tyres, but the first stop proved pivotal, accommodating that bold two-stop strategy.

Verstappen won the race, with runner-up Hamilton a fraction under three seconds behind him.

Wolff pondered if Mercedes had "misjudged" the undercut and added it was "something to improve".

However, he told Sky Sports: "We knew we were going to trigger the stops too early, but we had no choice."

Wolff said: "It went back and forward. We were in the lead because Max made the mistake, so that was a bit inherited.

"Then our pace was good, probably a little bit of a margin even. But then we had just about three seconds gap for the undercut, to protect the undercut, but it wasn't enough.

"We were lacking a second. Somewhere we lost it."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner added: "I think it's been a great race. You can see how close it is.

"It's been a great win for us today, but you've only got to look how tight it is between the two teams. It's going to be nip and tuck all the way through this championship, but we're going to be very happy leaving here.

"I think I'm visibly ageing with each grand prix, but we'll give Toto a few grey hairs by the end of the year as well."

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would like to see team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner don boxing gloves to settle their differences.

Hamilton and Verstappen are engaged in a title tussle in Formula One but have so far maintained pleasantries off the track in front of the media.

The same cannot be said for Mercedes chief Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Horner.

When Horner this week suggested his opposite number "keep [his] mouth shut" as the Silver Arrows struggled in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Wolff fired back that the Red Bull boss was "a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera".

For Hamilton, who qualified in second, and Verstappen, in third, the row was the source of some amusement in Baku on Saturday.

"We should get them in a ring," Hamilton offered.

Verstappen added: "Yeah, but I think the weight division is a bit of a problem. In the height, the reach...

"I mean I'm all for a ring anyway, even in Formula One – instead of penalties!"

Pressed for further comment, Verstappen said: "It's Formula One. There are a lot of stakes involved so everyone wants to win, everyone is competitive.

"I guess it's just a natural thing and it's good for people to read, right? A bit of fire behind it."

Hamilton said: "Naturally, they're the two top leaders of the teams and they've both contributed hugely to the success of both teams.

"[They are] great leaders and of course they're head to head because we are head to head in this tight battle. We generally just like to do our talking on the track, so we're just keeping our heads down."

Hamilton did just that in qualifying, although he had not anticipated such a competitive display.

The defending champion was seventh in FP1, 11th in FP2 and "still pretty much a disaster" in third in FP3.

However, Hamilton was only denied a 101st career pole by Charles Leclerc, who again profited from a late red flag – this time caused by an incident involving team-mate Carlos Sainz, having himself crashed last time out.

"Honestly, it's one of the greatest feelings for us, for the difficult experience we've gone through and being out of the top 10 all weekend and really struggling to understand and extract performance from our car," Hamilton said.

"It feels fantastic. Congratulations to Charles, who did a fantastic job given the difficult circumstances out there.

"Yeah, it's just a bit overwhelming, really happy to be up here, grateful to have got the lap in, and it puts us in for a much different race than we anticipated after yesterday."

Verstappen was less impressed by how qualifying panned out, bemoaning "all this s*** all the time happening" when the session was cut short.

With Red Bull concurrently leading both the drivers' championship and the constructors' championship for the first time since 2013, Verstappen is looking for the first back-to-back wins of his career.

Not since the Hybrid Era began in 2014 have his team had two victories in a row.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris, a distant third in the standings, will start from P9 due to a three-place grid penalty.

Norris, who has earned points at a career-best 10 consecutive races, qualified in sixth but was deemed to have continued on the track under one of the session's record-equalling four red flags.

Romain Grosjean will return to the cockpit of a Formula One car for the first time since his horrific accident at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix when he takes part in testing for Mercedes next month.

Grosjean, 35, remarkably walked away from a shocking crash in November last year when his Haas car was split in two and caught fire after smashing through barriers on the opening lap of the race.

The Frenchman spent another 27 seconds in the vehicle after the crash and was left with severe burns to his hands, though that was the extent of his injuries.

It proved to be his final race, as he missed the final two events of the season and his departure from Haas had already been confirmed.

Since leaving, Grosjean has started competing in the IndyCar series, however he will be back momentarily in F1 for the French Grand Prix at the end of June, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff inviting Grosjean to take part in a specially arranged testing session, plus pre-race demo laps.

A Mercedes statement read: "In an emotional return to Formula One, Romain Grosjean will turn the wheel of an F1 car for the first time since his dramatic accident at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, when he drives Lewis Hamilton's world championship-winning W10 at the Circuit Paul Ricard next month.

"In the aftermath of his accident, Toto Wolff made a commitment to Romain that his crash would not be his final act in F1.

"True to his word, Toto invited Romain to the Mercedes F1 base in Brackley on March 30 to undergo a seat fit and spend time on the team's simulator in preparation for a specially organised test at the Frenchman's home circuit on June 29 – seven months to the day since his accident.

"He will also take part in a series of demo laps ahead of the French Grand Prix on Sunday 27 June."

Grosjean thanked Mercedes and Wolff for the opportunity to drive at his home track.

"I am so excited to jump back in an F1 car! It will be a special opportunity for me and to drive a world championship-winning Mercedes will be a unique experience," he said.

"I'm very grateful to Mercedes F1 and to Toto for the opportunity. The first I heard about the chance to drive a Mercedes was in my hospital bed in Bahrain when Toto was speaking to the media and made the invitation. Reading that news cheered me up a lot!

"F1 didn't get the chance to race in France during 2020 because of COVID so driving a Mercedes at the French Grand Prix in 2021 and then completing a test at the Circuit Paul Ricard, my home track, will be so special. I can't wait for the day to arrive."

Lewis Hamilton also paid tribute to Grosjean but could not resist a quip about letting him behind the wheel of his car.

"I'm really happy to see Romain back in an F1 car after his accident last year," the seven-time champion added. "When it happened, we were all praying for him and seeing him walk away from it and recover so well was a massive relief.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him again in France and welcoming him to the team for the weekend – although he better look after my W10!"

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