F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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A member of the Mercedes team believes Red Bull rival Max Verstappen’s victory at the Mexican Grand Prix last weekend was a lucky one, as he continues to pull away from Lewis Hamilton in the drivers standings.
Despite starting third behind both Mercedes men Hamilton and Valterri Bottas, the Dutchman managed to capitalise on turn one of the race and edge his way past the pair on the way to a comfortable victory in the Mexican capital.
At Turn 1 of the opening lap, Verstappen took the outside line on the lengthy run to the first corner and broke later than race leader Bottas, which allowed him to pull away early on, leaving both the Finn and Hamilton in his tracks.
Following the race, Mercedes boss Totto Wolff criticised his drivers for ‘leaving the door open’ for the Dutchman, whilst Red Bull principal Christian Horner insisted Verstappen’s move was a ‘rehearsed’ one.
Despite Horner’s claims, Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles believes there was nothing pre-planned about Verstappen’s early move, and instead implied it was a moment of luck.
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In the team’s regular post-race debrief, he said: “If you saw Verstappen’s comments afterwards it is quite clear he was going in there guessing and hoping for the best and it worked out for him.”
The early moves of race leader Bottas suggested that the Finn was potentially opting to let through teammate Hamilton for him to take the lead, as he looked to strengthen his chances in the title race against Verstappen.
However, this opening was instead capitalised on by the Red Bull driver, and Vowles believes this was down to the positioning of the Mercedes drivers.
He added: “Verstappen’s start being good meant he was alongside Valtteri very, very quickly. The result of that is they ended up three wide incredibly quickly and early on during the rundown to Turn 1.
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“Now it was just a question of braking. Valtteri wasn’t on the optimal line, nor was Lewis.
“The grip on the right-hand side of the circuit is slightly worse than where Verstappen was on the racing line.
“Even so, the differences in braking should have been a few metres, not perhaps the difference that you saw, ultimately the drivers braked where they thought they could.”
Mercedes and Bottas were then dealt yet another huge blow immediately after, as the Finn was hit by Daniel Ricciardo at the exit of turn one.
And Vowles continued: ”We ended up losing out there as a result of it and more so as we went into it, as you saw.
“Other cars perhaps locking up, Ricciardo being one of them, contact happened and Valtteri got taken out and pushed to the back of the [field].”
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