Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has been left questioning team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ actions at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix after he “left the door open” for Max Verstappen on the long run to Turn 1. Starting on pole, Bottas had a good opportunity to try and cover Verstappen into the first corner, who was starting in third on the grid.
Hamilton meanwhile had the added tricky task of starting on the dirty side of the grid but held on at the start to challenge his team-mate for the lead.
Yet Verstappen pulled off a sensational overtake, going round the outside of both of the battling Mercedes and slotted in front heading to Turn 2.
Bottas was then sandwiched further behind before being spun by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, rejoining in P18.
But Hamilton felt his team-mate could have done more to cover off the championship leader, who went on to extend his lead over the seven-time world champion in Mexico with victory at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
“I had envisaged it differently, naturally, in the sense that maybe Valtteri had got a better start and I would have tried to get into his tow,” Hamilton explained.
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“But I was alongside him which was good, and then I was just covering my side of the track trying to make sure that no-one could come up the inside.
“So I was trying to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind, and I thought Valtteri would be doing the same.
“But obviously, he left the door open for Max, and Max was on the racing line so did a mega job braking into Turn 1.
“Because I was on the inside on the dirt, there was no hope for me.”
Boss Toto Wolff was equally irked by the whole situation as Bottas cost the team valuable points despite the spin being out of his control.
“That should not happen,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “We had two cars in front and seemed to opened up the sea for Max to come around the outside.
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“The spin afterwards when there could have been a third or fourth place is annoying to say the least.
“Overall it’s a day to forget for us. But we have to take the positives, Lewis I thought drove a brilliant race with the equipment he was given, holding on in the way he did for P2.
“That is really the highlight for me today. Now it’s about picking ourselves up.”
“You have to congratulate Red Bull because the pace was just on another level.”
“I don’t think we could have won the race even if we had stayed ahead in the first corner because they could have driven circles around the pit-stops.
“So in the end I think for Lewis’ championship it was damage limitation, as for the constructor Valtteri spinning out Turn 1 was just very painful.
“I don’t know what they did wrong in qualifying and the pace came towards us, but this is the pace we’ve seen on Friday. It’s worse than we had hoped, but we have to take it on the chin.”
Verstappen has now established a 19 point lead over Hamilton in the driver standings, while Mercedes saw their Constructors’ Championship advantage over Red Bull narrowed to just a single-point after the result in Mexico.