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Hamilton - Bottas "left the door open" for Verstappen

Hamilton - Bottas "left the door open" for Verstappen

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Hamilton - Bottas "left the door open" for Verstappen

Hamilton - Bottas "left the door open" for Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas "left the door open" for Max Verstappen to make what proved to be the race-winning move of the Mexico City Grand Prix.

From the front row of the grid, polesitter Bottas and Hamilton made a strong start and on the second-longest run in F1 into a first corner, it initially appeared that from third on the grid Verstappen had nowhere to go.

Despite appearing to have the racing line covered into turn one, Bottas inexplicably moved over on the approach, allowing Verstappen to take full advantage, using the slipstream to slingshot around the Finn to his left and through the first corner with a superb piece of late braking.

Reflecting on the three-wide battle down the main straight into turn one, Hamilton said: "I'd envisaged it differently, naturally, in the sense that if Valtteri had maybe got a better start then I would have tried to get into his tow.

"But obviously I was alongside him, which was good, and then I was just covering my side of the track, making sure no-one could come up the inside. I was trying to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind.

"I thought Valtteri would be doing the same but obviously he left the door open for Max and Max was on the racing line, and he did a mega job braking into turn one.

"Because I’m on the inside and on the dirt, there was no hope for me."

Hamilton 'lives to fight another day'

Following the manoeuvre, Verstappen cantered off into a 16-second victory over Hamilton and what is now a 19-point lead in the drivers' championship with four grands prix remaining.

Other than being pressured late on by Red Bull's home hero Sergio Perez, the seven-time F1 champion described his race as "fairly lonely until the end".

Hamilton added: "Obviously [there was] not a lot that I could do really about the pace that Max was able to put in.

"I think they were close to half-a-second a lap [quicker], something like that, and I couldn’t really match that with also trying to manage the tyres.

"On Friday night we thought they would be two-tenths faster or something in the race but I think it was a little bit more.

'Then at the end, trying to keep the second Red Bull behind was difficult. I’m used to pressure so that wasn't the issue.

"It was just the last couple of laps, my tyres were falling off and so it was difficult and Sergio did a great job. They have clearly had some amazing pace.

"I’m just grateful I was able to stay in between them and get as many points as I could for the team. And we live to fight another day."

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