Sitting in his car, race winner Max Verstappen was lifted onto the podium for the award ceremony after the Formula 1 race in Mexico. The Dutchman was able to particularly enjoy the unique atmosphere in the stadium at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after this gala performance.
After a show of force including a maneuver of madness after the start, the first world title for the 24-year-old is getting closer and closer. The lead over Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship standings is now 19 points.
“It’s just unbelievable,” says Verstappen to the thunderous cheers of the audience. Although they primarily cheered on their national hero Sergio Perez, this didn’t detract from Verstappen’s admiration. “Of course it’s great when you have Checo as a team-mate and then come to Mexico. But even before that, the fans here were always incredible. They just love Formula 1,” he said, impressed.
Verstappen’s start causes astonishment
After his eighth win of the season and above all the way it came about, Verstappen had no problem playing second fiddle to Perez at the celebrations after the race. His team-mate was voted driver of the day by the fans, but it was mainly Verstappen’s performance that should stick after this race.
After qualifying he was still defeated, but in the end third place turned out to be the perfect starting position. After a good start from the clean side, he used the slipstream of pole setter Valtteri Bottas to sit next to the Finns before turn one . With an ultra-late braking maneuver on the outside lane, he took the lead from Lewis Hamilton – and never gave it up.
“It was really nice to have three cars next to each other, and it was just about braking as late as possible,” said Verstappen, describing the events at the start. “I stayed on the track and was able to move up from third to one. That was decisive for my race because after that I was able to focus entirely on myself,” Verstappen continues.
With this maneuver, he caused astonishment among his superiors in the team. “It was a perfect day and it was unbelievable where Max braked,” says motorsport consultant Helmut Marko at “Sky”. The action was “beyond good and evil”.
Verstappen explains: That’s why the flank was an advantage
Team boss Christian Horner couldn’t believe his eyes either. “He got off to a perfect start. He found the space, so I was a bit surprised that they gave him that,” says Horner, looking at the Mercedes drivers and particularly praised Bottas’ fairness, who filled the gap let.
Horner firmly expected that Verstappen would miss the curve. “But he did it and from then on he controlled the race,” says Horner.
Verstappen explains that the start was a mix of luck in positioning and taking advantage of the right line. “You can’t predict the start because you’re either left, in the middle or right, depending on what happens. But when I was outside, I was on the racing line and knew exactly where to brake,” he says.
Horner: Verstappen tried this start
Because on the clean outer lane he had more grip available. “The cars inside drive in the dirt and can never brake as late as the car outside. I knew that I braked absolutely at the limit, you could also see that I was close to the white line. If anyone inside had braked later, if he would have strayed from the track, “he is sure.
Even if he couldn’t plan the development of the start up to the first corner, he already had this outcome in the back of his mind. “When he drove out of the pits, he braked right there. He had almost practiced in his mind what he was going to do,” says Horner full of admiration.
Thanks to the “incredible pace” of his Red Bull, Verstappen pulled up and away after the subsequent safety car phase due to the turmoil behind him. For a long time it looked as if he could also drive the fastest race lap and get the additional point. But Valtteri Bottas took this away from him shortly before the end of the race. The Finn needed two new sets of tires for this, because Verstappen ruined his first attempt.
Games with Bottas remain unrewarded
In a performance so seldom seen before, Verstappen waited for the lapped Finn at the end of Bottas’ fast lap and stopped him in the last sector. He let Bottas pass, but since he was picking up the pace again, there were blue flags and Bottas had to take off the gas. Verstappen lost around three seconds to this show, but it didn’t hurt him.
At Red Bull, they weren’t really enthusiastic about the campaign. Marko was enthusiastic about the “capacities” that his number one driver still has free in addition to driving. Because Verstappen always gave strategic tips during the race.
But the game with Bottas was too risky. “He should stay out of it. The fastest lap is okay, but victory is the most important thing,” says Marko. Because there could have been a collision quickly. But Verstappen did not have these worries. “We played fair and were side by side. I wasn’t afraid that anything would happen,” he said.