Max Verstappen believes he still had a chance to win the Mexican Grand Prix despite a grid penalty and difficult start, but was finally undone after contact with Valtteri Bottas.
The stewards gave Verstappen a three-place grid penalty after he set the fastest final sector on his pole lap in qualifying when there were yellow flags out after Bottas crashed, while Sebastian Vettel aborted his lap and Lewis Hamilton was so close behind he did not pass a yellow flag. In the race, Verstappen was forced wide by Hamilton at Turn 2 and lost positions, then picked up a puncture when overtaking Bottas in the stadium section and believes the latter incident is the one that ended his hopes.
“Everybody should do the same (and back off in qualifying) and I know Seb did the same but one silver car didn’t and he didn’t get a penalty and that annoys me as well,” Verstappen said. “But it is what it is, I can’t decide for other drivers about the rules. But the race was still on even from fourth, we had a good car but what happened in the first lap and then what happened after with Valtteri completely ruined the race.
“Lewis went around the outside into Turn 1 and then braked very deep into Turn 2, so I couldn’t stay there. I had to go off the track and then afterwards with Valtteri I went up the inside and when I was alongside him I saw I guess he didn’t see me so he was already turning in. Then he clipped me on my right rear.”
And team principal Christian Horner agreed with Verstappen, believing a victory got away from his team in Mexico.
“Even with a penalty after pole, he was racing hard with Lewis, they both got wide at Turn 2 and he had to take avoiding action so lost some ground but even then it was still game on,” Horner said.
“It was really the puncture with Valtteri that screwed his race today. Having to do a whole lap with a puncture, you could see his pace – I think when he came out he was two seconds a lap quicker than the leaders at that early stage. So I think it would have been quite a straightforward race for him today.”