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F1: Bold Verstappen takes huge stride towards first title


Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a huge stride towards a first Formula One title on Sunday by winning the Mexico City Grand Prix with a start that showed all his bravery, skill and aggression.

With four races remaining, the 24-year-old Dutch driver surged 19 points clear of Mercedes seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Running three abreast on the long run down to the first corner, Verstappen displayed precision and nerves of steel as he braked late and took the two Mercedes cars around the outside to seize the lead.

“I knew the start was going to be really important and we went three wide towards turn one and it was all about who was going to brake the latest,” said the 24-year-old, who started third on the grid.

“Basically that made my race because after that I could just do my own pace and control it from there.

“There was not much they could do. They were already side by side and I just went three wide,” added Verstappen, who now has nine wins for the season to Hamilton’s five.

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He took the chequered flag a hefty 16.555 seconds clear of Hamilton, who was only 1.197 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s local hero Sergio Perez and might have lost a place had they gone another lap.

The points haul left resurgent Red Bull just one point behind defending champion Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.

They would have been equal had Valtteri Bottas not snatched the fastest lap from Verstappen right at the end, denying Red Bull the bonus point.

“Today’s been a massive day, a fantastic drive by Max. The most important part was the start. He nailed the start,” said team boss Christian Horner.

“I thought Max had missed his braking because he was so late on the brakes at turn one but he made it stick and from there really controlled the race. It was a very straightforward race for him.”

Despite the points gain, Verstappen was still refusing to get carried away.

“There is a long way to go. Itโ€™s of course looking good but also it can turn around very quickly but Iโ€™m looking forward to Brazil (the next race),” he said. “I have also very good memories there.”

Hamilton says Red Bull were too fast for Mercedes

Hamilton said his Mercedes was no match for Verstappen’s Red Bull after his dream of a record eighth Formula One championship slipped further from his grasp.

“Their car was far superior this weekend and there was nothing we really could do about it,” Hamilton said.

The champion said he gave all he had, holding off Red Bull’s Sergio Perez at the finish with the Mexican chasing a team one-two.

Giving everything was still not enough, however, on a day when team mate Valtteri Bottas started on pole position but was hit and spun on the opening lap, ending up out of the points.

“I naturally feel I need to be winning every race, because we need those extra points, not to lose those points, to try and regain, that was the goal going into the last race and the race before that and before that and here this weekend,” said Hamilton.

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“But … theyโ€™re just too quick. So (we were) giving it absolutely everything weโ€™ve got but unfortunately itโ€™s not enough at the moment to compete with them.”

Verstappen has now won nine races to Hamilton’s five and the next, in Brazil, should also play to his car’s strengths before three final races in the Middle East.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said it had been a question of damage limitation for Hamilton in the championship race, and hailed the Briton for driving “a brilliant race with the equipment he was given”.

“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 would have stayed ahead in the first corner,” said the Austrian.

“As for the constructors’ (battle), Valtteri spinning out at turn was just very painful.

“It’s worse than we had hoped but you have to take it on the chin… overall it’s a day to forget for us.”

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