“It was a great move and it could be a defining moment in this championship,” suggests Sky F1’s Jenson Button of the overtake that took Verstappen from third to the lead in Mexico – and set up a runaway victory which increases his championship lead to 19 points with four races to go
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/11/21 12:28am
Karun Chandhok was at the Skypad to review all the major talking points from the Mexico City GP, including Max Verstappen’s pivotal move to take the lead on the opening corner
Max Verstappen said it was “crucial” he overtook the Mercedes cars at the start of Sunday’s Mexico City GP as he reflected on a victory that edged him further away from Lewis Hamilton in the duel for F1’s world title.
In a start-line move that Sky Sports F1’s Jenson Button said could prove to be “defining” in the final weeks of this year’s championship, Verstappen went three-abreast with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on the long slipstream-friendly run to the circuit’s first corner – and brilliantly emerged ahead.
Verstappen went on to win at a canter ahead of Hamilton to extend his championship lead and told Sky F1: “It was crucial to get that start sorted and get them into Turn One.
“I never thought about it too much. I just said to myself ‘let’s see what happens’.
“Once we went three wide I knew on the outside exactly where I wanted to brake. I also knew if the guys tried to copy where I was braking they were not going to make the corner.”
Button, the 2009 world champion, was impressed with the move – and believes it could prove to be significant in the season’s final outcome over the next month.
“It was a brave, brave move around the outside of the Mercedes’,” said Button.
“He knew where to brake, he’d been braking there all through the weekend, and it was a lot easier on the racing line.
“But he had the confidence to turn in and know they were not going to tap him on the rear. It was a great move and it could be a defining moment in this championship.”
Red Bull chief Christian Horner said it had been a “massive day” for his team.
“A fantastic drive by Max,” said Horner. “The most important part was the start. He nailed the start.
“He found himself a bit of space which I was surprised they gave him the room [for], but I have to say Valtteri was very fair. 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.”
Second row proved a ‘blessing’ for Red Bull
“Yesterday it was a bit of a surprise and it felt like we underperformed,” added Horner, whose team had been front-row favourites on Saturday but were suddenly outpaced by Mercedes in qualifying.
“But then actually it was almost a blessing because had we been on the front row ironically we would have been a sitting duck down to turn one. So it worked out pretty well for us.”
Following up on an impressive victory in the USA a fortnight ago with this one Mexico, Red Bull are now just a point behind Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship while Verstappen holds a 19-point advantage over Hamilton.
Next weekend takes the sport to South America and Brazil’s Interlagos circuit, a track where Verstappen won on F1’s last visit in 2019 and has often excelled.
But having seen a 33-point advantage wiped out in a matter of weeks earlier in the season, the Dutchman is not taking any comfort from his growing lead at this stage.
“I also know that it can disappear quickly this year,” he insisted. “I don’t think about it too much.
“I know that in Brazil we have to be there again, and it’s about little details because yesterday we didn’t nail it and you are behind on a track where we should be stronger.
“Brazil is going to be crucial again and I know there it’s going to be tight. The altitude is a bit higher but not as high as here, and they [Mercedes] have great straight-line speed and we need that in Brazil as well.”