Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas talk about their late fastest lap game in F1 Mexico GP, as Toto Wolff and Christian Horner add on.
The drama between Mercedes and Red Bull continued on until the end of the F1 Mexico GP, where the former decided to pit Bottas for the fastest lap to take it away from the latter’s Verstappen. It so happened that the Finn came out right behind him from the pits.
The Dutchman kind of played the game – seemingly – to not allow Bottas to take the fastest lap. The Finn did overtake him to unlap him, but was cleared by the Dutchman again after blue flags were shown to him. That attempt at fastest lap failed then.
Mercedes pitted Bottas again and this time waited for a clearer gap for a final lap attempt. It was a success eventually. Even though the Finn and the team weren’t to gain anything from it as he was outside the Top 10, it did take it away from Red Bull and Verstappen.
If it didn’t affect as much on the drivers’ standings immediately, it did put Red Bull one point behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship where they were to tie, had Verstappen retained the fastest lap until the end of the race.
Verstappen was calm about the situation, though. “I mean I can understand, of course, they go for the fastest lap,” he said. “So, the first time it didn’t work out but we played it safe, I think. We were side by side but it was all good. We lost a lot of time but it was alright, to be honest, for me.
“I know Valtteri, he’s a clean driver anyway and I never was in doubt that something would happen,” he added, while acknowledging the games played around. For Bottas even, it wasn’t too bad, even though he agreed that it was a bit of a mess.
“It was difficult to find a good traffic window for the fastest lap and in the end it worked with George as I got DRS from him and I had DRS after Turn 3 as well, but it was all about finding a gap,” said Bottas when speaking to written media. “It was fine as the team told me that I can overtake [Verstappen] if I am faster, but then I lost it again, it was bit messy but [fine].”
On the team side, it did get a bit nervy, especially for Red Bull who are the chasing pack. “It certainly didn’t help our blood pressure on the pit wall,” said Horner to written media. “Obviously there was a little bit of playing around, because Max was keen to retain the fastest lap.
“So therefore he was trying to use the blue flag to ensure that Valtteri Bottas gave way to him, and then Mercedes pitted him out of the way. We weren’t going to do the same with Max Verstappen, obviously. It was a little bit of gamesmanship again, haggling over that final point, which we didn’t want to get too drawn into.”
Meanwhile, his counterpart initially called it ‘games-ship’ but quickly noted it to be ‘playing around’. “It was a bit of games-ship there, no it was a bit of playing around,” he said to written media. Max was aware that Valtteri was going for quickest lap and he then slowed him down, which is absolutely on, he can do that. So we went for another set, and this time in free air grabbed that fastest lap back. By the way, I didn’t mean gameship, I meant playing around.”
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Here’s Lewis Hamilton clarifying for Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez
Here’s Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Toto Wolff, Valtteri Bottas and Christian Horner on Turn 1