Max Verstappen has criticised Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff post-race comments about Valtteri Bottas after the Mexico City Grand Prix.

Mercedes had unexpectedly locked out the front row at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez after Red Bull made a hash of the final part of qualifying, giving the Brackley-based team a much-needed opportunity to claw back some of the 12-point deficit Hamilton faced in the Drivers’ Championship at lights out.

The run to turn one at the Mexican circuit is a whopping 1.2 kilometres, and the Mercedes plan was to have Bottas, starting first, tow Hamilton along in second place with slipstream into the opening corner before allowing the Briton to the lead, giving him s great shot at the race win.

Bottas made a dreadful start, though, his wheels spinning on launch and the car bogging down on the slippery track surface. That meant Hamilton was unable to follow behind in the slipstream, giving that advantage to Verstappen who had started third. All three cars were then side-by-side into the first corner, with Bottas leaving a big gap on the racing line which the Red Bull was able to exploit and take the lead.

In the aftermath, Wolff heaped blamed on the Finn. “That should not happen,” the Austrian told Sky Sports after the race. “We had two cars in front and seemed to open up the scene for Max to come around the outside. And even the spin afterwards, and the complete loss of points with Valtteri’s car when there could have been a third or fourth place is annoying, to say the least.”

Hamilton was also critical of his teammate, a rare show of frustration with a colleague who has so often played a support role in the Briton’s title challenges.

“I envisaged the start differently in the sense that Valtteri would get a better start and I would try to get into his tow,” Hamilton explained. “I was covering my side of the track and making sure that nobody could come up the inside and try to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind. I thought Valtteri would be doing the same, but obviously he left the door open for Max. Max was on the racing line and did an amazing job braking into turn one. I was on the inside and there was no opening.”

Verstappen, though, believes Wolff was unfairly making a scapegoat of his driver. “You have to leave a car width of space, otherwise he would have got a penalty,” the 24-year-old said. “I don’t really know what Toto is talking about. You can very easily blame it on Valtteri, but I think that’s very cheap.”

The Dutchman now leads the standings by 19 points with four races remaining, but is taking nothing for granted. “Yes, nineteen points is a lot, but that lead can quickly evaporate,” he added. “I know all about that this season.”

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