Mercedes boss Toto Wolff held his hands up and admitted that Red Bull were comfortably the better team during the Mexican GP.
Red Bull signed off after practice in Mexico with a comfortable buffer over Mercedes, but it was the German outfit which claimed a shock front-row lockout, headed by Valtteri Bottas.
But Max Verstappen would undo the damage for Red Bull at the start, taking the lead and never looking back, leaving title rival Lewis Hamilton unable to find an answer as Verstappen took a comfortable win.
For Bottas on the other side of the Mercedes garage it was disaster after being spun out at Turn 1 following a nudge from McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, with P15 proving his ultimate finishing position.
Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 19 points in the Drivers’ standings, and Wolff was not about to make any defence for Mercedes, instead admitting that Red Bull were just on a whole other level.
“You have to congratulate Red Bull because the pace was just on another level,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“I don’t think we could have won the race even if we would have stayed ahead in the first corner, because they could have driven circles around us around the pit stops.
“So at the end I think for Lewis’ championship it was damage limitation, as for the Constructors’ Valtteri spinning at Turn 1 was just very painful.”
Verstappen made his way around the outside of Bottas into the first turn, so asked if that much space should have been afforded to the Dutchman, Wolff replied: “Yeah…that should not happen, I think we had two cars in front and seemed to open up the sea for Max to come around the outside.
“And even so the spin afterwards, then 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.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 7, 2021
Bottas did at least set the fastest lap of the race, denying Verstappen that honour and keeping Mercedes ahead in the Constructors’ standings by one point.
However, that was of little consolation to Wolff.
“Yeah, that doesn’t really console me at that stage,” he said.
“You see that for a single lap we have the pace in the car, or at least to take quickest lap away from Max, but still overall it’s a day to forget for us.”
Asked why the pace swung so drastically back in Red Bull’s favour on race day, Wolff responded: “I don’t know what they did wrong yesterday [in] qualifying and what went towards us, but that is the pace that we’ve seen on Friday.
“Worse than we had hoped, but you have to take it on the chin.
“We need to look at the positives, first of all Lewis I think drove a brilliant race with the equipment that he was given, to really hold on the way he did to P2.
“Because Checo was fast on Friday, so that is really the highlight for me today.
“Now it’s just about picking ourselves up, it’s just one week to go.”
Wolff refers to the Sao Paulo Grand Prix next weekend at an Interlagos track where Verstappen was victorious in the last visit in 2019.
Therefore, Wolff is desperate to “break the pattern” and ensure Mercedes return to the summit.
“I hope we can break the pattern because it was a Red Bull track, but we are going to give it all we have and try to fight back,” said Wolff of Mercedes’ chances in Brazil.
“There is another three [rounds] then coming.”