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The battle for fastest lap: How Bottas managed to deny Verstappen – and how the Dutchman tried to stop him

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Max Verstappen cruised to a relatively comfortable victory in Mexico City on Sunday, but the Dutchman didn't quite have it all his own way as Valtteri Bottas managed to set the fastest lap at the very end of the race, thus depriving Verstappen of the extra point.

But even that wasn't as straightforward as simply pitting Bottas for fresh tyres and sending him back out. Here's how Mark Hughes explained it in his Monday Morning Debrief piece:

"Bottas’ role after he’d not been able to make much progress through the pack, stuck behind Ricciardo for much of the way, was to deprive Verstappen of the race’s fastest lap and the point that goes with it. Bottas, being outside the top 10, would not be eligible for the point, but it would still deny Verstappen.

"He was brought in for his one remaining set of fresh soft tyres on Lap 66. He rejoined a lap down, just ahead of Verstappen and was obliged to let the Red Bull past. Verstappen clearly understood the implication of what Bottas was attempting to do and on the following lap backed off by 3s, baulking the Mercedes and preventing it doing a quick lap.

"Bottas then slipstreamed past the Red Bull to unlap himself – with Verstappen then speeding up once more, closing up and triggering blue flags for Bottas, obliging him to lift and thereby ruining that lap too.

"At this point Mercedes brought Bottas in for a fourth stop to find him a clear space on track. He was held for 5s before being released, just ahead of George Russell’s Williams.

"He allowed Russell past just before the stadium section, so as to closely follow him past the DRS detection point, thereby allowing him to get DRS for the beginning of his final lap. This worked perfectly and Bottas’ fastest lap of 1m 17.774s beat Verstappen’s by over 1.2s."

So both Mercedes and Verstappen went to great lengths over a single point – which shows just how tight the championship is this year. Hit play in the video up top to see how it all played out.

READ MORE: The Ross Brawn Column – Why Verstappen’s Mexico performance reminded me of Michael Schumacher

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