Mika Hakkinen believes that Max Verstappen secured victory at the Mexico City Grand Prix when he made a "strong and confident manoeuvre" at the first corner of the race.
The Red Bull driver extended his lead in the Drivers' standings to 19 points over Lewis Hamilton thanks to a stellar performance at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Although Verstappen started the race in P3, he wasted no time in moving past the seven-time World Champion and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas. Hakkinen thinks that Verstappen's early overtake was key to him driving into the distance.
"Max won the race at the first corner, using the racing line to brake as late a possible and turn across the two Mercedes," Hakkinen wrote in his column for Unibet. "It was a very strong, confident manoeuvre, and with Valtteri being knocked into a spin by Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, it meant that Lewis had to fight against the two Red Bulls.
"While Max drove into the distance, Sergio Perez was able to use the pace of his Red Bull together with a late pit-stop for fresh tyres, to put pressure on Lewis in the final laps.
"It was fantastic for the Mexican crowd, and although Lewis was never really in trouble, it underlined Red Bull’s advantage at this circuit. Lewis did well to finish second. This was all about damage limitation."
Brazil should suit Verstappen and Red Bull
Although Hakkinen expects Verstappen and Red Bull to have the advantage over Hamilton and Mercedes at this weekend's race in Brazil, the two-time World Champion thinks that nothing has been decided in the fight for this year's title.
He added: "There is no doubt that Max’s victory has given him a strong lead in the World Championship with only four races remaining.
"But in my opinion, a lot can still happen in this battle between Red Bull and Mercedes. While the next Grand Prix in Brazil should again suit Max’s car, Lewis Hamilton won at Interlagos in 2016 and 2018.
"Red Bull have shown a small but important pace advantage, however I am certain that next four races will produce surprises. This is when the psychology of the driver and his team will become important.
"When everything is going well it can start to feel easy, but it’s when something goes wrong that championship-winners show just how good they are."
F1 Podcast: Should Mercedes worry after Verstappen's untouchable performance in Mexico?
It's time for the latest episode of the RacingNews365 podcast, with F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discuss Max Verstappen's dominant victory and much, much more from the Mexico City Grand Prix.