Lewis Hamilton was critical of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas for leaving the "door open" to Max Verstappen at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix as the reigning Formula 1® champion's hopes took another hit.
Mercedes locked out the front row for Sunday's race after Bottas claimed pole position ahead of Hamilton, but F1® championship leader and Red Bull star Verstappen reigned supreme.
Verstappen went from third to first following the opening turn as he claimed a 19th career win and ninth of the season by more than 16 seconds ahead of second-placed Hamilton.
Hamilton now trails Verstappen by 19 points at the summit of the drivers' championship with four races remaining.
"I had envisaged it differently, naturally, in the sense that maybe Valtteri had got a better start and I would have tried to get into his tow," Hamilton said.
"But I was alongside him which was good, and then I was just covering my side of the track trying to make sure that no-one could come up the inside.
"So I was trying to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind, and I thought Valtteri would be doing the same.
"But obviously, he left the door open for Max, and Max was on the racing line so did a mega job braking into Turn 1. Because I was on the inside on the dirt, there was no hope for me."
I left it all out there and sometimes that’s just not enough. We pick ourselves up, dig deeper than we ever have before, and keep on fighting. Ive got to wish Checo congrats — first Mexican driver to ever take podium at the Mexico GP. Push on, still we rise. pic.twitter.com/SpFlDZCivF— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 7, 2021
Bottas told Sky F1: "The start was OK, not too bad, but Verstappen got a bit of a tow and he braked really late.
"But then suddenly at the apex at Turn 1 I think Daniel [Ricciardo] hit me in the rear and right there I spun I couldn't do anything and then after that the race was tricky to make progress.
"I was too close to cars and managing engine and brakes so I could manage it until I was getting too close then it was not easy."
Despite Red Bull's pace and losing ground in the race to defend his crown, Hamilton insisted he is not giving up.
"I feel like I maximised what I had," Hamilton told Sky F1. "But jeez... their pace was just unbelievable today. There was nothing I could do to battle that."
"If they carry that pace into the next races then we might be in trouble," said Hamilton. "We've got four races to go and we just have to keep pushing.
"I don't know where this performance has come from today but they were half a second quicker than us a lap, which is what we saw earlier on in the weekend.
"All I can do is just squeeze everything out of this car. They clearly have a stronger car so I think all I can do is just make sure we don't leave any stone unturned and we just maximise all we have, and give it my all."