Lewis Hamilton says being able to keep up with Max Verstappen in the first stint of the Mexico City Grand Prix and hold off Sergio Perez for second place is a clear sign of Mercedes’s progress this year.
Mercedes started the season comfortably off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari with a challenging car, suffering from bottoming and porpoising issues. As the season has progressed, the gap has been closed gradually and after Hamilton came close to winning in Austin he was also able to put pressure on Verstappen in the first part of the race in Mexico before tire strategy saw his challenge fade.
“I’m really happy to be up here and to be able to split the Red Bulls, I think, is a huge result for us,” Hamilton said. “Brought an upgrade into the last race and to have kind-of closed the gap a little bit – they still have the edge I think – but I think it was amazing for us to be fighting in qualifying and have the second and third.
“I was speaking in strategy about us taking a risk with one of the cars, at least doing something different. I had a gut feeling that they would be on the soft to start with and when everyone took their blankets off, everyone around us was on the softs and we’re on the mediums. At that moment. I thought that we may be in trouble.
“But then again, it’s a long, long race, so I thought maybe they’ll be on a two-stop. But that medium tyre just had no drop-off. So ultimately, I think they were on the right tire strategy. But I am grateful I was able to just about keep up within that first stint. That’s huge, to be able to keep up with a Red Bull.”
And Hamilton is hopeful the form can continue to Brazil, having seen Mercedes threatening to win in each of the last two races after introducing new parts at Circuit of the Americas.
“So many positives to take from this weekend. And this is definitely the most competitive and the best the car has felt all year – and that is truly down to the amazing work from all the women and men back at the factory, who have just been doing such an amazing job. And not giving up.
“I think it’s just been a real showing of resilience, and perseverance. And I’m so happy to be kind-of back in that fight. We saw in the last race, almost having a chance to win. And I don’t know what the car will be like in these next races. I’m hoping in Brazil, something special may come of it. But we’ll see.”