Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull’s performance during qualifying wasn’t a true representation of their pace over the weekend, admitting Mercedes had nothing extra in their tank to fight off their rivals during the Mexican Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were tangled up in a bizarre incident with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda during qualifying, with the Dutchman setting the third-fastest time.
Tsunoda found himself in a tricky situation in the final part of the session, after being instructed to give his team-mate Pierre Gasly a tow around the circuit.
But the young Japanese driver was then informed that Red Bull’s Perez was closing in behind him on a fast lap and knew he had to get out of the Mexican’s way.
Tsunoda, with limited options, decided to leave the track, kicking up dust in his haste to give the Red Bull driver room.
But Perez made a mistake and ran wide, perhaps distracted by a car off the track, hampering his lap and settling for fourth.
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His team-mate and championship leader Verstappen was also caught up in the incident, admitting he had to slow down as he wasn’t entirely sure if there had been an accident.
As a result, Verstappen finished two-tenths behind Hamilton in second, yet in the race, the Red Bull’s pace seemed unstoppable compared with the Mercedes.
Verstappen took victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with Hamilton in second and Perez finishing third in front of an elated home crowd.
“I think they made a mistake in qualifying because we didn’t get any faster,” said Hamilton speaking to Sky Sports F1.
“So I think they just messed it up with tyres or something.
“I started second and finished in second, so I can’t complain. I got a really good start, and I feel like I maximised what I had.
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“But geez, their pace was just unbelievable today. And it was nothing that I could do to battle that.
“And when you’ve got Checo on your tail, then you know the car is quick.”
Verstappen now takes a 19 point lead into the Brazillian Grand Prix next weekend with Qatar the week after in an action-packed tripleheader.
Then Formula One heads to Saudi Arabia before the season finale in Abu Dhabi in mid-December.
And with 107 points still up for grabs, Hamilton knows anything can still happen.
“We’ve got four races to go, and we have to keep pushing,” added Hamilton. “I don’t know where this performance has come from today but they were half a second quicker a lap, which is what we saw earlier on the weekend.
So yeah, all I can do is just keep trying to squeeze everything out of this car. They clearly have the stronger car.
“So I think what I can do is just try to make sure that we just don’t leave any stone unturned and we maximise from what we have and give it my all.”