Lewis Hamilton explained that an engine problem was partly to blame for his third-placed finish in qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix despite topping the timesheets in Q1 and Q2. The 37-year-old looked set to challenge for pole position at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but was ultimately beaten by Max Verstappen and fellow Mercedes driver George Russell with their final Q3 runs.
Hamilton complained of an issue with his power unit via team radio during the final minutes of qualifying, with the seven-time champion insisting that it was affecting the drivability of his Mercedes car as he attempted to clinch pole in Mexico City. He alluded to the problem when quizzed on his post-qualifying thoughts by Sky Sports F1 after the end of the session but was full of praise for his Mercedes colleagues, who have been working tirelessly to unlock some much-needed pace over the last few months.
“There are definitely positives from today, for us to be second and third I think is amazing,” said Hamilton. “The car has been feeling great this weekend. I had some problems with the engine in Q3, I’m not quite sure what it was but I definitely feel like there was quite a bit of time left on the table.
“Still, for us to be there and to be that close is amazing. Everyone back at the factor should be really, really proud. I just hope that we can race these guys tomorrow.
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“We have a Red Bull right behind me, or alongside me, so it’s going to be fighting them, Still they are the ones to beat, three-tenths ahead of us in qualifying. I don’t know where that time came from.
“There was a bit of time with the engine [problems in Q3], but not three-tenths. Hopefully, we can still put pressure on them with strategy.”
It remains to be seen whether Mercedes will be able to mastermind a long-awaited Grand Prix victory for either Hamilton or Russell when the five red lights go out on Sunday evening, with Verstappen the overwhelming favourite to claim the spoils over the course of the 71-lap contest. Toto Wolff was quick to highlight the progress made by the Silver Arrows in terms of improving their pace over the last few weeks, with the Mercedes boss insisting after Saturday’s qualifying session that they are slowly climbing their way back up the pecking order.
“They [Red Bull] were very good through the stadium, so we probably wouldn’t have made it anyway,” explained Wolff. “High-downforce configuration is where we are at our best. We brought an update that functions. Slowly but surely we are creeping back.
“The Red Bulls are [still] a little bit faster. If we were on pole they would have eaten us up on the straights, so we are in a better position.”
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