Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he had "envisaged" his race differently at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico. The Briton felt his teammate and polesitter Valtteri Bottas "left the door open" for his title rival Max Verstappen at the start of the race, which turned the tables for them.
Speaking after the race, the seven-time world champion said he had given everything he had and did not expect Red Bull Racing to recover from their Saturday qualifying form. While both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez botched their qualifying attempts due to Yuki Tsunoda’s spin, their pace and strong form at the Mexican circuit throughout the weekend was evident.
Despite grid positions favoring the Mercedes drivers, the tow into the first corner on the straight aided Verstappen in jumping both Bottas and Hamilton into the first turn. The Silver Arrows' woes were compounded further when Bottas was spun out by Ricciardo under braking, leaving Hamilton without a wingman and sandwiched between two Red Bull cars.
Lewis Hamilton expected Valtteri Bottas to have a better start at 2021 Mexican GP
Describing the start of the race, Hamilton told Formula1.com:
“I had envisaged it differently. Naturally, in the sense that Valtteri maybe got a better start and I would have tried to get into his tow but obviously I was alongside him, which was good.”
Explaining the events after the lights went out, Hamilton said:
“I was covering my side of the track, making sure that no one could come up the inside so was trying to keep whichever Red Bull I could see in my mirror behind. I thought Valtteri would be doing the same, but he left the door open for Max.”
Commenting on Verstappen’s electric start, Hamilton said:
“I thought Valtteri would be doing the same but he left the door open for Max. Max was on the racing line so did a mega job braking for Turn 1 and I was on the inside on the dirt and there was no hope for me.”
From there on, the race was a mostly processional affair, with tire strategies and pitstops deciding any change of positions. Despite his team instrumenting the undercut strategy, the Briton was unable to capitalize on it due to finding himself in traffic after rejoining the track.
Toward the end of the race, Hamilton trailed Verstappen by 16.5 seconds while being hounded by Sergio Perez, who kept up the pressure during the last few laps.
After starting third and fourth on the grid, Red Bull Racing not only had a double podium but are now just one point adrift of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. Meanwhile, Verstappen increased his lead over Hamilton in the drivers' standings to 19 points with four races left on the calendar.
Describing the rest of the race, Hamilton said:
“Their car was far superior this weekend and there was nothing we could really do about it. I gave it absolutely everything and even obviously a great fight with Sergio at the end, but I'm really grateful I was able to at least get second.”
Speaking of the battle towards the end of the race, Hamilton said:
“I feel positive in the sense that I had a good race. I did it with the car that I had and the car was not good today. "
Commenting on his battle with Perez, the Mercedes champion added:
“When you have Sergio behind you pushing you like that, you know the car is fast, so you know, I’m glad I was able to keep at least those two apart in terms of getting one-two for the team and we want to keep fighting.”
Looking ahead to the remaining races on the calendar, Hamilton said:
“They’ve had the fastest car most of the year so it’s not a surprise. I wish we were quicker this weekend but today, we were a long way off, so I don’t really understand that, but we’ll go back to the drawing board and try and come back next week stronger.”
Explaining his rivals' progress and the championship, the Briton said:
"There’s still four races, 19 points is a lot of points and that’s his ninth win [of the year] so he’s [Verstappen] had a lot of wins this year.”
Hamilton analyzed the goings-on in Mexico and projected his expectations for the next few races, saying:
“With their superior speed [in Mexico], if they were to carry them into the next ones, then we may be in trouble, or we will be in trouble, but I don’t know if they’ll be using that huge wing they had on today. Naturally, we’ll find out when we get there. But I hope we’re closer.”
In theory, the Red Bull hasn’t been all that superior to the Mercedes, and their performances have been equally matched throughout the year. However, the Mexico circuit was one of the circuits where the former was expected to perform better than the latter due to the low-air density and layout of the circuit.
The teams head to Interlagos for the Brazilian GP this weekend, which mark the end of F1's tour of the Americas before the circus heads to the Middle East for the inaugural Qatar GP. The Interlagos circuit is also one that has favored Verstappen and Red Bull Racing in the past while the Losail circuit will be a neutral circuit for both teams.