Mexico delivered difficulties on Saturday for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Lewis Hamilton will start the Mexican Grand Prix from fourth on the grid, while Valtteri Bottas qualified in sixth but crashed at the final corner on his second run in Qualifying 3.
Both Mercedes drivers’ will start the race on a medium tyre after setting their fastest times in Qualifying 2 on that compound.
Lewis Hamilton said: “We knew coming to Mexico that this track would be difficult for us.”
“I gave it everything today and I think I managed to extract the maximum from the car, but it simply wasn’t enough for pole. I think third place was maybe possible, but not more,” he continued.
“Fourth still puts us in a good fighting position for Sunday and I hope I get a good start.”
Hamilton continued: “This race is always a hard one for us and I don’t anticipate it to be easy tomorrow. Maybe we’ll do the rain dance tonight for a wet track which could spice things up a little bit. But it’s going to be a real hard challenge, the Red Bulls were fastest in the long runs, so it will be very hard to keep up with them.”
“There won’t be a huge strategic variation, but it will be interesting to see whose tyres last long – that’ll be the name of the game.”
“We’ll try to hold on to the top players, the Red Bulls and Ferraris, and I’m looking forward to that fight,” said Lewis.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas said, “That was obviously not an ideal end to a day that was otherwise going okay.”
“The car felt better today, we made some progress with the set-up. I was happier with the stability of the car today and could push it harder.”
He continued: “Qualifying was pretty straightforward, we set the fastest time in qualifying 2 on the mediums as we planned and the performance on those tyres seemed good.”
“I knew I had to risk it in the last run on qualifying 3 to gain positions, so I tried to squeeze everything out of the car. The lap was good until the last corner where I went a bit wide on the exit on the dusty part of the track and that’s where I lost it and hit the wall. I’m all okay, but I’ve unfortunately given the boys in the garage some extra work to do tonight,” Bottas said.
Bottas continued, “It’s annoying because looking at the times, I think I had a chance at qualifying third. But it’s a new day tomorrow and it’ll be a very different story where tyre management will be crucial. Let’s see what tomorrow brings, but we will for sure give it everything.”
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director said, “Being half a second off pole is not great but nor is it something we can easily explain.”
“There’s no particular corner that we are struggling with, it just looks like our tyres are not quite ready at the start of the lap and that they are done by the final sector.”
“We’d made quite a few changes overnight to improve our race pace and haven’t had a chance to check those so tomorrow will be a journey of discovery. However, the tyre degradation here will open up some options on strategy so we’re not ready to give up hope just yet.”
Shovlin added, “We’ve shown good race pace at almost every track so we are optimistic we can get ourselves back into the mix tomorrow.”
Team Principal Toto Wolff said, ” We always knew that this track would be difficult for us and today confirmed our expectations.”
“We were not in the fight for pole and while we might have improved in the second run of qualifying 3, I don’t think we had a shot at a front row place.”
He continued, “ Both Lewis and Valtteri were on decent laps at the end of qualifying 3 before Valtteri lost it on the exit of the last corner and crashed.”
“Thankfully he’s ok, but unfortunately his car took a bit of a beating. We’re assessing the damage at the moment and hope that we don’t have to change any parts that would result in a grid penalty.”
“Lewis will start from fourth which is not ideal, but tomorrow will be all about tyre life, so this might create some opportunity for us,” he said.
Toto Wolff said: “We know we are usually stronger on Sunday, so we look forward to the challenge.”