Lewis Hamilton admitted it was a surprise to him to claim victory in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix that put him within touching distance of claiming a sixth Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship.
The Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver came into the weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez expecting to struggle, and it appeared that this was going to be the case when Scuderia Ferrari locked out the front row and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing looking extremely competitive.
Hamilton survived a first lap trip across the grass at turn three after contact with Max Verstappen and the damage to his floor that this created to jump ahead of the Ferrari drivers during the pit stop cycle, a position he would hold onto until the chequered flag.
“Today was a surprise, we’ve really struggled here for quite some time and we came into this weekend expecting it to be very difficult,” said Hamilton. “We really thought we would be on the back foot, but we kept our heads down, we kept working hard and it all came together in the end.
“I had a crazy first couple of corners today, I was pushed on the grass at the start and then Max hit me. It was not easy to recover from that afterwards – I had a massive chunk of my floor missing, so the rear end was moving a lot and I had to really change the dynamic of how I was driving.
“I don’t know how I managed to keep it going, but I did.”
Hamilton felt that his pit stop came too early in the race to work in his favour, but it turned out to be a masterstroke as both Ferrari drivers, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, ended up behind him, with track position more important than fresher tyres.
“The guys also did a fantastic job with the strategy – we stopped pretty early, and honestly I thought it might have been too early, but it all worked out in the end,” said Hamilton.
“I really wanted to deliver for the fans today; they were all out there during the drivers’ parade supporting me, so I really wanted to give them a good performance and I’m so grateful we won.”
Hamilton holds a seventy-four-point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship with three rounds remaining, with the Briton unable to settle the title in his favour thanks to team-mate Valtteri Bottas rebounding from a crash during Qualifying to finish third.
Bottas endured a tough start to the race that saw him fall behind both of the McLaren F1 Team drivers, but the Finn was able to regroup and recover to claim the final spot on the podium, almost mimicking the strategy of Vettel that allowed both to jump the two-stopping Leclerc.
“Today was a very good day, especially considering the circumstances – the shape of my car after the crash yesterday and the fact that I started P6,” said Bottas, who also collided with Verstappen on lap five that gave the Red Bull driver a puncture. “I had a difficult start, but after that I had a very strong race.
“I looked after the tyres and managed to extend the first stint quite a bit, which opened up a few opportunities. I was trying to put some pressure on Sebastian, but ultimately, I don’t think the margin between him and me was enough to overtake.
“We maximised our result and the entire team delivered today – from the mechanics fixing my car to the strategists coming up with a great plan for the race – everyone did a really good job.”
Bottas was pleased Mercedes were able to recover after being outperformed by both Ferrari and Red Bull in Qualifying, with the result proving that despite the Constructors’ Championship being won, the team are not letting off the gas as they push for more wins and podiums.
“Yesterday, both Red Bull and Ferrari had the upper hand, but we’ve really been strong on Sundays this year and ultimately that’s the day that matters,” said Bottas.
“We secured the Constructors’ Championship in the last race, but today’s result shows that this team is still hungry and I’m really happy that all the hard work from everyone in Brackley and Brixworth paid off today.”