RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have offered their thoughts on where Mercedes might sit in the pecking order at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, after improved performances across the recent United States and Mexico rounds.

    With new parts fitted to the W13, Hamilton finished second to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen in Austin and Mexico City, with the Silver Arrows also in the frame for pole position at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

    READ MORE: Mercedes admit overhauling Ferrari for P2 in the constructors’ will be ‘a tremendous ask’

    Asked about this apparent step forward, and how Mercedes are likely to fare at Interlagos, seven-time world champion Hamilton said: “Well, I don’t think this circuit and the next one [Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi] is going to suit our car like it did in the last race.

    “I’m hoping I’m wrong, I’m hoping the engineers are wrong and I’m hoping the car is a lot better than we expect. I’m going in with that positivity, rather than it’s not going to be the easiest of weekends.”

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    Hamilton kept Verstappen honest in the US and Mexico, but Mercedes remain without a win so far in 2022

    Alongside their victory ambitions, Mercedes arrive in Brazil looking to put Ferrari under more pressure for P2 in the constructors’ standings, with the gap between the two teams down to 40 points after a challenging Mexico City GP for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

    Expecting Mercedes to be somewhere “in between” their performance level at Austin and Mexico City, Russell referenced the Scuderia, saying: “I think the key [factor] is Ferrari. They are a bit more of an unknown at the moment; their performance seems a bit inconsistent. Mexico was a really bizarre weekend, how far off the pace they were.

    READ MORE: Verstappen sees ‘good chance’ to extend F1 victory record at Interlagos as Perez targets Red Bull 1-2 in the standings

    “For sure, you can be confident that Red Bull will have a strong package and be the team to beat. For us, we’ll just try and do our best and be ready to adapt to whatever the weather throws at us and go from there.”

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    While a victory remains elusive, Hamilton and Russell have collected 15 podiums for Mercedes this season

    Pecking order predictions aside, Hamilton’s Sao Paulo GP week started with a special ceremony at which he was officially made an honorary Brazilian citizen, and the Briton – who has already been knighted in his home country – shared further thoughts on the experience.

    “I’ve had to just pinch myself every day, like, ‘Is this real?’ It’s a very, very surreal experience to be welcomed into a country like I have, to be received like I have this week, and the love that I received,” he said.

    READ MORE: ‘It’s the greatest honour’ – Hamilton made an honorary citizen of Brazil ahead of Sao Paulo GP

    “It was a very different experience to getting a knighthood in the UK, where it’s in an incredibly historic building with the royals, with a very small group of people, that get to go in there.

    “This was congress with members of government and the place was full, it was a full audience, and they were all sending so much love and energy. It’s overwhelming to see how much love I receive here and I’m so grateful for it.”