Hamilton 'not thinking of championship' as he targets podium in Mexico
Lewis Hamilton may have ended up half a second off pole position in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix. But the Mercedes man – seemingly on the brink of his sixth drivers’ title – appeared confident of his chances heading into Sunday’s race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Mercedes have lagged a step behind rivals Ferrari and Red Bull since Free Practice 2 in Mexico, with Hamilton subsequently ending up a distant P4 in qualifying, over 0.504s down on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. But Hamilton nonetheless declared himself happy with his Q3 lap when asked if fourth place had been the best he could have hoped for.
“I think so,” he replied. “I think the third place was possible, but… that last sector, it all went to pot then. But generally, I’m happy with today. It’s just hard to keep up with the others.
READ MORE: Verstappen takes sensational Mexican pole as Bottas suffers big crash
“We knew that it would be difficult this weekend coming here, but I gave it everything. It wasn’t a lap for pole, but I think I got everything out of the car I could, and it puts us in a fighting position for tomorrow, so I hope I can get a good start.”
I have no thoughts of the championship. I’m thinking, ‘How can I win this race?’
One potential reason behind Hamilton’s bounciness was the crash that befell his team mate Valtteri Bottas in Q3, with the Finn – having set a time that was only good enough for P6 on the grid – smearing his Mercedes down the Turn 17 wall, before emerging from the wreckage of his W10 unharmed.
Should the damage to Bottas’ car require a chassis change and a resultant pit lane start, with Hamilton needing to outscore the Finn by just 14 points in Mexico to be crowned champion for the sixth time, that crash might just have put the title within touching distance.
READ MORE: What Hamilton needs to do to clinch a 6th drivers' crown in Mexico
But Hamilton insisted that his focus was purely on the race and not the title fight, as he targeted his first podium appearance in Mexico since his 2016 win, while predicting a third straight victory for Verstappen.
“I’m happy Valtteri’s okay, and now I’ve just got to see what we can do tomorrow,” he said. “I have no thoughts of the championship. I’m thinking, ‘How can I win this race?’
“I think tomorrow, our long runs, we’ve struggled here. Yesterday was not very good. We had quick, good pace, but the tyres died after half the length of the Ferraris', so we made changes and hopefully it will be better tomorrow.
“The Red Bull, I think will be gone. They’re always quickest here each year. I don’t know exactly why, but they’ve got a great chassis, and Max, it’s obviously one of his favourite tracks. So a podium is the goal tomorrow, but obviously I’ll try to win.”
Should Hamilton claim the title on Sunday, meanwhile, it will mark the third year in succession that the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez had witnessed the Briton being crowned champion.