Lewis Hamilton says he didn’t try to chase after Max Verstappen at the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix, choosing to focus on preserving second place in his bid to finish above Sergio Perez in the drivers’ championship.
After the red flag was brought out by Kevin Magnussen‘s crash on Lap 33, Hamilton fitted a scrubbed set of medium tyres which theoretically gave him a pace advantage to the drivers around him, including Verstappen.
He took a few laps to dispatch Charles Leclerc‘s Ferrari, with the Monegasque straddling the line of what was acceptable with his defence, but once he did the Dutchman had already pulled a comfortable gap with which he could manage the race from.
The Mercedes driver then focused on remaining ahead of Leclerc and the world champion extended his lead to 13.8 seconds come the end of the race. Although, Hamilton did take the fastest lap so, did he have more left to give? Could he have fought for the win?
“I could have pushed a little bit harder and I did at one time,” Hamilton said to the media after the race. “I tried to say, ‘Okay, I think I’ve saved enough. Let me see if I can try and close this gap to Max’, I think it was like 10 laps to go.
“I did a 1:22.0 and Max did a 1:21.9 and I was like, ‘Eh, I’ll leave it’. He was just cruising at 1:21.9 so I thought I’d leave it there. Also I had to be cautious and careful because of my tyres.
“If I really pushed them for the last 10 laps they probably would have opened up and who knows, maybe Charles would have caught me, so I just had to be cautious of that.”
Can Hamilton catch Perez?
Hamilton is now 20 points behind Sergio Perez with three rounds to go as he bids to finish as F1‘s 2023 runner-up to Verstappen in the standings. The chance of it happening highlights how quickly Formula 1 can change.
Following his disqualification at the United States GP many thought the chance had gone as he trailed by 39 points with four rounds to go, but now it’s back on the cards after the Mexican crashed out on the opening lap of his home race.
The next opportunity he has to reduce the gap comes at the Brazilian GP, which will be held at Interlagos and will take place from November 3-5.
Mercedes recorded a 1-2 at the 2022 edition as George Russell won his first ever race ahead of Hamilton, who crashed with Verstappen in the early stages.