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Lewis Hamilton 'really positive' about Mercedes performance lift but staying cautious on F1 battle versus Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes lost their second-place finish at the US GP, but how much promise was seen from the upgraded car? Verstappen, meanwhile, reflects on his 50 wins and says still "rookie numbers" compared to Hamilton; Mexico City GP this weekend on Sky Sports F1

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Speaking before being disqualified in Austin, Lewis Hamilton told Sky F1 why he was pleased with the upgrades Mercedes brought to their car.

Lewis Hamilton's charging drive behind Max Verstappen in the United States GP may not ultimately go down in the record books after his post-race exclusion, but the improved performance following a car upgrade has still raised expectations about what Mercedes could achieve in the races that remain this season - and perhaps even 2024 too.

Had it not been for a strategy miscue and slower pit stops than their chief rivals at the Circuit of the Americas last Sunday, Hamilton believed Mercedes could have potentially won the race, or at least run Verstappen even harder, instead of crossing the line a close second behind his Red Bull rival.

Speaking at the end of the race before his car was found to be in breach of the technical regulations due to excessive plank wear, Hamilton said that he was feeling "really positive" about Mercedes' direction following an upgrade to the W14's floor and "incredibly grateful" for the work undertaken by the Mercedes team as it was "nice to finally see the rewards of their hard work and feel it in the car as well".

"Feel really positive because we've still got a few races up ahead," said Hamilton ahead of this weekend's Mexico City GP, the first of 2023's final four events in five weeks.

"I don't know how the car's going to be in these next races but if we're in a position like this and we get the strategy right and we get the pit-stop right, maybe we'll be right on their tails and looking at some good racing.

"So I'm excited."

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Ride onboard as Lewis Hamilton eventually gets past Lando Norris after a brilliant tussle for second at the Circuit of the Americas.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, he added: "We need to pick up on some of the areas, like our pit stops were not spectacular this weekend and strategy, for the next races. Maybe we can be closer to these [Red Bull] guys.

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"It's right there. Just there."

In Mercedes' post-race debrief video published on Wednesday evening, technical director James Allison said the disqualification did not undermine the success of the floor upgrade.

"The weekend was a very cast-iron vote of confidence in favour of what the stuff we put on the car, and that gives us great hope for the races that remain," said Allison.

"But, the disqualification had everything to do with the setup and the bumpiness of the track."

And on Mercedes' prospects in the remaining two legs of the Americas triple header, Allison added: "We've got Mexico first, high altitude, thin air, a track where the asphalt is quite different to the ones we've just been at.

"And as long as we can keep the car cool there in the thin air of the Mexico track then I think we will be pretty decent. The corners suit us, and the pace of the car should be good there.

"Brazil, a race that we won last year to our massive pleasure, is a track where again all the things we just put on the car should pay good dividends."

Hamilton on why Mercedes' 2024 task is still a big one | 'For them to still be winning races is still really impressive'

The seven-time champion - who achieved the most recent of his record 103 victories at the Saudi Arabian GP in December 2021, 42 races ago - though is not being lulled into any false sense of security by the apparent closing gap just yet.

Pointing out that runaway champions Red Bull, unlike Mercedes and other teams, had not needed to upgrade their car to any great extent in recent months and yet were still winning, Hamilton added: "He [Verstappen] started sixth and was out in front so ultimately I think they were quicker.

"He stopped before everybody as well and was still punching good times at the end. So they still are ahead and will be very, very difficult to beat - and they're not developing right now.

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Highlights from the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.

"We're brought upgrades and they are just chilling on what they had already. So for them to still be winning races is still really impressive and we've still got a huge amount of work to do.

"Not only in downforce and car performance but also operations just to be a little bit more perfect. Qualifying's really good, but race we can do a little bit better maybe."

The Singapore GP in September remains the only one of 2023's hitherto 18 grands prix that Red Bull have not won.

Indeed, since that aberration for the otherwise all-conquering RB19 on the streets of the Marina Bay circuit, Verstappen has racked up three victories in a row and will be favourite again in Mexico City this weekend.

Hamilton's observation about Red Bull's development was confirmed by Christian Horner earlier in the Austin weekend.

"We had a small update in Singapore but because of the lack of wind tunnel time that we have we've obviously focused a lot on to next year's car at a relevant stage," Horner, Red Bull's team principal, told Sky F1.

"It's all about optimising what we have now between now and the end of the year."

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Former F1 performance engineer Blake Hinsey explains the technical infringement that resulted in Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc being disqualified from the US Grand Prix.

But Horner did predict: "It's going to happen [the field closing up]. When you have got stable regulations the cars and the teams will converge. So I think this is a precursor to what we'll see next year where it's a much tighter field."

Verstappen on reaching 50 wins: 'Still rookie numbers compared to Lewis!'

With Hamilton stuck on his record 103 wins and seven world titles with Mercedes still looking to deliver an answer to Red Bull in the current rules era, Verstappen has been the driver on the move in F1's statistical tables over the past two years.

Victory in the USA brought up his 50th in F1, the fifth driver to reach that landmark.

Only Michael Schumacher (91 wins overall) reached his half-century quicker than Verstappen.

Who was fastest to 50 victories?

Driver Race starts to 50 wins
Michael Schumacher 153
Max Verstappen 181
Lewis Hamilton 185
Alain Prost 192
Sebastian Vettel 205

Forty of the Dutchman's wins have come in the 62 grands prix which have taken place since the start of 2021, when Red Bull first re-emerged as championship challengers.

"Still rookie numbers compared to Lewis!" said a smiling Verstappen, while sitting next to Hamilton in last Sunday's post-race press conference.

Assessing Max Verstappen's 10 best wins in F1 so far

"But for sure it's a great number and I'm very happy with it, very proud of it. But let's try to win a few more."

With four races left in 2023, Verstappen still has time to move past the career tallies of Alain Prost (51) and Sebastian Vettel (53) before the campaign is out.

One more win would also see the 26-year-old break his own all-time record of 15 in a single season, which he set last year.

Red Bull, meanwhile, need to win at least three of the four that remain to break Mercedes' record of 19 wins in a season from 2016.

The most wins in an F1 season

Driver Wins (season) Ratio (total GPs)
1 = Max Verstappen 15 (2022) 68.2% (22)
1 = Max Verstappen 15 (2023) 83.3% (18)*
3 = Michael Schumacher 13 (2004) 72.2% (18)
3 = Sebastian Vettel 13 (2013) 68.4% (19)
5 = Michael Schumacher 11 (2002) 64.7% (17)
5 = Sebastian Vettel 11 (2011) 57.9% (19)
5 = Lewis Hamilton 11 (2014) 57.9% (19)
5 = Lewis Hamilton 11 (2018) 52.4% (21)
5 = Lewis Hamilton 11 (2019) 52.4% (21)
5 = Lewis Hamilton 11 (2020) 64.7% (17)
Team Wins (season) Ratio (total GPs)
1. Mercedes 19 (2016) 90.5% (21)
2 = Red Bull 17 (2022) 77.3% (22)
2 = Red Bull 17 (2023) 94.4% (18)*
4 = Mercedes 16 (2014) 84.2% (19)
4 = Mercedes 16 (2015) 84.2% (19)
6 = McLaren 15 (1988) 93.8% (16)
6 = Ferrari 15 (2002) 88.2% (17)
6 = Ferrari 15 (2004) 83.3% (18)
6 = Mercedes 15 (2019) 71.4% (21)
* 4 races left in 2023

When to watch the Mexico City GP live only on Sky Sports F1

Thursday 26 October
9pm: Drivers' Press Conference

Friday 27 October
7pm: Mexico City GP Practice One
8:45pm: The F1 Show
10:45pm: Mexico City GP Practice Two (also on Sky Sports Main Event)

Saturday 28 October
6.15pm: Mexico City GP Practice Three
9pm: Mexico City GP Qualifying build-up (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
10pm: Mexico City GP Qualifying (also on Sky Sports Main Event)

Sunday 29 October
6.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Mexico City GP build-up (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
8pm: The MEXICO CITY GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
10pm: Chequered Flag: Mexico City GP

F1 heads straight to Mexico for the middle leg of the Americas triple header. Watch the whole Mexico City Grand Prix weekend live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday, with Sunday's race at 8pm. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW