Mexican GP: Lewis Hamilton says fast Red Bulls 'seem out of reach'
Lack of grip causes problems for F1 2018's big two as Red Bull dominate Friday; Mercedes also turn down engine
By James Galloway in Mexico
Last Updated: 04/12/18 2:59pm
Lewis Hamilton admits Red Bull "seem out of reach" of Mercedes so far at the Mexican GP - but has promised they will try and find a way to challenge them.
On the weekend Hamilton only requires a seventh-place finish to seal his fifth world title, Hamilton surprisingly finished in that relatively lowly position in Friday practice as Mercedes and Ferrari, 2018's top two, were blown away by the stunning pace of Red Bull around one of F1's most capricious circuits.
The title rivals' big deficits to the front - 1.2 seconds for Ferrari and 1.4s for Mercedes - meant they slipped back towards the usually-distant midfield, with Renault leapfogging them.
It left Hamilton suspecting Mercedes, who suffered engine overheating, have an uphill battle to get back on terms with Red Bull.
"The car was good in some places, but not so good in others," said Hamilton. "We've got some ground to catch up on, so we're now going to go through everything in the debrief and look at all the details to find some answers.
"Red Bull seem out of our reach at the moment, Ferrari are right there with us, but we're here to try and compete, so we will do the best we can to have a real race."
Hamilton added: "On the long run I think I was right there with Sebastian [Vettel]'s times, so we'll have a bit of a battle."
Mercedes technical director James Allison explained tyre issues had not been the only things troubling their car.
"We were overheating the power unit in a number of areas today, and that meant we had to protect against this by turning it down as a precaution," he said. "With a bit luck, and no little hard work, we can get ourselves into better shape tomorrow and on Sunday, when conditions are also forecast to be cooler."
What about Ferrari?
Off the pace Mercedes may have been on Friday, yet Hamilton's chances of wrapping up the championship this weekend barely seem diminished given Ferrari fared little better in practice.
Vettel must win Sunday's race to have any chance of prolonging his faint title prospects to the next race in Brazil.
Asked what his hopes were for the rest of the weekend, Vettel bluntly replied: "Grip! I would be quite happy if I had more grip."
"Everybody is on the limit with tyres, trying to get them to work in order to slide less - with the exception maybe of Red Bull."
Renault play down chances of shock
Suggestions that Renault's oft-criticised engine was helping make the difference for Red Bull in these particular conditions were given credence by the sight of the French manufacturer's works drivers also running strongly.
Carlos Sainz finished third with Nico Hulkenberg fifth.
However, while welcoming the high positions, neither Renault driver is expecting to stay ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari in to qualifying.
"[Mercedes and Ferrari seemed to be] struggling a lot out there than us being quicker than normal," said Sainz. "We are only one tenth ahead of the Toro Rosso and one tenth ahead of the Force India, but we are still 1.2 seconds behind the Red Bull.
"It's very weird how in the space of four days they go from being two seconds quicker than us to being behind us. I think it would be a bit naive to think we're going to be third on the grid. I'm always optimistic and I always try my best, but I think they had issues today. They were also struggling on the long runs, I was following them."
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Hulkenberg was similarly doubtful about Renault's prospects of claiming the biggest two scalps in the sport.
"If you look at the timesheets, I wouldn't get too over excited. When they sort it out they will come back," predicted the German.
"I don't believe we can beat the Ferrari or the Mercedes. I struggle to believe, because usually the gap has been so big."
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