Lewis Hamilton described his Mercedes Formula 1 car as “night and day different compared to last week” after enduring a tough Friday at the Mexico City Grand Prix.

Last time out at the United States Grand Prix, Hamilton came to within 2.2s of eclipsing Max Verstappen for the win prior to being disqualified for a technical infringement.

The Briton was buoyed by the improvement of Mercedes’ revised floor in Austin, insisting it was “one of the first upgrades that I’ve actually felt over the last two years.”

Before the on-track running commenced, Hamilton pinpointed Mexico as one of Mercedes’ two “best chances” of taking a victory in the remaining four rounds.

However, he ended up outside the top 10 in the opening practice session before only progressing up to seventh in FP2, 0.338s away from the pace set by Verstappen.

When asked about his Friday, Hamilton ruefully said: “Not that great. Yeah, dodgy – not dodgy, but like just not the greatest. Bit of a struggle in the car today.

“The car is night and day different compared to last week. I don’t really know what really to say. 

“You just never know what you’re going to get with this one. Some days, she’s great, and some days, she’s not. It’s hard to extract the lap.”

But with Mercedes traditionally capable of making a sizeable step overnight, Hamilton is optimistic that the team can turn it around to compete at the sharp end in qualifying.

“I think there is definitely performance there,” he continued. “It’s just trying to extract it, and it’s quite peaky this weekend, maybe just with the aero map or whatever it may be. So we’re going to work on it overnight.

“But definitely it wasn’t a fun day compared to FP1 in Austin. And, yeah, we’re a bit off, but hopefully overnight, we can find something and tomorrow, maybe the car will be nicer to drive.”

Pressed on the potential of the car for the weekend, Hamilton concluded: “[I’m] Not sure. Again, you just never know what to expect with this car. And maybe we’ll make the changes, and we’ll pick that pace up.

“I think there was definitely some performance in there to be closer, and maybe in the top three. 

“But we’ve got to figure out how to make it easier for us to be able to extract that performance. So that’s what we’ll work on tonight.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 leads George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day.

Meanwhile, Mercedes team-mate George Russell stepped aside in FP1 to allow the side to complete one of its two rookie practice commitments for the season.

Russell completed top 10 in his only session on Friday but believes that a multitude of factors throughout the day skewed the overall picture of the pecking order.

“It was a bit of a tricky session, there was rain around here and there, we had the prototype Pirelli tyre, and it’s a very tight field out there,” Russell highlighted.

The ex-Williams racer has echoed Hamilton’s thoughts regarding the scope of progress available for Mercedes to make to be in better shape across the rest of the weekend.

“But I think there is potential, I think we’ve got a lot of work to do overnight, it’s very tight,” Russell acknowledged.

“Especially with some unexpected cars, you saw some cars in the top 10 that we weren’t expecting to be there, but we feel like we’ve got a lot to improve. But we also feel like we’ve got the opportunity to do it as well.”

Russell reveals that the two cars were running alternative setups in second practice, which he hopes will pay dividends as the team bids to optimise its W14.

“I think we’ve been probably in the wrong window today,” he admitted. “Lewis and I were running two different setups, and we probably both weren’t in the right window, so that’s given us an indication that probably halfway between both is the right place to be.

“It’s frustrating in the moment to have a sort of negative car, and not have had the best of days. But through those difficult moments you learn probably more than when the car is in a better place. So I guess that’s what practice is all about.”

Expanding on Mercedes’ hopes for Saturday, Russell said: “Of course, we want to be fighting for pole position, Max always is half a step ahead, but I think I think anybody if you get it right can be fighting for the front two rows. We need to make sure that’s us.”

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