MEXICO CITY -- Lewis Hamilton expects to be in a close battle with Ferrari and Red Bull at the Mexican Grand Prix this weekend after his Mercedes performed better than expected during Friday practice.
Hamilton only needs to finish fifth to secure the title this weekend, but has made clear that he wants to clinch his fourth world championship with a race win. In Friday's second practice he was second fastest, just 0.131s off pace setter Daniel Ricciardo, and he said his performance during the session was reassuring despite a spin on his first flying lap.
"The car didn't feel great this morning [in first practice], obviously I was relatively quick, but I needed to make some good changes between P1 and P2," Hamilton said. "Then I went out there and had that spin and destroyed a set of tyres, and obviously you only have two sets of tyres so that really put a spanner in the mix.
"Then I recovered with a good couple of laps on the ultra-soft [tyres] and then a very long run over 27 laps. I think we are looking quite good but it's going to be close. Perhaps we thought we might be worse off here but it was quite quick."
Mercedes was concerned it might be off the pace in Mexico City because the high-altitude and thin air requires cars to run high-downforce setups -- something the team has struggled with relative to its rivals at other rounds. However, Hamilton is hoping he can take another step with the performance of his car ahead of qualifying.
"I think it's going to be very close tomorrow," he said. "Today I didn't really know what to expect, but I think we're good to be in amongst the mix between the Red Bulls and the Ferraris.
"Tomorrow I plan to make some changes to my driving style and there are some places to improve on around the track and also with the set-up, so I'll focus on that now and it will hopefully put is in the fight."