Hamilton pulled within two seconds of Verstappen on the opening stage before seizing the lead as Red Bull pitted to stretch their mediums to 29 laps.
But when Hamilton switched to solid tyres, the seven-time world champion said he was not as comfortable, allowing Verstappen to extend his lead and ultimately avoid a second pit stop on his way to victory over Mercedes.
At one point during the race, Russell asked Mercedes to use soft tires in the final stretch, but was told that this would require a long run of medium tires.
This approach was successfully used by Ricardo and McLarenwho passed on lap 44 to switch from medium to soft before going on a late charge that took him to seventh even after a 10-second penalty for a collision with Yuki Tsunoda.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said after the race that it is “always easier to judge” in hindsight, but explained that the team’s pre-race data indicated the right strategy.
“I think the medium difficulty one-stop strategy looked right,” Wolfe said. “That the medium lasted so long in the end was a surprise.
“But hindsight is the case. If we were to restart the race, maybe we would have chosen a different tire.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo: Andy Hone / Images of motor sports
Wolff said Mercedes could have decided to “lose more time on the middle section and hang in there for another five or six laps and then try to do 30 laps on the soft”, as Ricciardo did, but he felt it was “not a given”. that he will last” until the end of the race.
During the race, Hamilton and Russell’s race engineers told their drivers that the Red Bulls mediums had to drop off the pace, only for them to last longer than expected and finish behind Verstappen and Perez.
Wolff said Mercedes discussed using soft tires in the race and felt the tire was “strong” but “not strong enough to go around 30 laps”.
Asked by Autosport if he thought the medium-soft strategy would have been enough to beat Red Bull today, Wolff said: “I don’t think we could have overtaken them because [with] spaces, it would basically be a reverse strategy.
“Even mild-medium, it would have been a small advantage going into Turn 1. Lewis was on the outside, so you never know how it would play out.
“But with a different strategy, we would be even closer.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, in the pits
Photo: Stephen Tee / Images of motor sports
Mercedes ran comfortably as the second fastest team ahead Ferrari in Mexico, helped by the high altitude which meant it didn’t struggle with drag as much as it did at other tracks, and also thanks to the high downforce.
The team now has just two chances to end its winless campaign, but Wolfe said simulations suggested Mexico was its best chance.
“The simulation says yes,” he said. “But we see the trend, we see that we are able to compete.
“I’m really proud of the team for what we did this weekend. We experimented with a lot of things, the engine guys really pushed the limits to give us maximum performance as well.
“I think next year it’s going to be a combination of going high and going high.”