And Hamilton, and George Russell started the race on medium tires with Mercedes trying to counter Red Bull’s start on the soft rubber as Max Verstappen wanted to cover the threat of a run into the first corner.
atingable for Mercedes to continue in the middle distances and switch to the softs at the end, the team instead made the jump to the hards with Hamilton before half distance and Russell to follow suit.
The pair could match the Red Bulls for pace at times, but the gambit of waiting for the medium tires on the cars of Verstappen and Sergio Perez to disappear didn’t work as tire wear proved to be low throughout the race.
“I think I was so close in that first stint,” Hamilton said of his initial practice on the medium tires, “but I think the Red Bull were clearly too quick today. Ultimately, they may have had a better tire strategy.
“I’m not sure [the hard] had the right tire after all. I thought we should have started on the soft tyre, obviously we had the opposite tyre.
“In the first stint, everything was fine, but the hard tire was just compensated. Congratulations Max, it’s great to be here and split them.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo: Stephen Tee / Images of motor sports
Hamilton had to settle for second place, 15 seconds behind Verstappen, as the Red Bull’s pace barely budged.
The Briton was around two seconds behind Verstappen at the start of the race but was unable to stop the steadily increasing gap ahead.
Verstappen then gained time in the pit stop phase to extend his lead by more than 10 seconds as Hamilton struggled to stabilize the gap on the hard tyres. This grew during the virtual security machine period Fernando Alonsohow alpine the rider’s engine stalled in the final stages of the race.
Perez closed in on Hamilton in the second leg of the race, even getting into DRS range, but the Mexican was unable to find a way past in his home race.
“I gave it my all today and pushed really hard,” Perez said after the race. “[But] Overtaking is so hard. Once I got behind him, it was very hard to follow. I had to take the third place.”