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Lewis Hamilton’s ‘perfect drive’ raises hopes of salvaging Mercedes’ season

Lewis Hamilton has been given a resounding vote of confidence by Toto Wolff after the Mercedes team principal praised his “perfect drive” at the Mexican Grand Prix. Wolff has also insisted he never had any doubts about Hamilton’s performances and commitment despite the team struggling with their car this year.

Hamilton was second in Mexico, where Max Verstappen took a record 16th victory this season. Hamilton finished 14 seconds behind the Dutchman but he and Mercedes did deliver a very strong race. The team executed their plan with confidence and precision, calling the strategy perfectly, while Hamilton had to make several passes on track to move from sixth on the grid to second, including a breathtaking high-speed dive up the inside of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

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Wolff maintains his seven-time champion remains at the top of his game. “We have had such a long journey together that over those 12 years we have been building each other up,” he said. “There are occasions when he needed support then we would do this and the other way around.

“I have never had a millimetre of doubt about Lewis’s driving and I have told him [that] more often than he wanted to hear it. On Sunday you saw it. It was just the perfect drive.”

Verstappen has already won the title this season but Hamilton is looking to help secure second in the constructors’ championship for Mercedes, who lead Ferrari by 22 points, and to claim second in the drivers’ championship.

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With his rival for second, Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez, crashing out in Mexico the final three-race run-in between the two drivers will be tight. Hamilton trails Pérez by 20 points and while he is focused on securing the team’s position, believes he can make a fight of it.

“I didn’t think I would really be in shooting range but after Sunday, yeah, we’ll just give it our best shot,” he said. “It’s not going to make a big difference to my life, whether I come second or third. It’s more important to get the team second in the constructors’ so that’s what I’m focused on. It’s a bonus if we get second in the drivers’.”

The next round in Brazil this weekend will also feature the sprint race format. In Mexico the upgrades Mercedes had brought to their car were successful and Wolff is optimistic they will be similarly competitive in São Paulo. “We go there knowing we have a good car and if we put all the ducks in a row then we can have a very strong weekend,” he said.

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“Whether it is good enough to beat Max? Their package, driver, car, power unit, is very complete at the moment.”

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During the race in Mexico a fight broke out in the stands in the stadium section where a man appeared to assault other fans, with footage of the incident spread on social media. He was restrained by those nearby and then ejected from the circuit. F1 has confirmed that the race promoter has banned him for life from the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.