Lewis Hamilton has conceded Mercedes’ Formula 1 rivals Red Bull appear “out of reach” heading into qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Mercedes endured an unusually uncompetitive Friday practice in Mexico as Red Bull dominated proceedings, with pacesetter Max Verstappen ending the day well over a second clear of Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Adding to the German manufacturer’s early setback, Mercedes also had to turn down its engines in both cars as a precautionary measure due to overheating concerns throughout FP1 and FP2.

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“Red Bull’s obviously out of our reach at the moment, but the Ferraris are just with us or just slightly ahead,” Hamilton explained. “I think on the long run I was right there with Sebastian’s times, so we’ll have a bit of a battle.

“There’s not one particular area, there’s just a bunch of things that we can improve on. The car was good in some places and not so good in some other places.

“We have the biggest wings on but we’re quite quick on the straights, but through corners, there’s not a lot of grip, even with the Hypersoft, which of course wasn’t the case for the Red Bulls. We’ve got some ground to catch up on.”

Despite Mercedes’ struggles in practice, the Briton stressed he is solely focussed on winning the race amid his ongoing title fight with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

“I want to win, that’s only ever my goal,” Hamilton insisted. “I don’t go into the race thinking ‘well if I have a good race with Sebastian and finish seventh, that would be good’ so that’s not on my mind.

“Obviously I’ve done a lot up to now to have the margin that I have, but yeah, we’re here to try and compete and try and do the best we can and have a real race.”

Hamilton said he doubts Mercedes will try to get through Q2 on Ultrasofts to avoid having to start the race on Hypersofts, with many drivers not expecting Pirelli’s fastest compound to last long after encountering excessive tyre wear on Friday.

“It’s a long, long straight, so the start, it’s quite a big step of grip from the Ultrasoft to the Hypersoft, so I don’t think it will be what we will be doing, but who knows,” he added.

“It’s very, very difficult here with the temperature being as high as it is on-track, melting the tyres and graining, which I think a lot of people are experiencing.”

When asked how long the Hypersoft tyres were lasting, Hamilton replied: “Three-and-a-bit laps for me.

“You do a timed lap, I can’t remember if I did a second one or not, but then on the long run, it was something like four laps or something like that.

“It’s going to be tough. It’d be cool if everyone has to start on it, because everyone is going to be struggling.”

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