Although Hamilton was quickest in Friday’s morning session in Mexico City, he was almost a second adrift of Sebastian Vettel‘s leading one-lap pace by the end of the day.
Indeed, Hamilton’s first place in FP1 came with the caveat of Charles Leclerc trailing him by just a tenth of a second despite using harder tyres for his lap.
By FP2, Hamilton was down in fifth, behind team-mate and championship rival Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton can become a six-time world champion at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend if he outscores Bottas by 14 points, but even securing a necessary result seems unlikely at this stage.
He said of Friday’s efforts: “It’s not been a great day but this is how it usually is here. We’ve definitely learnt a lot and I haven’t had any particularly major dramas it is just trying to understand these tyres.
“It was cooler this morning and then a bit warmer in FP2 and from the short runs to the long runs it’s just hard to pinpoint exactly how to get these tyres working. But that’s the name of the game.
“I think we’re not massively far off the Red Bulls but the Ferraris, they just keep turning up their engine down the straights and the difference between us and them is massive.
“This afternoon I struggled a bit more with the tyres and the lap wasn’t spectacular, so there’s more to come for sure.
“Valtteri was three tenths up the road but I’ll try and figure that out to pull it out for tomorrow.”