Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes strategy cost me victory at United States Grand Prix

By Sports Desk October 22, 2023

Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes’ strategy cost him his first victory in nearly two years at Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton conceded a 10-second swing to Max Verstappen when Mercedes left their star driver in no man’s land as they attempted a one-stop strategy at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Hamilton was less than two seconds behind early leader Lando Norris and five seconds clear of Verstappen, who started only sixth, as they approached the opening round of pit stops.

But when Verstappen and Norris stopped for fresh rubber on lap 16 and 17 respectively, Hamilton was told to stay out – with an alternative strategy to Verstappen viewed as the only way to topple the all-conquering Dutchman. It quickly proved the wrong decision.

Asked if he could complete another five laps on his current set of tyres, Hamilton replied: “I am not sure, man. It is pretty tough.”

Hamilton then locked up before his race engineer Peter Bonnington was back on the intercom to inform his driver that Verstappen – who on new tyres had just lapped three seconds faster than the Briton – was now likely to gazump him when he eventually stopped.

“No s***, man,” yelled Hamilton, with his tyres falling off the cliff. “I am struggling out here.”

Hamilton came in four laps later than Verstappen with a slow front-right tyre change adding to his woes. When he emerged from the pits, he had dropped to third, five seconds adrift of Verstappen and 7.5 sec back from Norris.

Hamilton saw off Norris with a dozen laps to go, but he could not reel Verstappen in – taking the chequered flag an agonising 2.2 sec behind.

Asked if he felt he should have claimed his first win since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 686 days ago, had it not been for Mercedes’ offset strategy, Hamilton was defiant.

“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “I do think we would have been in a position to fight with Max.

“We made our life a lot harder today than it needed to be. There are lots of areas where we could have been better.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added: “At the moment, we have mixed feelings because there is the pain of just having lost a race that we could have won.”

Hamilton was later facing the prospect of being disqualified from the race after the floor of his Mercedes was found not to be compliant with the regulations.

Leclerc’s Ferrari also failed the post-race check. Hamilton and a Mercedes team representative will meet with the stewards at 1800 local time (00:00 BST).

Hamilton, in his revamped Mercedes machine, could count himself unfortunate to drop from third to fourth at the start.

The seven-time world champion enjoyed a decent getaway, but he was blocked by Norris under braking allowing Carlos Sainz to sneak through. Norris had seen off pole-sitter Charles Leclerc with a lunge at the first bend to assume top spot.

As Norris set about building a lead – already two seconds clear of Leclerc at the end of the second lap – Hamilton set about passing both scarlet cars.

First up was Sainz. Hamilton used the tow to latch on to the back of Ferrari on the 210mph drag to Turn 12, and, assisted by DRS, drew alongside Sainz before sliding underneath the Spaniard.

Hamilton has won six times across the Pond, with five of those victories here in Austin, and the 38-year-old required only two laps to swat Leclerc aside for second.

Deeper on the brakes at Turn 12, Hamilton sailed round the outside of the Monegasque at the left-hander, with Norris now three seconds up the road.

Behind, and Verstappen, struggling with his brakes, was not finding it as easy to make progress.

He was stuck behind Leclerc for an additional five laps before finally making his move on the Monegasque.

He trailed Norris by seven seconds and Hamilton by four. Hamilton was now 1.9 sec behind Norris and would have taken the lead had Mercedes used the undercut. But, on the day, Mercedes got it wrong, and Hamilton knew it.

“You have given me a hell of a gap to close,” he said after his first stop.

On lap 28, Verstappen dived underneath Norris for the lead at Turn 12. Norris had a nibble back at the Red Bull heading into the ensuing right hander, but he failed to make it stick.

Hamilton was back into the pits for a second time on lap 37 of 56, changing to the faster medium compound.

Hamilton had the bit between his teeth and within 10 laps he was crawling all over the back of Norris’ McLaren.

Norris slung his McLaren to the inside on the entry to the first corner in a move to stop Hamilton, but the older Brit gained better traction out of the bend to slingshot by in his Mercedes.

Verstappen was five seconds ahead and Hamilton started to catch his old nemesis only to run out of laps.

Verstappen joined Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) in the half-century club with his 15th win from the 18 rounds so far.

The Dutchman, jeered on the podium – possibly by supporters of his Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez – said: “To take my 50th career win makes me very proud and we will try to push for more.”

Sainz took fourth ahead of Perez with Leclerc sixth and George Russell seventh for Mercedes.

Related items

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.