The United States Grand Prix showed championship protagonists Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at their very best, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Verstappen started from pole position but Hamilton took the lead at the start as the pair fought cleanly through Turn 1, before the Red Bull driver regained the position through an early pit stop. Wolff said the way both drove to leave the race in the balance on the final lap was a sign of how well the pair performed
“I think they were (at their best),” Wolff said. “You could see the different strategies, one that went for the undercut out of necessity and a very courageous move, because it was very early, and then the second time again to their advantage.
“Max’s driving… particularly in the last stint, you saw that he had learned from the first stint not to damage the tires too early. We were just on the back foot because the car was not fast enough on the mediums, and we couldn’t have possibly gone for an earlier stop based on the data that we had from the medium. It didn’t look like we would finish the race on a two-stop if we pitted earlier.
“But Lewis drove awesomely. He brought the tire in, remained calm when he rejoined from the second stop with 8.5s to Max, brought it in, increased the pace and at a certain stage there was a massive difference and it was brilliantly executed. But it was not quite enough, and I think that if we had maybe two laps more, who knows. But it is what it is and you have to congratulate Red Bull for their stops.”
Wolff believes it was possible for Hamilton to win if everything had been executed perfectly based on the pace Mercedes showed on the hard tire, but said understanding the race will require a wider review of the full weekend.
“I think we could have won the race, of course because we were in the lead and we had a very strong pace on the hard. But in a way, we need to retrace the weekend from Friday to Sunday: where did we misjudge, where did we get it wrong and what did we do well.
“There will be plenty of positive discussion about what to learn from this weekend. I don’t believe there is a particular pattern going forward of who suits what track; it’s very different regulations and we just need to push and push and push, and fight for the championship until the very last race.”