Lewis Hamilton remained around one and two seconds behind Verstappen for much of the United States Grand Prix, but moved into first place when a pit stop failure by the Austrian team led to an 11-second loss for the Red Bull driver. .
Once Verstappen got back on track, he was six seconds behind Hamilton’s Mercedes, but managed to overtake Charles Leclerc and close in on Hamilton before retaking the lead seven laps from the checkered flag.
It was the closest Hamilton has come this season to a win, and he later said “it felt amazing to be within range of Max for a few points in the race.”
“We really didn’t know what our pace was going to be on Sunday,” Hamilton said.
“In the first stint he controlled the pace and it was very difficult to maintain it. But in the second phase of the race, after the safety car, I was able to follow him. Today we did a great job with the strategy. We were aggressive.”
“I am very proud of the team. I think everyone has worked very hard to bring improvements here this weekend.”
“For a second I thought maybe we could hold on. But I think that extra medium tire they had was a bit too strong compared to us.
Verstappen’s extra set of mids meant he had a tire advantage going into the final stint over Hamilton, who was forced to run hard to the checkered flag.
Hamilton was able to stay within a second of Max Verstappen for a few laps after being overtaken, only to drop to more than five seconds late in the race.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted he thought Hamilton had a chance of winning when Verstappen got stuck behind Leclerc.
“At some point when I was six seconds behind Max and it seemed like they couldn’t get enough out, I felt like I could win,” Wolff said.
“Lewis had the deficit on the hard tyres, because he just didn’t have the medium anymore, and he was still holding on for a possible win.”
“But once Max got past Charles and he couldn’t fight back, I think he was just waiting for it to happen.”
Hamilton has three races to go this season to avoid the first winless campaign of his Formula 1 career after a difficult year for Mercedes adjusting to the new technical regulations.
The team started the season well behind Red Bull and Ferrari, but has made gradual progress throughout the year to get closer to contending for the top positions.
Mercedes’ W13 single-seater received its latest update in Austin, which Wolff says has delivered a performance boost.
“Perhaps sometimes we expected too big a step, but it’s been admirable where we’ve been this weekend,” he said.
“I think it’s been a step forward. As long as the trajectory is up, it’s like the stock price, there will be ups and downs.”