Lewis Hamilton believes he could have fought Max Verstappen harder for victory in the United States Grand Prix without the offset strategy that Mercedes deployed.

After losing ground from his starting spot of third, Hamilton swiftly recovered to second and closed on race leader Lando Norris progressively as the first stint developed.

But while McLaren responded to Red Bull pitting Max Verstappen, Mercedes elected to leave Hamilton out, enquiring whether he could extend his first stint by four laps.

Having expressed concern at his team’s request, Hamilton locked up into Turn 11, placing Verstappen within his pit window and ensuring the Briton exited the pits a net third.

Abandoning the one-stop strategy, Hamilton charged back at the top two with fresher tyres in the closing laps, passing Norris but coming up 2.2s short of Verstappen.

Asked if he could have won on Sunday with a more conventional strategy, Hamilton replied: “Yes. I do think we would have been in a fighting position to fight with Max.

“I think we made our life a lot harder today than it probably needed to be. [But] I think it would have been very hard anyway, because these two were very quick.”

He later added: “I mean, at the end of the day, I was 0.8 behind Lando at the beginning, and there’s a huge undercut, a two-second undercut. So in that moment, most likely, should have probably pitted.

“It would have been close, potentially overtaken Lando in that scenario. It would have still been close between us all because I think we were all similar pace.

“But yeah. I think we just lost too much time in extending and really dropped off a cliff in performance. And then when I came out, these guys were miles up the road.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL60 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 battle for position. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.

However, Hamilton contends that a multitude of issues aside from the strategy contributed to Mercedes narrowly missing out on ending its barren run without a race victory.

“I think overall, our starts this weekend, normally we have really great starts, but we struggled with our starts this weekend, so we lost ground more often than not,” he noted.

“I think in one of the pit stops, I might have been a bit long, which then made it harder for the guys, and then the stop wasn’t that great overall. There’s lots of areas that we could have been better.

“But the positives are that we at points we were matching them for pace, and to be only two seconds back afterwards at the end of the race is a good sign.”

Hamilton was delighted to return to the podium after enduring a nightmare outing last time out in Qatar that ended in retirement when he collided with team-mate George Russell on the first lap of the race.

The seven-time champion was enthused by the instant performance improvement delivered from the outset by the revised floor Mercedes debuted in Austin.

“Obviously the last race was very difficult, to go home empty-handed wasn’t great, so to be able to turn it around, I think it shows a real strength in depth for the team,” he considered.

“I felt great from Lap 1 on Friday, and so I had a good recovery week. I felt solid in the car, and this is the first weekend that I’ve really felt the upgrades work. It felt really positive, incredibly grateful, because I know how hard everyone is working back at the factory, so It’s nice to finally start to see the rewards of their hard work and to feel it in the car as well.”

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