Lewis Hamilton has suggested that set-up compromises made to mitigate losses from Mercedes’ new floor contributed to the team’s “difficult” Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

With Charles Leclerc unable to take the start, Hamilton then also initially got by both Aston Martins to run in third when the race was restarted following a red flag stoppage.

However, like in Saturday’s Sprint encounter, both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were powerless to avoid tumbling down the order amid tyre degradation woes.

Hamilton admitted that he was already primed for a tough race, which ended with eighth place after he was passed by Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.

“I knew that we would have a relatively difficult day,” Hamilton bemoaned. “Nothing changed in the car from yesterday to today, so I knew it would be a tough one.

“Yesterday I just ate through the tyres with an unexpected lack of pace. And then I think I drove better today in terms of making my stints, but we were just slower.”

At one stage, Hamilton bizarrely informed his race engineer, Peter Bonnington, that his left front tyre was turning right but the problem amounted to nothing serious.

“Yeah, it’s super strange. I wondered if the tyre was like maybe hadn’t been done up or something but it started turning right whilst I was going left,” he explained. “It was fine in the end. I think it must have been the wind or something, a gust of wind.”

The Mercedes drivers encountered issues with straight-line speed throughout the entire weekend, leaving them vulnerable whenever rivals got within DRS range.

Hamilton reveals that Mercedes’ choice to opt for a higher-downforce rear wing angle emerged to compensate for its floor not producing enough underbody downforce.

Yeah, I mean, my guess is that the floor’s not working,” he suspected. “The floor’s just not sucking us down, so that just pushed us to go to a higher wing. And then we’re just massively draggy on the straights. We’re losing so much time on the straights, there’s nothing I could do about it.”

“And then we were just sliding through the corners, so we have to look into why that is the case on this rough circuit.”

Hamilton concedes that Mercedes’ troubles were so severe that the tyres were “overheating still on the straights”, leaving him with “no grip in the corners.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

The presence of the Sprint format this weekend meant Mercedes only had one hour of practice around the Interlagos circuit to optimise their set-up before qualifying.

“I’m sure there’s something within the set-up that might have been able to have done a bit better, but whether or not that would have meant we were further up, I can’t say,” Hamilton noted.

Russell’s retirement in the closing stages due to engine temperature concerns compounded a torrid weekend for Mercedes that halted the side’s recent momentum.

“I mean, ultimately in the moment it is a setback, but as a team, we’ll just come together and we’ll try and push forward,” Hamilton addressed.

“There’ll be a lot of analysis this week after today, and I’m sure there’ll be things we’ll be like, “Ah, Maybe if we’d done this, it would have been better,” but I think still ultimately, the car needs work here for some reason and that’s the way it is.”

Asked if he was optimistic Mercedes would enjoy a better showing in Las Vegas, Hamilton replied: “I don’t expect it, but it could be. You never know with this car.”

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen sauntered to a 17th victory of the 2023 season, over a minute ahead of the sole remaining Mercedes of Hamilton.

The seven-time champion predicts that the Austrian outfit’s current advantage will leave it “very clear” of the chasing pack for the remaining years of this rules cycle.

“I think ultimately all I can do is try and remain optimistic,” he added. “The Red Bull, I think, is so far away. I think they’re probably going to be very clear for the next couple of years.”

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