Lewis Hamilton claims he spent the early laps he followed Max Verstappen in the United States Grand Prix Sprint observing how his Red Bull car was “behaving”.

Hamilton, who started third, moved up into second when he capitalised on Verstappen squeezing Charles Leclerc on the run to Turn 1, allowing him to sweep around the outside.

The Briton was able to retain pace with Verstappen across the opening exchanges and remained within the one-second mark to activate DRS once it was enabled on Lap 3.

Verstappen would eventually cruise to a 9.5s victory, but Hamilton asserts those early laps directly behind the Red Bull proved beneficial for him to understand the RB19’s strengths.

“I didn’t get that great a start but obviously quite aggressive Turn One and had a good battle with Charles,” he reflected.

“But then, after that, yeah, the car was feeling pretty good so I was just attacking from the get-go, trying to get as close as I could while the car felt like that.

“I just couldn’t bridge the gap enough to Max. And then once I was out of his DRS, then he just started eking away and cruising.

“So, it was a really… not that I haven’t seen it already this year, we haven’t seen it, obviously, but it was a good position to be able to watch what the Red Bull’s car what Max’s car was doing, how it was behaving.

“So, I got to watch for a while and see where they are particularly strong, which we can obviously see that on GPS or something like that, but still, least to know where we are, if there’s any where we’re stronger, and where we’re weaker, so I can download that to my team.

“And at the end, I think everyone’s tyres was struggling towards the end of that stint.”

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the post Sprint FIA Press Conference. 21.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Sprint Day.

Despite both qualifying sessions being extremely close between the leading quartet of teams, Verstappen once again upheld a comprehensive advantage in race trim.

Hamilton concedes that Verstappen’s comfortable route to victory in the 19-lap Sprint encounter demonstrates that every rival team has “a lot of work to do”.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he admitted. “Everyone behind these guys have a lot of work to do.

“And it’s no small feat for us to truly catch them for next year. They will be progressing at a steep rate as they’ve got an amazing development team. And to make it even steeper for us to be able to close that gap.

“But I’m going to put 100% faith in my team that we can do it.”

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