Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has agreed with Max Verstappen’s assumption that a strategy error cost the side the chance to beat Red Bull in the United States Grand Prix.

Starting third, Hamilton was catching Lando Norris and running ahead of eventual race winner Verstappen when Mercedes opted not to respond to Red Bull’s undercut.

The Briton would follow the leading two onto a two-stop strategy, utilising fresh Medium tyres in the closing laps to pass Norris before falling 2.2s shy of Verstappen.

Prior to Hamilton being disqualified post-race, Wolff accepted that the offset strategy contributed to Mercedes squandering an opportunity to usurp Red Bull in Austin.

Asked if he considered the Mercedes W14, boosted by the addition of a revised floor this weekend, a car capable of winning the grand prix, Wolff said: “Yeah. I think the car was quick. Lewis drove fantastically and if I count all the things that went against us.

“You could say, maybe we could have gone for a two-stop and just cover him [Verstappen], and I think both stops were not great. But it’s an equipment topic and not a human.

“And then we lost two seconds behind Norris, and probably 1.5 seconds behind [Daniel] Ricciardo. But fair dues, this is how we race, and, at the end, it wasn’t sufficient. So, no blame.”

Wolff’s comments concurred with the statement made by Verstappen, who is convinced Mercedes had the potential to steal victory with a conventional strategy.

“For sure they could have won today if they did a better strategy,” Verstappen told Sky F1. “The whole weekend they were very good, quick, I think.

“Today, probably from our side also with the brake issues that was hampering my pace but in general I think they were very strong this weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 makes a pit stop. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.

Reflecting on the decisive moments of the encounter, Wolff highlighted Hamilton’s extended first stint as the point Mercedes lost too much ground to Verstappen.

Hamilton’s race engineer, Peter Bonnington, enquired whether he could remain on his starting tyres for an additional four laps, hinting at a potential one-stop strategy.

But Hamilton’s uncertain response translated into a lock-up at Turn 11, allowing Verstappen to enter his pit window and prompting Mercedes to pit the Briton.

“On last 19 or 20, when Max pitted, we knew that we only needed to make three more laps to make a one-stop stick,” Wolff explained.

“Then the performance just went downhill massively. And that probably was one or the reasons that we couldn’t monetise. But overall, I think we need to be happy with the performance.”

Wolff concedes that the Brackley squad’s original choice to angle towards one-stop with Hamilton was driven by its prediction Red Bull would prove too strong.

“It certainly played a role in that we believed if we were on the same strategy, like Max, cover him, be a few seconds ahead of him, that would not be enough to win the race,” he contended.

“And that’s okay. He has been dominating all year. So that’s a bit of a mindset you are taking into such a decision.

“With the one stop, we felt we could win, or there’s more bigger chances to win. And at the end, the [tyre] performance was not as we thought.”

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