Toto Wolff believed Lewis Hamilton was on course to take victory in the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, but the Briton ended up finishing just short as Max Verstappen took the win instead.
Hamilton had pitted later than Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen, and with fresher tyres was closing the gap to his championship rival. However, once he got within a couple of seconds of the Dutchman, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver struggled with his tyre temperatures and was unable to make a move for the lead.
Wolff, the Team Principal at Mercedes, felt Red Bull deserved the victory at the Circuit of the Americas, but Mercedes gave it their all and fought right until the chequered flag.
“This really was a race of interesting strategic games and great battles,” said Wolff. “We thought we had a sniff at the victory with Lewis and he put in a brilliant charge in the final laps, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
“In the first stint, the car wasn’t quick enough on the Medium and then Red Bull went for a super-aggressive first stop, before covering it the second time. We thought our offset strategy, going longer, would be enough at the end to get them, but the moment you get within touching distance of the car in front, it makes it very difficult to make a move.
“In the end, we were close, but not close enough, so Red Bull deserved to win today.”
Wolff revealed Valtteri Bottas struggled to make overtakes in the second Mercedes on Sunday, with the Finn only managing to finish sixth after starting ninth.
The grid penalty for an engine change left him with too much work to do and he was unable to assist Hamilton in his battle with both Red Bull drivers, although he scored what could be a crucial extra two points with a penultimate lap pass on Carlos Sainz Jr.
“For Valtteri, he also struggled with overtaking and moving through the field, but we used the longer stints to make up some places and he put in a strong move on Sainz on the penultimate lap to take sixth,” said Wolff.
Wolff acknowledges the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas was not the one Mercedes were hoping for, but there is still five races to go to decide both championship battles.
“It’s not the weekend we hoped for, but we know there are still many opportunities to come,” said Wolff. “We are right there, we are in the fight and we’re enjoying the battle.
“So, let’s see what the next one brings.”