Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he gave Qualifying his “maximum” effort to secure a second-placed start for 2021 US Grand Prix.
Having failed to top any of Friday Practice, Hamilton endured further difficulty as he finished FP3 in sixth after his fastest lap was deleted due to track limits, which would of been good enough for second if it had stood.
Hamilton however overcame a scrappy Qualifying to finish second after McLaren and Ferrari mounted huge threats to Mercedes and Red Bull drivers in Q1 and Q2.
Reflecting on how FP3 and Qualifying unfolded from his perspective, Hamilton said: “It was a bit of a struggle through qualifying, Red Bull were incredibly quick and from first practice onwards we seemed to fall back slightly in comparison.
“I was happy with how my last lap in Q3 turned out, of course there are always areas to improve but I think that was pretty much the maximum.”
Hamilton also iterated that his aim is to take a sixth victory around the Circuit of the Americas after securing “a good position” of second-place alongside title rival and pole-sitter, Max Verstappen, with Turn One looking his best chance of an early overtake.
Hot track temperatures though are forecast with Hamilton feeling that tyre strategy could be key, adding: “Tyre wear is really aggressive here so it will be interesting to see what strategy we can do and that will present opportunities along the way, as well. So today wasn’t my favourite day but we can fight tomorrow.”
Mercedes’ Trackside Engineer, Andrew Shovlin meanwhile praised Hamilton for delivering a “good effort” to qualify second, despite lacking Red Bull’s pace.
Shovlin also noted that strategy will be difficult due to Bottas starting ninth after taking a five-place grid penalty for his Internal Combustion Engine change.
“Strategically it’s going to be a bit harder with Red Bull having both cars up at the sharp end of the grid but ultimately, it’s going to come down to who’s quicker and who’s easiest on the tyres.” said Shovlin who believes that tyre management and strategy will be crucial to the race result.
“Red Bull definitely had the upper hand…”
Bottas meanwhile endured a tough day as he finished fifth in FP3 and could only muster fourth in Qualifying, which leaves him ninth on the grid with the Finnish driver admitting that ” Red Bull definitely had the upper hand and seemed to make more of a step from yesterday.”
Explaining what went wrong on his Q3 runs, Bottas said: “My first run in Q3 was OK, but the last sector didn’t feel great. And then I tried to have a clean lap on the second run, but the front locking and understeer was even worse. So, I lost some time and wasn’t able to improve.”
Bottas though is confident of Mercedes’ “strong” race pace and hopes to maximise his “pace advantage” over cars ahead of him early on, in order to get himself into a position where he can help Hamilton in his fight for victory.