Formula 1

Wolff: Mercedes couldn't match Red Bull's aggressive US GP strategy

Toto Wolff says Mercedes couldn't match Red Bull's early pitstop with Max Verstappen to prevent Lewis Hamilton from losing the Formula 1 race lead in Austin, calling the move "courageous".

After qualifying second behind title rival Verstappen on Saturday, Hamilton took the lead of the United States Grand Prix on the opening lap after passing up the inside at Turn 1 following a quicker reaction off the line.

Hamilton stayed ahead of Verstappen through the opening stages, only for Red Bull to bring the Dutchman in to the pits at the end of lap 10, which was earlier than predicted.

Mercedes kept Hamilton out for three more laps before pitting him, but Verstappen had already gained enough time on the undercut to move into the lead after Hamilton rejoined the track.

Mercedes tried extending Hamilton's second stint to create a larger tyre delta, but the seven-time world champion could not bridge the gap in the closing stages, finishing 1.3 seconds behind at the chequered flag.

Wolff said Red Bull's early pit stop was a bold move, and one that his team had not looked to match after judging its data.

"You could see the different strategies," Wolff said.

"One team that went for the undercut out of necessity, and a very, how can I say, courageous move, because it was very early. And the second time again to their advantage.

"Particularly in the last stint, you could see that [Verstappen] had learned from the second stint not to damage the tyres too early because he had something left at the end.

"We were just on the back foot because the car was not fast enough on the first stint on the medium.

"We couldn't possibly have gone for an early stop, because based on the data that we had on the medium, it didn't look like we could finish the race at that stage with an early stop."

Hamilton managed to create an eight-lap tyre delta heading into the final stint, and was as much as one second per lap quicker than Verstappen as he gained ground.

But Wolff said Mercedes did not consider keeping Hamilton out even longer to create a bigger delta as his times had dropped off too much.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"At a certain stage, you're just too slow and you're losing too much time," Wolff said.

"That was the situation in the second stop where we didn't have Sergio [Perez]'s pressure, but simply had to pit because he was going too slow. It's always a balance of creating a tyre offset whilst not losing too much ground."

Wolff praised Hamilton for driving "awesomely" in his push to make up the time to Verstappen before the gap stabilised when he got within a couple of seconds.

"He brought the car in, remained calm even though he had 6.5 [seconds after the first stop] and, on the second stop, 8.5 seconds to Max," Wolff said.

"He brought it in, increased the pace, and at a certain stage, there was just a massive difference, and that was brilliantly executed. But just not close enough at the end.

"When you follow a car, you start to suffer a bit, and I think if we would have had maybe two laps more, who knows?

"But it is what it is, and you need to congratulate Red Bull for their stops."

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