Pundits question Lewis Hamilton’s part in Mercedes US Grand Prix errors

Thomas Maher
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looking serious in a press conference.

Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes in 2025.

Lewis Hamilton losing a place at the start of the race has been highlighted as a contributing factor for not winning the US Grand Prix. 

The British driver had qualified third for Sunday’s race at the Circuit of The Americas, but lost a position to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at the race start – costing Hamilton time as it took until the fourth lap to get back ahead to resume his starting position.

Hamilton was then able to apply the pressure to Lando Norris and Max Verstappen for the rest of the race, ultimately missing out on the win by 2.2 seconds – even if it did become irrelevant as he was disqualified hours after the chequered flag due to excessive wear on his underfloor plank.

Pundits pick through reasons for Lewis Hamilton’s defeat

With Mercedes keeping Hamilton out on track for an additional four laps following Verstappen’s first pit-stop, as the team weighed up a one-stop strategy, the time lost during those laps cost Hamilton track position to Verstappen on a day where there wasn’t much of a pace difference.

This decision, together with Hamilton’s loss of position at the start, were highlighted as the reasons for Verstappen’s win on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.

“It’s easy for us to sit here and say ‘Yeah, no, it was the right call’ or ‘No, it was the wrong call’,” said Alice Powell.

“We were saying in commentary that we thought Mercedes possibly got it slightly wrong with Hamilton maybe staying out for a little bit too long.

“But they’ve got much more data than we have, I think, yeah, maybe Mercedes could have brought in Hamilton slightly earlier. But Hamilton didn’t get the best of starts either – he was stuck behind Sainz for a while. So it’s hard to say whether they got it right or wrong. You could say if they pitted him earlier, he probably would have had more laps to catch Verstappen and the gap wouldn’t have been so big.”

Elaborating on the poor starts from the Mercedes cars, with George Russell also losing three positions on the first lap, Powell said she had heard a radio message from Russell that could explain why both cars lost out.

“On the way to the grid, Russell came over the radio and said he had an issue with his brake magic button,” she said.

“So maybe there was just a slight issue, not just on Russell’s car, but maybe also Hamilton’s car – but it’s such fine margins, they practice the starts over the weekend. They have that procedure.

“They do a lot of starts throughout the year. But it comes down to that when the red lights are on, you just get one slight thing wrong – whether you hit the limiter a little bit, you don’t release the clutch as you want to, and the people next to you get a pretty good start, that can see you slip down the pack.”

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Jolyon Palmer: Red Bull nailed it, Mercedes didn’t

Former Renault F1 racer Jolyon Palmer said that the US Grand Prix had been Hamilton’s best chance of a win so far this year, but too many little things hadn’t been executed perfectly on a day when Red Bull nailed everything.

“There were definitely chances for Hamilton,” he said.

“The start was one and he lost a place which cost him a bit of race time. But, when you look at the strategy, I think Red Bull nailed it, actually.

“In the end, the two-stop strategy was the best one and they plumped for it early. Verstappen was third and he pitted early enough that Mercedes didn’t want to cover him at that point.

“They thought they could maybe do a one-stopper, but they were in between. McLaren covered it and that kept the net lead for Norris.

“But because Red Bull pitted early from third, Max jumped Hamilton and that was the crucial part. When you look at the race, was there much difference in pace, ever, between Hamilton and Verstappen? No, not really. And yet Verstappen passed Hamilton at some point in that first pitstop phase. That was the indecision from Mercedes. They were not sure between a one and a two-stopper.

“Hamilton was ticking along nicely, he had good pace in the first stint, he was just slightly quicker than Norris. So it was more of a no-brainer for Norris to cover off Verstappen because he was struggling a bit more.

“With Hamilton’s good pace in that first stint, Mercedes thought to try and extend and that was the crucial part because once they were sort of caught between a one and a two-stop, it was too late to stop.

“Verstappen had the track position and they were on the hunt to try and come back through. But, if Hamilton never lost the track position, the pace of the Mercedes versus the Red Bull, it is not a given that Max would have come through. He had to lunge to pass Leclerc and Norris, and Hamilton was quicker than those guys.

“In the end for Mercedes, switching to a two-stop was definitely the right call, even if it was a little bit late, because Leclerc staying out lost out even more.”

Having finished second (prior to his DQ), Hamilton had been exuberantly joyful over the team radio as he thanked his crew and the staff at the Mercedes factory, Powell said she suspects the seven-time World Champion was also disappointed underneath it all.

“He was very happy, wasn’t he?” she said.

“But, throughout the race, he sounded a bit dejected on the radio and his engineer had to pick him up and say, ‘Yeah, that’s alright Lewis, you’re quicker, you’re catching, let’s get Norris’.

“But if I was Lewis, putting myself in his shoes, I would just feel a little bit disappointed that I didn’t get the best of starts. There are still four races left to go. So there still is a chance for him to get a win.

“But this is probably one of the best ones he’s had throughout the year. He’ll probably feel really pleased but also a little bit disappointed that it didn’t all go his way and he wasn’t able to get the win.”

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