Max Verstappen saw at the start Charles Leclerc driving behind him, but after turn 1 that was already the Mercedes van Lewis Hamilton. The Briton was able to catch up in the initial phase, but had to watch in the second half of the sprint as the RB19 became smaller and smaller and disappeared further into the horizon. It once again made it clear that Mercedes still has some work to do to catch up with Red Bull, but Hamilton also expects his team to learn from the laps he drove behind the RB19.
“It was a good position to see what Max’s car did and how it behaved,” says Hamilton. “So I was able to watch for a while and see where they were particularly strong. Obviously we can see that on the GPS data or something. But it was still [waardevol] to know where we stand, [om te zien] whether we are stronger somewhere and where we are weaker. So I can pass that on to my team. Ultimately, I think everyone was struggling with the tires towards the end of that stint.”
Asked about the lessons Hamilton has learned from driving behind Verstappen, Hamilton replies: “That we still have a lot of work to do. Everyone behind these guys still has a lot of work to do. It’s no small achievement for us to really put them in next year. They will move forward at a great pace because they have a great development team that will make it even more difficult for us to close that gap. But I have 100 percent confidence in my team that we will succeed.”
Hamilton expects Verstappen’s advance
Hamilton states that Verstappen had an advantage of half a second per lap over the competition in the sprint race. That is a big difference, which means that the Dutchman still has plenty of chances to win in the 56-lap Grand Prix, even if he has to come from sixth place. Hamilton states that the competition is not in the same class as Red Bull, which means they are not ‘within shooting distance’. “Maybe we can finish second or third, but if Max is in shape we don’t stand a chance.”
Just like in the sprint race, Hamilton will start from third place in the Grand Prix. He sees a chance for victory, but is also aware that Verstappen was so strong in the sprint race that he cannot be excluded from victory. “Everything is possible,” he looks ahead to the race. “I mean, he has at least half a second per lap over all the cars in front of him. That should be enough to get past. But you have tire wear, strategy and all that. I guess he’s relatively will move up quickly. So we will have a big job trying to stop him. It is a track where you can overtake, so it is likely that he will finish high on Sunday,” concludes the seven-time world champion.
Video: Summary of the F1 Sprint in Austin
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