Lewis Hamilton fears Mercedes ‘lost a bit of ground’ at US GP in Max Verstappen concern

Lando Norris reveals the advice Lewis Hamilton gave him

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Lewis Hamilton voiced concerns over the performance of Mercedes after a tempestuous day of qualifying at the US Grand Prix. Hamilton, 36, was quickest in first practice in Austin, but was only fourth fastest in the afternoon session as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez set the pace.

The seven-time world champion currently trails Max Verstappen by six points in the drivers’ standings, and had mixed feelings ahead of a crucial qualifying session on Saturday.

“Generally, it’s been a good day but there’s still work to do,” he told reporters.

“The first session was really good, but I made some changes for FP2 and I wasn’t as happy with the car.

“The pace wasn’t bad, but I think we lost a bit of ground to everyone, so we need to dig into the data tonight and figure out why. The surface here feels rougher and that means it’s a struggle to keep the temperature out of the tyres, so there’s more degradation than we’ve experienced before.”

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“It’s been a productive day so we have plenty of findings that we should be able to navigate well and improve for tomorrow.”

Hamilton’s fears may have been exacerbated by the problems encountered by teammate Valtteri Bottas, who has to take a five-place grid penalty into Sunday’s race after exceeding his three allowed internal combustion engines [ICE] which are stated in the regulations.

Indeed, team boss Toto Wolff admitted he was unable to explain the root of the problems.

“I think you see that we are suffering with reliability this year, we’re going onto the sixth engine, for Valtteri, and it is not something we choose to do, but on the contrary; we are trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven’t understood fully,” said Wolff.

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Tension this season has been rife between Hamilton and title rival Verstappen, 24, with the pair colliding on the track at both Silverstone and Monza.

And there was another flash point on Friday, with Hamilton darting down the inside of the Dutchman as he appeared to slow down in preparation for a ‘flying’ final lap.

Verstappen responded by trying to keep pace with the seven-time world champion, but after the pair went wheel-to-wheel down the home straight, eventually relented and let the British driver go in front.

However, the incident prompted a furious reaction from the Red Bull man, who raised his middle finger at the British driver.

He then branded Hamilton a “stupid idiot” over team radio, before being calmed down by team engineers.

However, Red Bull boss Christian Horner played down the antics, saying: “I think there’s not too much to read into it.

“It’s like playground activity really. So, obviously, Max had passed Lewis earlier in the lap, Lewis then obviously felt that he wanted to pass Max at the end of that lap, and then they drove around, drove down to the first corner. 

“Then it all got a bit messy. I think Max indicated that he would have been first on the road. So I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

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