United States GP: Lewis Hamilton downbeat after Mercedes upgrade fails to meet his expectations
Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth at the United States Grand Prix behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls, but will start third with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez facing grid penalties; watch the race live on Sky Sports F1 at 8pm on Sunday, with build up from 6:30pm
Last Updated: 23/10/22 6:37pm
Lewis Hamilton admitted he was "expecting a lot more" from the upgrades Mercedes brought to the United States Grand Prix, after finishing fifth in qualifying behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls.
Mercedes have endured a disappointing campaign under F1's radical new design regulations for 2022, with an eight-year streak of constructors' championships set to end as they remain winless with just four races left this season.
Hamilton appeared to be making the most of the significant upgrades - which focus on the floor and rear wing - his team have brought to Texas as he outpaced the Red Bulls on the opening runs of the final part of qualifying, albeit remaining behind both Ferraris.
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However, he was unable to maintain that pace on the crucial final run as he dropped below world champion Max Verstappen and his team-mate Sergio Perez, finishing almost sixth tenths back from pole-sitter Carlos Sainz.
"It was not the first sector for me, it was the last sector, but that was a really difficult Qualifying session," Hamilton said.
"I had been feeling so optimistic all weekend, the car setup was feeling good, everyone back at the factory worked so hard to bring an upgrade and I was so hopeful we would be much closer than we were.
"Once we got to Qualifying, I don't know if it is because the temperatures dropped or wind or what, but the car was such a handful all of a sudden and not unlike any other time we have driven it, but I was expecting a lot more."
Despite his disappointment, grid penalties for Perez and Charles Leclerc, who qualified second behind his Ferrari team-mate Sainz, mean Hamilton will start from third, with the other Mercedes of George Russell alongside him on the second row.
Mercedes have generally been stronger in races than qualifying this season, but Hamilton wasn't confident of being able to challenge Sainz and Verstappen for victory on Sunday.
"These guys are a lot quicker, particularly Red Bull on the straight," the seven-time world champion added.
"I think we might be able to keep up with them through the corners but on pure pace, no matter whatever upgrade we bring, the gap stays the same.
"That is definitely tough for everyone in the team who is pushing so hard, but we will be giving it all tomorrow."
Russell & Wolff predict 'exciting' race
Despite Hamilton's frustration, there were more positive responses to the upgrade from Russell and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Russell said that the high level of tyre degradation he expects in Sunday's race gives him confidence that the opportunity to run varied strategies will make for an interesting contest.
"It's rare that a driver goes into a weekend more excited about the race than qualifying, but I went to sleep last night after doing Friday practice, thinking that Sunday's going to be an exciting day," Russell said.
"A lot of tyre degradation and multiple options for strategy, and I think that's what makes these F1 races exciting. If it's an easy one-stop, it's the same for everyone and it's not that eventful."
Wolff was pleased with the update, suggesting it had brought Mercedes within striking distance of their rivals at a track they do not consider to be one of their strongest.
"I think the update works," Wolff said.
"We had a lap in us that was three tenths quicker, but the car was so tricky to drive.
"I think for tomorrow we could be part of some exciting games.
"I think Austin was never great for us in the past, and here it's worked well. We're six tenths off, it could have been three, so yes [it's worked]."