Mercedes brought an upgrade package for their W13 to Austin, their last of this season, and Hamilton was upbeat about it on Friday.
But after finishing fifth fastest in Saturday’s qualifying, over half a second off the pace, the seven-time Formula 1 Champion did not hide his disappointment.
However, Hamilton will start third after Charles Leclerc’s and Sergio Perez’s grid penalties for taking new power unit components.
“That was a very difficult qualifying session,” Hamilton said after qualifying. “I felt so optimistic all weekend: the car had been feeling good and everyone back at the factory worked so hard to bring the upgrade, so I was hopeful that we were going to be much closer than we are.
“Once we got to qualifying, I don’t know if it’s because temperatures dropped, or the wind picked up, but the car was such a handful suddenly and that made it hard to put the laps together, especially in the final sector,” the Briton revealed.
“Looking to the race, I think we may be able to keep up with the cars in front – especially through the corners – but they have simply got more baseline pace than us.
“We are still pushing hard, so it’s frustrating not to be closing down that gap to pole, but we will be giving it everything we’ve got tomorrow,” the 37-year-old concluded.
George Russell struggled all weekend
George Russell was only 0.041s off the pace of his teammate finishing qualifying sixth fastest, but will also benefit from others’ grid penalties.
However the young Briton admitted he has been struggling; he said: “It has been a difficult weekend for me, and I was off the pace in all the other sessions, so I’m pleased to be in a more normal position for qualifying.
“Six tenths to pole is a smaller gap than usual for us on Saturday, and we did bring some updates here which are working, so I’m excited to see what happens tomorrow,” he added.
“It will be a race of high tyre degradation and a lot of different strategic options in play, and I think the race will be won and lost in the choices we make – we will need to be dynamic in how we react.
“Ferrari looked strong yesterday and I think we looked reasonable to them and Red Bull on the long runs, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do from the second row,” Russell concluded.
Toto Wolff: Today is a sad day
Toto Wolff reflected on his team’s performance on Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas; he said: “That was a decent session for us.
“I think we saw that the last update of the season is working well and there was a lap in the car that could have been up to three tenths of a second faster – but this car is still so tricky to drive, and that’s how it goes sometimes,” he added.
“But overall, the car is working pretty well and we could have been closer to pole – so I think we can be part of some fun games up front tomorrow,” Wolff noted.
Wolff paid tribute to the passing of compatriot Dietrich Mateschitz, saying: “Today is a sad day, though, with the news of the death of Dietrich Mateschitz. He was one of the most incredible entrepreneurs in the world – he created an energy drinks market that simply didn’t exist before him and built one of the best brands in the world.
“This sport owes him so much, not just for what he created in Spielberg but also for the two teams he owned and developed. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the Austrian concluded.