Wolff applauds Red Bull's bold race-winning strategy

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director in the FIA Press Conference. 22.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, United States Grand Prix, Austin
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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff praised the bold and "super-aggressive" strategy utilised by his Red Bull rivals to clinch victory in Sunday's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.

Max Verstappen had secured pole position in Saturday's qualifying session, but in the race he was beaten into the first corner by Lewis Hamilton.

However Red Bull turned it round by pitting Verstappen early on lap 11, which then allowed them to undercut Hamilton and take the lead back.

"They went for a super aggressive first stop, and that was bold," Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after the end of the race. "We did that in Bahrain at the beginning of the year, and we won.

โ€œWe were debating about the undercut, but lap 10 or 11 - or whatever it was - was just very early," he explained. "We were too slow on the medium [in the first stint] and therefore we didn't think that the hard would last.

"P2 was, for me personally, better than I expected," he confessed. "We started really well on Friday, then we went a little bit off-track, and we recovered in the race.

"It was just the car was not quick enough on the medium," he added. "At the end, itโ€™s always a fine line between downforce and drag."

Verstappen was in again on lap 29, eight laps earlier than Hamilton's second stop. He was able to eke out that set of tyres long enough to hold on to the lead despite Hamilton's superior pace on fresher rubber in the final stint.

"We thought our offset strategy, going longer, would be enough at the end to get them. But the moment you get within touching distance of the car in front, it makes it very difficult to make a move.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B in parc ferme. 24.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, United States Grand Prix, Austin

Wolff explained that the dirty air streaming off the back of the Red Bull prevented Hamilton from getting within DRS range in time. Although he succeeded in cutting into Verstappen's lead, Hamilton was ultimately not able to seal the deal before the finish.

"The moment you get close to the other car it's difficult," Wolff conceded. "At the end, you know, we thought that we had a sniff at it - but it wasn't enough.

"We thought maybe that's enough at the end to get them, but they deserved to win today," he said. "In the end we were close but not close enough.

"It was some interesting strategy games and great racing," he added, but admitted that losing at Austin was a major blow to Hamilton's hopes of sealing his eighth world championship after falling 12 points behind Verstappen.

โ€œWe havenโ€™t talked [yet],โ€ Wolff replied when asked how Hamilton was taking the result. โ€œWe have to both get over it. Thatโ€™s going to take 30 minutes."

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