Having taken pole at the Circuit of the Americas for the previous three years, it was expected that the Briton might finally give Mercedes its first pole since the summer break, bringing an end to the successful run of Ferrari and Max Verstappen.
However, only managing fifth quickest on his first run, this was the position the Briton was to start the race from as none of the leaders improved at their second attempt.
Despite only being 0.292s off pole-man Valtteri Bottas‘ time, the Briton faced an uphill task come Sunday (literally) as he was starting behind Max Verstappen in a race which has never been won from someone outside the front row.
Despite a determined drive the Briton, who was leading the race with five laps remaining, was overhauled by his teammate who was on fresher rubber having opted for a two-stop strategy.
However, in its latest Pure Pitwall race summary, strategist James Vowles reveals the reason for Hamilton’s apparent slump in Q3.
“During the course of the lap, underneath his right hand, there’s a little rotary and that rotary adjusts the engine braking,” said Vowles. “Normally it has a guard on it, and what happened is the guard had been accidentally knocked off and as he went through the lap and every time he turned the steering wheel, he accidentally changed the engine braking and that caused him to lose performance towards the end of the lap.
“The mechanics spotted it immediately the second the car had come back in,” he adds, “but obviously the first run was compromised as the result.”
“It was nothing to do with the car, just me,” said Hamilton at the time. “I just didn’t pull all the laps out together today. Clearly the car had the capability to be on the front row and I just didn’t do it today.”
Nonetheless, second was more than enough to secure his sixth title.