It's safe to say that it wasn't the qualifying that Mercedes had been hoping for, after a session that saw Lewis Hamilton only manage fifth place on the grid at the Circuit of the Americas for Sunday afternoon's United States GP.

"That was a really tricky session this afternoon so I have to be pleased with fifth place," Hamilton said. "Although of course I'd rather have been fighting for a position on the first two rows.

"The car was quick out there and I had a good balance but we just couldn't get the tyres to work," he said. "The track was completely different from the final practice session this morning and it was really gusty round the back which affected our car quite a lot.

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"That was a very tough qualifying session and certainly not what we were hoping for," admitted team principal Ross Brawn. "Our car appeared to suffer more than most in the prevailing conditions: the blustery wind was upsetting the car and it was also tricky to bring the front and rear tyre temperatures into the right window in harmony."

"A very disappointing afternoon for the team," concurred Mercedes' director of motorsport Toto Wolff. "The main challenge was to get all four tyres into the operating window with the front and rear sets working well at the same time. We clearly didn't do that as well as our competitors, which is reflected in the grid positions."

Fifth place for Hamilton was at least considerably better than his team mate Nico Rosberg managed, the German driver suffering his worst qualifying performance of the season as he failed to make it into Q3 and was left in 14th position in the times on Saturday.

"I had real problems getting my tyres into the right working window today and it's so disappointing to have not gone through to Q3," said Rosberg. "It was all about finding the right compromise in the conditions which saw very hard tyres on a very soft track surface, and we saw a lot of surprises today as a result."

Tyres were also the problem for Hamilton, although the Briton's new chassis appeared to have given him a useful boost in confidence that at least allowed him to claim a third row starting position for Sunday's race.

"In practice, the car has felt really strong this weekend so I hope we have a good set-up for tomorrow. I need to have a good start in the race and, if we can achieve that, then there is still a lot to play for," Hamilton insisted.

"Conditions are predicted to be very different tomorrow," agreed Brawn. "I am optimistic that, with the set-up we have on the cars, we can achieve a decent race result."

Rosberg was also holding out for a better race day: "Tomorrow should be warmer which will improve the situation for us but starting so far back is not ideal," he said.

"We've worked a lot on our race pace so the car should be strong tomorrow and I'll be pushing really hard to move forward, overtake some guys and score good points."