While the runners-up position is sometimes described as "first of the losers", there's no question just how much it means to everyone at Mercedes as they battle to clinch second place in the 2013 constructors championship ahead of Ferrari and Lotus.

That's why getting both drivers into the top ten in the United States Grand Prix on Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas was so important to the team. While it still doesn't completely lock up the championship position with one race remaining in this year's world championship season, the solid outing at Austin this weekend could yet prove to be the crucial moment in the campaign.

Fourth place in the race represents a return to form for Lewis Hamilton, who has has a string of frustrating outings since he finished on the podium at Spa back at the end of August. "That felt good out there this afternoon and I'm really happy with fourth place," he confirmed afterwards. "It was so nice to have a race where I could fight for position and make progress."

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One of the discoveries that Mercedes had made since the last race in Abu Dhabi was two big cracks in Hamilton's old chassis - serious enough to force the team to supply Hamilton with a brand new one for the final two races of the season, with Hamilton immediately reporting that it had made a big difference.

"The car felt much better today than recently," he said. "The change in chassis has definitely made a difference and a big thanks to my guys in the garage for their efforts there ... We've had a few difficult races on my side of the garage and I'm so proud of the team for all the hard work they have put in."

"I had a great start today and that was crucial to my race," he said after getting an early jump on the Red Bull of Mark Webber through the first corner. However, Webber was able to use DRS to power past Hamilton to retake the position on lap 14, with Hamilton putting up little defence.

"We had to give up third place to Mark fairly easily to make sure our tyre management and strategy worked as it was more important for the team to finish ahead of Ferrari," explained Hamilton.

"Lewis made a fantastic start but it then became clear that trying to hold Webber behind would not help us in our quest to run a one-stop strategy, which was essential," agreed Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn.

Letting Webber past was one thing; when it came to Ferrari it was a different matter, as Hamilton was quick to confirm. "There was no way I was letting Fernando past at the end!" he said. "I was ready for him to make his move and had a couple of tenths ready to pull out if he did."

Hamilton's team mate Nico Rosberg had suffered in qualifying on Saturday and started from 12th place on the grid, but the German successfully battled his way back up through the positions to finish in the points in ninth place by the chequered flag.

"I didn't have a great weekend here in Austin unfortunately," sighed Rosberg. "It really started yesterday in qualifying where I struggled with getting temperature into the tyres and starting from 12th place makes your race really difficult, especially in a one-stop race.

"I made some nice overtaking moves but we weren't able to do much with the strategy today because of the single stop so it's disappointing to only have finished ninth as our car was quicker than that today," he continued.

"Overall though, as a team we managed to increase the gap to Ferrari and that's a good result. After such a tough weekend, I'd love to be back in the car in Brazil tomorrow and not wait another seven days! We'll be pushing really hard there to end the season on a high."

The points Rosberg contributed in Austin could be crucial in Mercedes' pursuit of the runners-up spot in the constructors championship, with both Lotus and Ferrari only managing to score from one of their drivers this weekend.

"[Lewis and Nico] put in very, very controlled drives today which allowed us to consolidate our second position in the Constructors' Championship," said Brawn, finding agreement from Mercedes' director of motorsport Toto Wolff.

"As a single race result, fourth and ninth positions are not what we aim for as a team," said Wolff. "But in the context of yesterday's qualifying result and of the battle for second place in the constructors' championship, we did a solid job. It was a race that needed management and both drivers and the pit wall managed it well today.

"We scored an important 14 points for the Constructors' battle and will now focus on cementing that position in Brazil," he added. It means that Mercedes go into the season finale with 15 points in hand over Ferrari and 33 points ahead of Lotus; the most any team can get in a single race is 43 points with a one-two finish.