Valtteri Bottas made no secret of his struggles to understand his Mercedes W08 Formula 1 car during qualifying for the United States Grand Prix on Saturday, taking third on the grid in a mixed session.

Since the summer break, Bottas has struggled with pace compared to dominant Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who took his 11th pole of the season at the Circuit of The Americas.

Bottas was left to settle for third behind Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, and said that setup issues meant he simply could not go any quicker during the session as a combination of small factors stacked up.

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"I couldn’t improve in the second run. The first run felt okay," Bottas said.

"Lewis managed to gain, somehow, more from Q2 to Q3, I couldn't find any track improvements, couldn't improve in the second run. 

"It was not easy sessions, every lap was always a bit different. There was no big mistake, more things here and there.

"There was just this big gap." 

Bottas said that the team had made "quite big setup changes during the weekend" but that the balance was difficult to find.

"It felt more tricky, for some reason than in some of the practice sessions. There have been things I have been struggling with this car, brake modulation and front locking, transferring weight between the wheels, it’s fine details," he explained.

"I have struggled to get it together and many times I lost a bit of time - sometimes I got it right, still didn’t manage.

"The laps felt good, but just couldn't go quicker."