After Verstappen suffered a slow pit stop and dropped to third, Hamilton seemed on course to take an unlikely first victory of the season in Austin. 

But Hamilton agonisingly missed out on the chance to end his and Mercedes’ win drought amid a difficult campaign when Verstappen fought back past Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and then overtook him with six laps remaining. 

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The seven-time world champion urged Mercedes to remain realistic heading into final three races of the season after acknowledging part of the reason he was able to challenge for the win at COTA was because engine-related grid penalties had put Leclerc and Sergio Perez out of position. 

“I think we really need to be realistic,” Hamilton said. “The Red Bull car has been the fastest car by far all year and it is still the fastest car. 

“Today we were in the position we're in through a lot of the races, through reliability. You know if Charles was there, if Perez was there, for example, it would have been a different race, because they would have been ahead of us, we would have been on the third row.” 

Hamilton, who sent a defiant message by insisting he is “still here” and ready to take Mercedes “to the top” once they have a car capable of challenging Red Bull and Ferrari on merit, admitted the team's best shot of winning before the end of the year has likely passed. 

“It was great to have started third and been in position to fight,” Hamilton added. “But out of true pace, they've been ahead of us all weekend and they were today and they will be the next three races. 

“So unless something drastic happens to any more of them, for example, then it's highly unlikely that we will have the true pace to be able to compete with them. But we'll give it everything we've got. We're working on making a car that can fight with them. 

“But I think today shows that our teamwork was fantastic. I think, as a team, we operated amazing. I mean, he [Verstappen] had an 11-second stop, and he was behind Charles, that just shows how much pace they had in hand, to have got past Charles, and to have caught up six seconds, and pulled three seconds ahead of me at least, that shows some serious speed. 

“But there's lots of positives, as I’ve said. Honestly, I think this was our best [chance of a win]… this one was probably one of our best."