Hamilton finished just two seconds behind Max Verstappen at the Circuit of the Americas, closing in rapidly in the final laps.
Mercedes did have track position over Red Bull in the first stint but didn’t react to Verstappen’s undercut at the end of Lap 17.
It seemed that Mercedes were unsure about committing to a one-stop or two-stop, ultimately stopping a few laps later.
Hamilton rejoined six seconds behind Verstappen and struggled to bridge that gap until the closing phase of the race when they switched to the mediums.
Speaking to Sky after the race, Wolff said: “No, the hindsight is a tough thing because you can see if we covered Max we had the quicker car at that stage but we didn’t know.
“Dragging out to a one-stop was a valid thing at that stage but we lost so much time over two laps. That’s what lost the race.”
Explaining Mercedes’ indecision, Wolff added: “We were on Lap 19 or 20 and we needed to extend it until Lap 23 to make the one-stop stick. He stops, Max stops for a clear two-stop and we knew we just needed four more laps to go with a one-stop. He was 20 seconds behind us and then the tyre just dropped and we lost the gap.”
“Everything went a little bit against us. Tough fighting with Ricciardo who came out on the soft, quickest lap and feisty Norris. That is how it goes.
“That lap was two seconds slower than the previous one and the one after and then you expect defending, and with Ricciardo it was 1.5s. You know fair doos.”
Regardless, it was a positive weekend for Mercedes, who introduced a significant floor upgrade in Austin.
“Painful,” Wolff concluded. “The upgrade is working. Super step which was a direction that we were hoping that would actually make it stick more and it does, and directionally I think a very good sign.”