Mercedes Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have explained the reasoning behind the team’s sudden drop-off in performance at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton beat both Ferrari drivers to pole position in Austin and looked well-placed to score a fifth successive victory at the Circuit of the Americas but could only finish third behind Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen after being forced onto a two-stop strategy due to excessive tyre wear.

Mercedes was at a loss to explain its struggles directly after the race but a combination of problems have since come to light, which Hamilton explained in detail when he addressed the media ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Driver Ratings - United States GP

The Briton revealed a set-up error was made by the team during a frantic rebuild that came after a water pump fault - which affected both cars - was detected just hours before the start of the race last Sunday.  

"They took the car apart and when they put it back together, it was imbalanced, with a massive cross-weight, it was something like 50kg,” Hamilton said.

“So the right front and the left rear would take all the weight and the car would not turn through the left hand corners.

"It felt very strange out there. It felt like I had a massive tail wind or something when I was going through places like Turn 19.

"Through the right-handers it was a little better, but there are not a lot of right-handers at that track.

“I think if we hadn't had that problem it would have been a much different race."

Around the same time on Sunday morning Pirelli announced an increase to its rear tyre pressures to combat a change in climatic conditions over the weekend in Austin.

Bottas said the changes added to the multiple issues already faced by Mercedes which ultimately created a perfect storm of problems that hurt the team’s performance.

“That makes a difference for sure,” Bottas said. “We know that the car wasn’t in 100 percent condition in terms of mechanical set-up for the race and also we got caught by the tyre life predictions we had.

“The car wasn’t quite as good to drive anymore around the lap compared to qualifying. I think with sub-optimal balance, the tyre wear was higher so that made it more difficult than it looked. It looked worse than what the actual pure pace could have been with optimum balance.”

And Bottas is anticipating another “challenging” weekend for Mercedes in Mexico.

“We know that last year, Red Bull was very competitive, also Ferrari in the qualifying and also in the race, they did have a good race pace,” he explained.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge but we are definitely up for it.”

It has since emerged that Mercedes also made modifications to its radical wheel rim design ahead of the race in the United States to avoid any risk of protest from rival teams.

Mercedes sent a written request to the Mexican Grand Prix stewards asking for clarification on the matter on Thursday evening and received the all-clear by the FIA to run the wheel rim design - which features cooling holes - at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez this weekend.