AUSTIN, Texas -- Lewis Hamilton thinks he gave Max Verstappen "too much space" in their late fight for second position at the U.S. Grand Prix because of his position in the championship.
Hamilton missed out on an opportunity to wrap up his fifth word title in Austin, finishing third, one place ahead of main rival Sebastian Vettel. He closed on second-placed Verstappen in the final laps but the Red Bull driver refused to yield, holding firm in a close wheel-to-wheel battle which ended when Hamilton ran wide over the run-off area at the final sector.
It meant Hamilton settled for the final spot on the podium, knowing that he only has to finish seventh or higher in Mexico to wrap up the championship next week. Hamilton and Verstappen had an exchange at the post-race press conference which gave an insight into the Mercedes driver's mindset during the battle.
Explaining his own view of the fight, Verstappen said: "Following Kimi that closely, of course it's not great for my tyres, so I was struggling a bit more with the tyres. So then Lewis came close and we had a few corners where I had to close the door a little bit.
"Then he tried around the outside -- but I was on the edge already in the fast corners so I was just sliding a lot. Then I saw also that Lewis ran out of room and then, of course, if you go a bit wide you get a lot of marbles on the tyres so it takes like a lap before they have grip again."
At that point, Hamilton leaned over and said: "Was it close between us? I think I gave you too much space."
The subsequent conversation went as follows.
Verstappen: "I think you could have squeezed a bit more, yeah!"
Hamilton [laughing]: "I never know with you. I didn't want a coming to come together..."
Verstappen: A bit of wheel-banging is... I was also thinking 'I don't know what Lewis is going to do here!'
Hamilton: "I couldn't see you."
Verstappen: "It was alright - I was just really struggling with the tyres the last two or three laps but, yeah, made it a bit more fun!"
Speaking later at his media session with the written press, Hamilton explained further his thought process and why he was not too disappointed to settle for third position.
"These other guys want to win the race, probably as much as me but are willing to risk it for the biscuit, kind of thing. I don't need to be in that mindset, I just need to earn points and think of the long game. So there's a part inside of me that wants to take all the risk to get the win, but then there's the other side of me that wants to get the job done and sealed.
"If I'd been aggressive with Max, for example, Seb could have finished third, or second, and I could have lost ground today. So I think it was a good decision."