Toto Wolff believes Mercedes had the potential to steal pole position at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix but failed to adapt to the changing weather conditions in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth ahead of teammate George Russell in sixth at Interlagos, meaning the pair will start Sunday’s race behind the two Aston Martins in third and fourth, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in second and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen on pole position.

An incoming storm midway through Q3 affected all of the top ten drivers’ final lap in qualifying, with strong winds picking up while they were on track and heavy rain preventing a second attempt.

“I think between P1 and P8, anything was possible [in these conditions],” Wolff told Sky Sports. “Especially even in the dry before, if you are out of the garage, first, you have everything in the sweetspot and you are on pole.”

Hamilton and Russell were passed on track by Verstappen on their outlaps, and Wolff admits the team should have instructed their two drivers to start their flying laps as soon as possible rather than stick to their routine tyre preparation.

“I think you can see how marginal the differences were in terms of outlaps and temperatures,” he said. “I think we weren’t adaptive enough, so the Aston Martins just stormed away, Max straight out of the garage with warm tyres also stormed away, and they were the quickest cars.

“We were 0.8s off of our previous time and it just shows you what we should have done.”

Hamilton is less certain Mercedes had the pace for pole, but had hoped for a better result than fifth.

“I mean, it’s fifth,” he said. “Fifth is never that great.

“I did the best I could, hopefully we’ll have a better race.

“The car was showing signs of decent performance but we were generally a couple of tenths off the top guys.

“I think the circumstances at the end, the conditions, had us a little bit further back. I don’t know, it’s difficult to say.”

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