MONACO -- Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton blamed a setup choice he made ahead of qualifying for his sixth-place qualifying position at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Although he beat teammate George Russell, who qualified eighth, Hamilton appeared to struggle in qualifying and ended up 0.360 seconds off Max Verstappen on pole position.
Mercedes debuted a series of major car upgrades in Monaco, but Hamilton said it was a setup decision that capped his potential rather than the underlying performance of the car itself.
"The car felt like a real handful, to switch on the tyres I really struggled, and that was the first time in this session," Hamilton said. "We know why and it was a decision I had taken against everyone's judgment, I fought for something and it made it even harder probably.
"But it's been an amazing weekend, I've loved every second on track, more than probably ever.
"I got a really good lap at the end, and I think that was as fast as our car was going to go, in a perfect world maybe a tenth left in it. I'm grateful I kept it out the wall and got it round."
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he believes a top four position was possible without the wayward set-up change ahead of qualifying.
"I think what we've done is compromise a little bit on Turn 1," Wolff said. "We felt it was important to compromise grip in the first sector and then have more later on, and that made the car so tricky to drive in Turn 1, so that was it.
"I think fighting for pole is a bit statement, but considering where Esteban [Ocon in fourth] is and [Fernando] Alonso [in second], maybe we would have been within a tenth or two. But, again, would have been doesn't count in this sport."
Wolff said the upgrade had been a step forward but there was still work to do to optimise the full potential of the car.
"We haven't changed the nastiness of the rear of the car, we need to dial that out, which we will, but it is the long road," he said.
"Are we able to win a race this year? I very much hope that we can get to the front and fight. There are more variables to that also with the other teams, so we just need to aim for it: aim to win, aim to push, aim to race for a championship."