Verstappen had beaten the two Mercedes cars to pole position on Sunday, but was under pressure from Hamilton for the whole race.
And while he fought off Hamilton’s attacks mid-race while they were running on the same tyre, he was powerless to prevent the Briton from going through once Hamilton had pitted to equip a fresh set of mediums and methodically erased the gap to Verstappen before the end.
Red Bull has often excelled in race trim in 2019, but when asked whether his team had been caught out by the lack of representative running on Friday, Verstappen suggested the edge Mercedes had on Sunday was simply down to it having more up its sleeve.
“I think you can see how much margin they still have when they really need to push,” Verstappen said.
“I think LeWIS today was on fire as well, but then you see, once he really has to go for it, you can see that that car is still the dominant car. It’s as simple as that. Whereas in some races it’s maybe not as necessary [to run at full capacity].
“Of course they had their issues in Austria with overheating so then you can’t push. In Hockenheim it was tricky conditions as well, so can’t really drive to the limit of the car. But here today I think he had to go for it, flat out, because I was also pushing flat out, and you can see what they are capable of as a team.”
While he’d led most of the race, Verstappen said being passed by Hamilton late on was not a big blow, as he was aware “we were just not fast enough”.
“Of course at one point I started to run out of tyres, trying to keep up with LeWIS’ pace on those medium tyres, trying to keep it [the delta] within a second – it’s almost impossible.
“So I ran out of tyres, and of course you can see it coming, so for me it was not a big disappointment once he passed me, because it’s just a normal thing to happen.
“But anyway you know, we have to be realistic – he was just clearly faster today. Always I think I was struggling a little bit more for grip than him, he could keep the pressure on, and of course when you are in second you can gamble to do a two-stop.
“For me it was all about always trying to cover him to stay ahead, but with a two-stop, worst-case scenario you stay second, and best-case you overtake me. “
Additional reporting by Stuart Codling