Lewis Hamilton admitted he was surprised at his pace during the Spanish Grand Prix after taking second place behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

The McLaren driver managed to get up to second following the second round of pitstops and then set about getting ahead of Vettel into the lead.

Unlike in China, Hamilton was unable to find a way through despite feeling he had the pace to more than match the defending champion.

"I was pleasantly surprised by how fast we were today," he said. "In race trim, I actually think we were quicker than the Red Bulls, except through the really high-speed stuff.

"I pushed as hard as I could all afternoon, and I'm really happy with the result - a few more laps and it might have been a different order at the front, but I just ran out of time at the end.

"Despite DRS, it's still very difficult to overtake at this track - you can't follow through Turn Three or Turn Nine, so that makes it really hard. Also, I was in Sebastian's dirty air and the car was sliding a lot - it was incredibly tough behind him."

Hamilton added that his team still needs to find more speed over a single lap in qualifying but said he was confident of another strong outing next weekend in Monaco.

"We're probably still losing out a bit too much in qualifying, but our race pace is right there. So, as you'd expect, we'll be looking at ways of improving our qualifying pace.

"I'm already looking forward to Monaco - it's a circuit where high-speed downforce is less critical and where the driver can make a difference, so it should be a strong track for us."

Hamilton's performance drew praise from team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who insisted that the team had shown it can match Red Bull in a race situation.

"As for Lewis, he drove another storming race, taking the fight to Sebastian from lights to flag," he said. "It's probably fair to say that Red Bull are still a little quicker than us in qualifying, but Lewis showed this afternoon that in race spec we're now able to match them every inch of the way.

"Indeed, Lewis was looking for a way past Sebastian in the final few laps - their battle must have made for a thrilling finale for TV viewers and trackside spectators alike - but in the end he just couldn't pull it off. Nonetheless, as I say, he drove brilliantly."