Red Bull has dismissed suggestions it was outfoxed by Mercedes’ aggressive F1 strategy which ultimately led to Lewis Hamilton winning the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton undercut race leader Max Verstappen initially on Lap 14 to take the lead of the race in Bahrain.

Once the second round of pit stops came around, Hamilton stopped again on Lap 29 to cover the undercut threat from a fast-charging Verstappen, ensuring he had track position over the Red Bull driver in the closing laps of the race.

Verstappen closed Hamilton down on 11-lap fresher tyres, but ultimately couldn’t make the move stick after fluffing his one and only overtaking attempt by going off the track.

Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan rejected the idea the team was “caught by surprise” by Mercedes' aggressive strategy.

“No, I wouldn’t say we were caught by surprise,” Monaghan said. “If you are seeking an explanation of the race strategy, then yes, we could have stopped Max earlier for the second stop. But then you catch Lewis on older tyres. 

“Equally, he could have stopped later and had a greater tyre advantage. So our stints were move even and we had a pace advantage at the end. Got passed him once and then couldn’t get close enough again. I don’t know if it slipped away, we more played our cards differently and in the end, by running past the kerb by two metres we’ve had to give the place back and that’s it. 

“The car was capable of being quicker over the race. The disappointment within the garage is palpable, yet we’re disappointed to be only second place.”

While Red Bull lost out on the win in Bahrain, it does appear the RB16B is the class of the field.

Monaghan is confident Red Bull’s defeat in Bahrain will be completely forgotten about if it takes the win at Imola in just under three weeks.

“There are many people in the paddock who would give up an awful lot to have a trophy and 18 points from one driver,” Monaghan added. “We’ve had pole, we’re quick. 

“They [Mercedes] are going to have a fight on their hands, as are we, throughout the season. So when one overcomes the disappointment, we have a quick car, we have a motivated pair of drivers and team, and we get another go at Imola. If we win it, this will be forgotten and we’ll review it as history and move on.”