Having made a brilliant start and wrestled the lead from Hamilton at Turn 1, Verstappen pitted on Lap 25 but suffered a slow stop as his Red Bull crew appeared late to his car.

No radio communication to Verstappen was heard and Horner confirmed after the race that the decision to pit was his driver’s.

"He called himself in, so we weren’t expecting him which is why the pits weren’t ready,” Horner explained.

“I think the boys did a phenomenal job to recover so quickly and we lost a bit of time but managed to retain track position so salvaged it very well there.”

Mercedes ultimately outfoxed Red Bull by committing to a two-stop strategy that enabled Hamilton to hunt down and pass Verstappen in the closing stages.

And Horner felt that there was little Red Bull could have done to avoid being beaten by Mercedes given Hamilton’s pace advantage.

“We grabbed our chance at the start, fantastic move by Max, full commitment, but we could see very early on in the stint the fact Lewis could follow so closely without killing his tyres, it just looked like they had a quicker car than us today,” he said.

“We managed to keep track position through the first stop, and they then closed up pretty quickly on the back of us and at that point you’re thinking, ‘okay the predictions before the race were it’s going to be one-stop’, but I think because the field opened up so quickly behind them, Lewis effectively got a free stop.

“So on Lap 42 they’ve got the choice that, ‘okay we don’t think we’re going to pass him on track as we haven’t managed it in the first 40 laps so we’ll pull the trigger and go for a two stop’.

“And of course at that point if you cover the following lap you’ve given up track position and they just had a faster car than us today. All we could do was try and hang it out and maintain a decent pace but Lewis’ pace was just too fast today.”

Asked if Red Bull could have pre-empted the second stop from Mercedes given Verstappen’s complains about his tyre life, Horner replied: “Yeah, but it’ll be a hell of a bold decision to pit from the lead on Lap 42 when all the predictions are that the tyres should and they would have got to the end of the race.

“It wouldn’t have been the fastest way to the end of the race, but track position is crucial here. Having been able to maintain track position to Lewis at that point, and also they had a set of Mediums available to them, we had a set of Softs, they wouldn’t have had the range that those Mediums would have had.

“I think the reality is whatever we’d have done they just had a faster car with slightly less deg than us today.

“We’ve got to take the positives out of the weekend that we’ve managed to push Mercedes this close at this circuit at a track where they were a long way ahead of us last year and one that’s been a strong one for them. We have to take these positives into the next race in Monaco.”