Red Bull decided to pit Verstappen for a second time on Lap 31, with the Dutchman running over two seconds clear of Hamilton before this point.

It was too late for Mercedes to convert Hamilton to a two-stop, meaning he was forced to go to the end on his hard tyres.

The Dutchman reclaimed the lead on the penultimate lap to take his third victory of the season.

Assessing Mercedes’ strategic calls at Paul Ricard, Hamilton said: “He was already quite far ahead, so the only option I really had was to stay out. Otherwise again, he was undercutting me, so he would just come out ahead and I wouldn't be able to pass as they are too quick on the straights. So, the only option was to stay out as long as possible and hope that the tyres held together.

“We didn't know how strong that was going to be or not. But what was really surprising was to run out of that front tyre early on, but obviously, they had a good strategy and it worked really well today.”

After the race, Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles appeared to apologise to Hamilton, saying over team radio: “This one’s on us.”

Explaining how Hamilton got undercut by Verstappen in the first round of stops, Toto Wolff told Sky Sports: “Well, it went back and forwards. We were in the lead because Max made the mistake. That was a bit inherited. Our pace was good! Maybe a little bit of a margin, even. 

“Just about a three-second gap for the undercut, to protect the undercut, but it wasn’t enough. We were lacking a second. Somewhere we lost it.”

Wolff also revealed Valtteri Bottas damaging his tyres in the first stint triggered the pit stops earlier than expected.

“No, we had no choice,” Wolff added. “Valtteri’s tyre had started to have a vibration and towards the end, we were really worried, the vibration came through the suspension already. 

“He could have had a failure at any time because he flat-spotted the tyres. We knew that we were going to trigger the stops too early but no choice.”