Hamilton’s hopes of taking the win at Paul Ricard were ended on the penultimate lap when he was overtaken by main title rival Max Verstappen after Red Bull pulled off a masterstroke two-stop strategy. 

The seven-time world champion conceded that Red Bull made the right strategic calls but also felt he had no chance of keeping Verstappen behind in any scenario due to the RB16B’s strengths in a straightline. 

Mercedes fitted a new engine to its cars in Baku, while Honda introduced their second power units of the season at Paul Ricard for its customers Red Bull and AlphaTauri.

“Undeniably they were just much quicker than us this weekend,” Hamilton said. “We’re losing three and a half tenths just in a straight line.

“So you saw him fly past me down the straight. There was nothing I could do to keep him behind.”

As part of a package of cost-saving measures introduced to help F1 survive the financial crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, an engine freeze has been imposed for this year, preventing teams from being able to address any deficits. 

“It’s difficult because the engines are homologated,” Hamilton added. 

“They’ve obviously brought an upgrade here so we’ve got to dig deep and try and see if we can figure out how to get quicker.”

And speaking in the FIA press conference, Hamilton warned that Red Bull’s advantage on the straights could once again hand them the edge at the upcoming double-header in Austria. 

“It’s a power-hungry circuit, it’s got those long, long straights, so we could see something similar to this weekend with the straight-line speed of the Red Bull,” he explained. 

“But we’ve got three days to try and see if we can make some adjustments and improvements, and maybe if we maximise on absolutely everything then maybe we can give them a run for their money.”

However, Hamilton played down the pain of his latest defeat to Verstappen, having endured his longest winless streak since 2019.

“It’s not gut-wrenching at all,” he explained. “We did a great job today and it just didn’t work out, so I’m not massively disappointed. 

“I think I did the best job I could today, of course there were things that we could probably have done slightly better but overall they’ve been quicker than us all weekend, so it’s a true reflection of the pace they have.”