But Hamilton made a good start to rise from fourth to third before then taking second place when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out while leading, sparking a safety car period.
It left Hamilton behind race leader Verstappen on-track with a fresher set of hard tyres, but the Briton was unable to get in the fight against his 2021 title rival, eventually finishing 10 seconds behind.
Asked by Motorsport.com after the race if he had any hope of keeping up with Verstappen, Hamilton said the Red Bull driver was “just so fast” and that he could only stay with him for a couple of laps.
“Literally I’m full gas down the straight and he’s pulling away,” Hamilton said. “One of the biggest deficits was the straight line today. So if you’re losing four tenths, whatever it is, three tenths, on the straight, there’s nothing you can do about that.
“So we’ve got to work to improve that for the future. And I’m sure there’s a couple other places that we could be better. But yeah, if I pushed any more, maybe I wouldn’t have seen the end of the race at the same position.
“So I had to also keep in mind keeping the car in one piece and keeping the tyres there. This is the best result we could get.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Second marked both Hamilton and Mercedes’ best result of the season so far, while George Russell finished third to mark the team’s first double-podium this year.
“I definitely don’t think George and I expected to be second and third,” Hamilton said. “This is the highest I’ve been all year. So this is a huge day for me overall, and [I’m] looking forward to taking this positive energy onto Budapest.”
Mercedes has now finished on the podium in each of the last five races, allowing it to close the gap to Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ standings to 44 points.
But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was wary to suggest the run of form was reflective of its performance right now, instead praising the job both Hamilton and Russell have managed in recent weeks.
“I think you just see a seven-time world champion in a car that’s maybe just not good enough for the world championship at the…