Lewis Hamilton said Red Bull were on another level to Mercedes after he ceded his overall Formula One world championship lead to Max Verstappen at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday.
Verstappen lapped every driver except second placed Hamilton and the Briton's Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas as he powered to a dominant home win in front of 70,000 wildly celebrating fans.
The 23-year-old is now three points clear of seven-times world champion Hamilton, who gained a bonus point for fastest lap, after leading from pole position to chalk up a seventh win in 13 races.
"They just did a better job all round," said Hamilton, who has won four of the season's races but has been waiting for a career 100th since his home British Grand Prix in July.
"They definitely were faster today, there wasn't really a lot that I could do to answer to the lap times that he was putting in.
ZAANDVOORT. What a circuit, what a race. It wasn’t our home crowd but it still fueled us all the same. Congratulations Max on the hometown win, you put up a great fight. SEE YOU IN MONZA pic.twitter.com/LQtLWoATdE— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 5, 2021
"I think today we probably needed everything to be perfect to have even the slightest chance of getting past him through strategy... they've taken a bit of a step ahead."
Hamilton, the most successful Formula One driver of all time, faces a major challenge if he is to win an unprecedented eighth championship and he said the next race at Monza in Italy would be tough.
The Briton was critical of his team's strategy, Hamilton making his first pitstop before Verstappen at less than a third distance -- a move that forced two stops and that he felt was called too soon.
"I definitely think that wasn't our best strategy," he said.
"We stopped too early... it had just been a point where we got through traffic, I'd lost a good second from him and I needed to to close that gap up before we did a stop. And then I came out behind traffic.
"I don't know how they didn't see that."