Verstappen and his Mercedes rival Hamilton engaged in a long-standing battle for victory in the opening of the F1 season, which was finally settled in the final moments of the race.
Verstappen caught up with Hamilton in the last stint and overtook him with four laps to go, but finished the trip off track and was forced to surrender the position.
Hamilton managed to keep Verstappen behind for the remaining laps and took the win by 0.7 seconds. Valtteri Bottas, third, was 37 seconds more after a late pit stop.
The race left the F1 paddock talking about a possible break in the season between Verstappen and Hamilton, with Red Bull adviser Marko saying this proved they were in a league of their own from the rest of the grid .
“The race made it clear that the two are in a class of their own,” Marko told Autosport’s sister publication Formul1.de in an exclusive interview.
“What Hamilton has on Max is incredible consistency. I don’t know how many races he has, how many wins. You can see how he did a great job tactically, how he made line changes and so on. It was a very difficult race for Max.
“But again, they’re more or less on a level playing field. Max will also be able to draw on a wealth of experience like Hamilton’s at one point.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, on the podium
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Verstappen was disappointed after the race, asking his Red Bull team over the radio after crossing the line why he didn’t let him keep the position and accept a time penalty.
Verstappen was convinced he could have built a five-second gap over Hamilton with his cooler tires to negate the penalty, but Marko believes the Stewards would have adjusted the penalty accordingly.
“He caught up so drastically and Hamilton’s tires were at their end,” said Marko.
“The only thing is that the five seconds would not have guaranteed a victory. We were convinced that the penalty would have been such that Hamilton would have won.
“If he was 5.8 seconds ahead, we would have had 10 seconds. From that point of view, staying ahead would not have helped. “