Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes engineers’ strategy left him “with a mountain to climb” to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg in Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The newly-crowned three-time world champion did not go so far as to blame them for his third straight defeat by the 30-year-German in succession.
But he made it clear that after showing superior pace during the middle of the race he had hoped for a chance to fight for the 44th win of his career.
In the end, however, he had to settle for a distant second place in a race dominated by Rosberg from pole position.
Hamilton closed his gap to Rosberg to 1.359 seconds before the German pitted for a second time, but found himself 12.573 seconds adrift after his own second stop 10 laps later.
“I don’t know the big picture and ultimately you have to rely on the engineers to give you the optimum strategy,” he told reporters after the race.
“Honestly, I don’t really understand it, but I came out 11 seconds behind. I had a mountain to climb, which I pushed as hard as I could, but then the tyres went off.
“I left the team to make the call because I didn’t know what was the right one. At the end of the day, the gap was way too big.
“We left it too big, especially on the same tyres. There’s no way you can catch that gap up although I did everything I could. It’s a shame, because I was quicker in the middle stint.
“To have that pace and then come out 11 seconds behind – that’s not such a great feeling.”
He added that his loss of form and results had not spoiled his season for him.
“It’s very easy to forget the amount of wins we did have – nine or 10 wins, something like that – so we had a very good season. The last three weren’t very spectacular, but overall it was amazing.”
His team boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton made his own decisions, in liaison with his race engineer Peter Bonnington, during the race.
“We gave him all the options. It was important for the fans to see,” said Wolff.
“He couldn’t really make a decision. The option tyre (a super-soft tyre) had seven-eight laps, but even though the car was lighter it would not have lasted until the end.
“It was a decision in his garage to go on prime (the ordinary soft tyre) to the end. There were lots of conversations and I’m not sure it was all broadcast, between his race engineer and him, to decide what to go for.
“We wanted to give him a real shot at the win at the end, but the pace was not there at the end.”