Cape Town - Lewis Hamilton's race strategy at Spa was adversely affected by the early Safety Car, according to Mercedes' trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin.
The World Championship leader finished within a second of Charles Leclerc, who clinched both his and Ferrari's first win of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Mercedes were asked by fans why Hamilton pitted later than Leclerc, especially after both Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff gave the impression that they should have pitted sooner.
"We stopped Lewis a lap later than Leclerc," Shovlin said in Mercedes' Pure Pitwall debrief regarding the Spa race.
"Now because Lewis was out on his older tyres, he lost a bit of time there and Leclerc was on fresh tyres and could build that gap whilst we stayed out on track. It gave Lewis a bit more of a gap to close down.
"Now we came very close to getting into an overtaking position but the race was just a little bit too short for us.
"So the big question is... had we gone one lap earlier, two laps earlier, would we have been in a better position to overtake [Leclerc]?
"Now certainly we would have been closer on track, but our tyres were going off, as were Leclerc's. We would have had older tyres and a bit less performance.
"It's a very difficult question to answer but as always if what you try didn't work, you're always thinking you should have done something a bit differently."
Shovlin went on to add that the Safety Car caused by Max Verstappen's early exit took away precious time to make Hamilton's race strategy work.
He said: "The big factor there though was if we had not had that Safety Car at the start, the whole race would have been four laps longer.
"That would have probably given us the distance, the time for Leclerc's tyres to degrade, that we could have perhaps made a move stick."