The 2017 cars are faster and wider than their predecessors, with more aerodynamic performance and more grip from bigger Pirelli tyres.
Hulkenberg was quicker than Force India's Esteban Ocon in the closing stages of the race but said he could do nothing to get past.
"I was hoping he would have a little bit of a problem on the soft and I was obviously on the ultra soft," said Hulkenberg.
"But quickly I understood that it wasn't going to happen.
"And these cars, the dirty air is huge, so overtaking - almost impossible.
"I probably could have gone more than a second quicker, but it's just not in there."
Hulkenberg and Ocon were involved in a spectacular three-wide moment on the run into Turn 1 during a battle with Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda.
However, Ocon said it was only made possible by an unexpected error from Alonso.
"Me and Nico were a lot faster than Fernando, but we couldn't get close so that was very tough," he said.
"He did a small mistake out of Turn 12 and I managed to get close and get my shot."
Hulkenberg said that was the highlight of his race, adding: "It was bloody fast there, it was like flying because these cars give quite big tows.
"I had a double tow, DRS, and full-power mode on - it was like 'ahhh!'."
BATTLING PEREZ JOINS LIST OF CRITICS
Sergio Perez passed Daniil Kvyat on the first lap and Carlos Sainz Jr round the outside at Turn 3 when the Toro Rosso was on an outlap.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Overtaking 'almost impossible' in new F1 cars