Sebastian Vettel said the ground lost in his first stint in the British Grand Prix was just too much to recover once he got up to third place.
The world champion spent the opening laps behind Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa's battle for third.
Although he jumped both his rivals in the first pitstops, Vettel could not catch Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso afterwards.
He said his Red Bull had not been comfortable on the soft tyres used for the first stint.
"It didn't perform very well," he said of the tyre. "I was struggling a lot. I was in traffic, which doesn't help, but I really couldn't go any faster than the guys in front.
"In clean air I think we could've done the pace of the leaders at that time, but like that it was difficult.
"We lost too much in the beginning and then we kept closing until the end but it wasn't enough."
Vettel praised his team for getting him ahead of Schumacher and Massa at the earliest opportunity.
"The start was not so good, I lost a little bit and then I got stuck behind Michael. It was a good strategy to come back - we decided to pit early and then use the momentum and came out ahead. So that was a good call," he said.
"All in all, I would be a bit happier if I would have won. But nevertheless I think it is a great result for the team."
With Webber first and Vettel third, Silverstone marked the first time this year that Red Bull got both cars on the podium.
Many rivals had tipped the champion team to start dominating after Vettel's form in Valencia prior to his alternator failure, but despite Webber underlining Red Bull's potential with his win in Britain, Vettel said he had no sense of a definitive pattern forming.
"It's extremely different to years before," he said. "A lot of things might still happen. Obviously it will be key not to retire and make sure you always score points. We think there's still a long way to go."