Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari only had the sixth-fastest car at the Dutch Grand Prix over the weekend, which left him happier than expected with his P5 finish on Sunday.
Both he and Charles Leclerc struggled throughout free practice but were able to get into the top 10 in qualifying, Sainz putting his car on the third row with Leclerc down in ninth.
Their pace did not improve much overall in a frantic Dutch Grand Prix, but after the weather played its part and Sainz drove well, 10 points were his reward while his team-mate was forced to retire with damage after falling to the back of the field.
Carlos Sainz admits Ferrari were ‘nowhere’ at Zandvoort
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper
Sainz had to defend strongly from Lewis Hamilton towards the end of the race to hold onto his placing, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly proving a tough proposition to get past in front of him.
With the pace looking more even in wet conditions, the Ferrari driver admitted that when the track dried out in the middle of proceedings, it exposed where the team were lacking over the course of the weekend.
“I know at some point it looked that we even could fight for a podium, but the reality is that when the race was settled, when you look at our pace we were just nowhere in terms of pace,” Sainz told media including PlanetF1.com after the race.
“But we managed to execute a really good race, we were fighting the whole race with people that were not in our race, fighting a lot quicker cars than us.
“So we have to be happy and proud of a well-executed P5, [but] obviously not happy with the feeling of the car and how much I struggled out there today.”
Despite everything that came his way, Sainz was pleased to come away with a solid points haul and a top-five finish in what was an underperforming SF-23.
“I would say after looking at the Alpine more the sixth fastest car this weekend,” he admitted when asked about where his Ferrari stood in the pecking order at Zandvoort.
“But yeah, when you’re going into a race and going into yesterday’s quali that we were just lacking this weekend, and we had to focus in maximising a good result or a decent result and we did that today.
“Even in the last stint when I knew I had one set of inters left to put on for the last seven laps and the tyres were destroyed from yesterday’s quali, I still managed to keep Hamilton behind and bring home a P5 that was honestly not on the cards, I think.”