Ferrari's Carlos Sainz said that getting stuck behind Lewis Hamilton during the Styrian Grand Prix cost him a chance to catch and pass Lando Norris in the concluding laps.
Despite running as high as fifth place at the time, Sainz had gone a lap down on lap 42 when Hamilton and race leader Max Verstappen swept passed him while he made his late pit stop on lap 41.
But when he came out on fresh rubber, Sainz soon realised that he was quicker than the cars ahead of him that had pitted 14 laps earlier and were struggling with tyre degradation.
“We managed to have a very strong first stint on the medium, overcut pretty much the whole midfield with pretty good pace, and then a very weird scenario because I was on very fresh hards," Sainz told Sky Sports F1 after the race.
"The pit stop was spot on and that gave us a chance to chase P5 as I had a lot of pace on the hard tyre.
"The most difficult bit was done, to overtake the whole midfield, and now I had a fresh set of hards to catch Lando and suddenly I spent 15 laps behind Lewis.
"I had Lando in front that I knew I could catch with clean air," he said. "I doubted for five, ten laps whether to follow [Lewis] and try to catch Lando.
"I realised Lewis was struggling a bit with the tyres, I was much quicker and I had to unlap myself.
"Unfortunately it took me a lot of laps to unlap myself from Hamilton. When I was following him, the front tyres were suffering.
"[I was] scrubbing my fronts in the high speed just trying to get within DRS to see if he for some reason let me by.
"In the end they behaved like gentlemen, like Mercedes always behaves, and they let me by. But by then it was a bit too late.”
Sainz admitted that he was unsure whether he would have been able to pass Norris, his former team mate at McLaren until the end of last season.
“By the time I unlapped myself, it was too late to go and catch Lando," he sighed. “[It would have been] at least a good fight. I think it would have been great fun to catch Lando in the last five laps."
Sainz crossed the finish line in sixth place, with his team mate Charles Leclerc overcoming an early setback to finish one place further back.
The combined result means that Ferrari have reduced their deficit to McLaren in the constructors standings by four points to 16 points after eight rounds.
"Overall it was a good race for us," commented Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto, adding that both drivers "ran at a strong pace and drove very well, managing the tyres when they had to and attacking when the time came.
"Obviously, sixth and seventh places are not really anything to write home about, but I am pleased with the way the team reacted after a difficult weekend in France.
"We must ensure that we get all the potential out of the car, at every moment of the weekend and we will work on this in the coming days, getting a first verification in just a few days at this very same track."