Lewis Hamilton was celebrating on the podium after the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix. But while he extended his lead in the drivers championship, underneath he is all too aware that Mercedes were the third best team this weekend.
"The race was a tough one. Obviously they just had the upper hand on us today," he said after finishing in second place.
He had been unable to prevent Red Bull's Max Verstappen from taking the win, and was disappointed by Sebastian Vettel finishing in fourth despite the Ferrari starting the race form the back of the grid.
"We didn't have the pace this weekend," he admitted. "The Ferraris were eight tenths faster than us, which they were at least. The Red Bulls also five, six tenths quicker than us. There wasn't really much I could do.
"I really had to make a decision when Max was closing down," he continued. "I had to make the decision not to fight him and risk him crashing into me.
"He's going to give it everything. He's got nothing to lose whereas I have everything to lose. So I didn't make it very hard for him."
Despite losing out on the lead, Hamilton has still extended his lead in the drivers championship by six points. But that wasn't what he was hoping for given Vettel's starting position.
"I think it's okay," he said. "Considering he started last it's not really that great to be honest. We should have won today but just didn't have the pace. We knew going into the race we didn't have the quickest car."
Mercedes have been struggling to match the pace of their rivals in the last few races. Hamilton said there would be no easy fix for their problems in the five remaining races of 2017.
"There's nothing we can do, it's the way the car is," he explained. "People have been talking all year long that we have the best car, and it's a fact that in some races the car has worked out better.
"But overall I think globally we have not got the best car and we've done an exceptional job with what we have.
"There are some real big problems," he added. "I can't really explain what they are. But we need to make sure we rectify them for next year's car if we're going to have any chance to fight both of these teams when they step up their game.
"I think this year we can just stay there, or thereabouts," he predicted. "I don't know which one of these races is going to be good for us, and which are not, but we'll try everything we can to stay ahead."