Carlos Sainz was as surprised as anyone to finish P3 in Friday practice for the Mexican Grand Prix and doubts it will be a realistic target for his Renault team.
In very unique conditions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, hot temperatures combined with the thin air allowed the French manufacturer to seemingly have the best performing engine as Ferrari and Mercedes turned down the power.
Also, the ability to optimise grip through the corners was crucial as many teams struggled with the soft Pirelli tyres but Sainz does expect those unexpectedly behind him to bounce back.
"To be P3, to be honest, seems quite a bit of a surprise to all of us," said the Spaniard.
"I think it’s more due to Mercedes and Ferrari struggling a lot out there than us being quicker than normal. We are only one-tenth ahead of Toro Rosso, one-tenth ahead of Force India, but we are still 1.2 seconds behind Red Bull.
"So I think it is something due to the others more than our proper pace."
Even so, after a tough run of results which rebounded with P6 and P7 last weekend in Austin, Sainz was happy to see Renault performing so well.
"It’s very nice to see the two Renault cars and Renault power units also up there," he added.
"The team is working hard, the team is working very well in this part of the season to secure that fourth in the standings, but again, I think it’s a bit misleading those time sheets."
Teammate Nico Hulkenberg wasn't far behind in fifth and does see room for improvement despite Sainz's caution.
The car felt good today, in line with our expectations for balance and feeling," said the German. "It was a pleasant surprise to see how quick we were especially for a Friday.
"Tyre degradation is obviously something we’re looking at for the race as the Hypersoft gives good pace, but that performance doesn’t last.
"We have a few set-up areas to work on, so there’s potential for more to come tomorrow."
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