Carlos Sainz Jr believes his early-season advantage in Formula Renault 3.5 this year was never as big as it appeared at times in the first three races.
The Red Bull-backed racer took pole position for the first three races of the season, winning two and missing the start of the other because of an electrical problem.
Sainz's winning margins at Monza and Aragon were 10 and 14 seconds respectively, but in the second race in Spain last weekend he finished fourth from fifth on the grid as Oliver Rowland took a dominant maiden victory.
"Our pace is not as quick as you guys think," said Sainz, who has taken over 2013 champion Kevin Magnussen's car for this season. "As soon as we didn't have the perfect qualy we were P5.
"That is how this championship works. When you don't have everything perfect in the right moment you fall back.
"We didn't have a big advantage in the previous races, maybe we just got certain things right before the other teams did so it made it look like we were far ahead.
"We need to keep working because as soon as you don't start at the front it's not so easy."
The DAMS driver took an emotional victory on home soil in the first Aragon race last Saturday, and he admitted that he had been building up to the weekend in his mind since pre-season.
"I had this one marked in the calendar," he said. "I was preparing for this race for one month, thinking 'Motorland, Motorland'.
"To win at home is something really really special. There were a lot of friends here, and a lot of fans, so it was great to win."
Sainz currently leads the FR3.5 standings by 13 points over Rowland, with four of the season's 17 races complete.
Subscribe to Autosport Plus
Register for free