Sebastian Vettel blamed a lack of race rhythm and ill-handling rear end on his Ferrari for the errors that cost him a Formula 1 podium in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver had been Mercedes' main threat in the early stages of the race, but several off-track excursions proved costly in losing him ground.
His hopes of a top three finish were dashed when a trip across the gravel on the exit of the final corner during a battle with Nico Rosberg damaged his front wing and forced him to pit for a replacement.
After finishing fifth, Vettel admitted that he had never felt fully comfortable during the Sakhir event.
"I was probably pushing very hard and did some mistakes," he said. "I think all in all, not a perfect race.
"Obviously, I did not get in to the rhythm and lost positions when it [was important] not to lose positions for the overall race.
"That lost us some time and in the end with the damage on the front wing we had to go again [in the pits] and lost a lot of track time."
BOTTAS TOO TOUGH TO PASS
After getting stuck behind fourth place finisher Valtteri Bottas late on, Vettel said that his lack of confidence with the rear end was a big problem.
"In general today I was struggling a bit with the rear end of the car," he said.
"Corner exits is where you need to make it stick and I was very vulnerable for Nico to get a good exit compared to me.
"Then I wasn't very good in getting a good exit compared to Valtteri.
"Once I was in DRS it was always too late to do something.
"He did a good job defending and not doing any mistakes, I could not get close enough to do something."
Despite his first non-podium finish of the year, Vettel said there was still every reason to be happy with the progress Ferrari was making.
"Overall it is still a very big surprise for everyone how good we are and how strong we are, that is very positive," he explained.
"We had a very strong weekend. Obviously the target is to catch Mercedes from where we are.
"We seem to be the team right behind them, but when I say behind them, there is still a bit of a gap.
"There is plenty of stuff that we need to do and need to improve, and that is where my focus is."