George Russell believed his first podium of the F1 season was possible after just two laps.
Following a disappointing qualifying performance on Saturday for the Spanish Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver started from 12th on the grid at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
Russell's task of a top-three finish appeared to be a long shot, particularly with the likes of Red Bull's Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz ahead of him and in direct competition.
The Briton, however, made a lightning start, emerging out of the first two corners in seventh, albeit needing to take to the escape lane out of Turn 2 to avoid a collision.
Once cleared by the stewards of allegedly leaving the track and gaining an advantage, Russell then set about making inroads into his target.
With his W14 working in the slightly cooler temperatures in Barcelona due to the cloud cover, Russell managed third behind runner-up team-mate Lewis Hamilton and comprehensive race winner Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.
“After qualifying we knew it was going to be a challenge but I woke up with a bit more positivity and I thought we could definitely move forward, probably fight for P5, P6,” said Russell, when asked after the race what was possible.
“I thought P3 would be a little bit out of reach but the car was really, really great. The team did a great job with the strategy, and it was a really satisfying race, making some good moves on the people around me.”
As to when the podium became a reality, he said: “Quite early on, to be honest.
“Even after that first stint I believed it was possible when I saw other cars peeling into the pits. My tyres were feeling good, the car was feeling good, so I think even after two laps I thought ‘You know what, we can do this today'.”
The fact Hamilton finished 24 seconds adrift of Verstappen, however, only served to highlight Mercedes still has a mountain to climb to catch Red Bull.
Russell was at least buoyed by the fact the car “feels really, really strong”, adding it was “probably the best it has felt, the most together it has felt”.
Tempering expectations, Russell added: “Huge thanks to the whole team for bringing these updates forward but equally, we're not going to get carried away after this one race.
“We know it might be slightly different in future races, and I think generally Aston and Ferrari were a little bit more off the pace than normal, and it was a little bit cooler, which maybe played into our favour.
“We know our race pace is good but we need to make a big step forward to catch up the Red Bulls, and we're not solely satisfied with P2 and P3.
“Although it's a good step forward, we've got our sights set right at the very top.”