Fernando Alonso said he felt he had been given "a present" to find himself just 10 points away from the top of the drivers' championship after Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Spaniard, who finished seventh for Ferrari, indicated that he did not expect to be in touch with the leaders after the opening four races of the season.
The two-time world champion said: "After four races, with 100 points to win, being eight or 10 points behind the leader is completely unthinkable!
"It's a bit like a present what we've had in this first four races. We appreciate it and we take it, but leaving the points aside, what worries the team is the performance of the car - and that we have to improve it right away for Barcelona."
He added: "I think we have mixed feelings because on the one hand we were in front of both the McLarens at the end of the race, which is something we didn't expect after qualifying.
"But on the other side we are 57 seconds away from the winner, so this is bigger than any other race in 2012. So we need to look at why we were so far from the podium positions."
Alonso also said he will accept what the stewards decide on his incident with Nico Rosberg, after the German pushed him off the circuit when fighting for position during the race.
He said: "We'll have to see what the stewards say. I just tried to overtake and went off track. Here it's no problem because there's that extra bit of circuit on the sides, but he did it twice -- with Lewis (Hamilton) and with me.
"We'll see. We really need to look on the TV and whatever they decide will be good."
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa scored his first points of the season by finishing ninth and admitted he was looking forward to an upgraded car for the opening of the European section of the season in Spain next month.
Massa said: "It's a nice result at this time, but we are well aware that it is not Ferrari's style to be happy with a ninth place.
"Having said that, it is a performance that gives me confidence for the rest of the season. Clearly we have to improve the performance of the car as soon as possible to be able to fight for worthwhile positions.
"In Barcelona, everyone will bring major updates and we will have to do a better job than the others because we have to make up the ground lost at the start of this championship."
Ferrari team chief Stefano Domenicali said he was relieved that the team had limited the damage to their prospects during the opening four flyaway races.
"Now we must look to the future and make a step up in terms of quality, which should allow us to fight for the podium, and not just a points finish," he said.
"By Barcelona, I expect to see the results of the effort we are expending in every area."
He paid tribute to engineer, Matteo Vignali, who died over the weekend.
"Honestly, what happened on the track today is only of secondary importance for us.
"We are very sad to learn of the death of Matteo Vignali, a young man who worked in the gearbox department, who suffered a heart attack.
"He lost his life at just 32 years of age, something that leaves us in a state of dismay."