Fernando Alonso admitted that fourth place was the limit of his ambitions in Sunday's German Grand Prix.
He said it was 'the maximum' that he and Ferrari expected in a tough 60-laps race run in torrid heat.
Team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa retired after spinning off on lap three.
Alonso said: "The race was not too bad. We did a good 60 laps overall, but obviously not good enough for the podium.
"Lotus were very good, it surprised us how long they did in the first stint on the soft tyres.
"The strategy that we thought yesterday didn't pay off so much.
"We lost a podium in the first 20 laps where we weren't good enough."
Ferrari chose to start the race on medium-hard tyres and not to fight for a better grid position during the Q3 section of qualifying on Saturday.
Alonso remained second in the drivers' championship with 123 points, 34 behind defending triple world champion and Sunday's race winner Sebastian Vettel of Germany.
Briton Jenson Button meanwhile described the German Grand Prix as "a good weekend" at last for the McLaren team after he finished sixth.
The 2009 world champion came home two places ahead of his McLaren team-mate Mexican Sergio Perez after a carefully-judged race run with a good strategy.
He said: "We got everything out of the car that we could. The strategy was good.
"I was really hoping to get fifth, but the Caterhams destroyed the possibility. They're racing for position, but when there are blue flags, there are blue flags.
"It's a shame when it costs you so much. A pity but all in all, as a team we haven't put a foot wrong. Sixth is probably a bit better than we expected."