Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari were in "defence mode" because Mercedes were "untouchable" during the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver had to make an early pit stop due to an issue with his brake ducts, which put him on the back foot.
Sainz was later helped towards the end because of a late safety car brought out by Lando Norris, which enabled him to overtake Sergio Perez in the closing stages of the race for a podium.
Speaking after the race, the Spaniard expects Mercedes to challenge for the win in Abu Dhabi given their recent form.
"We're clearly on a bit of a defence mode because their car was untouchable today. They [Mercedes] was simply the quickest car, quicker than the Red Bull," he said after the race.
"I think it's been a few weekends like that, in Abu Dhabi we need to expect them to win. And we need to either do the damage limitation, or go for the win ourselves."
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Visor tear-off in brake duct forced early pitstop
Sainz was forced into an early pit stop due to a visor tear-off that got caught in his brake ducts, which had to be removed before it caused a failure.
He added: "We did have some problems at the start with the brakes on fire, so we had to stop early which meant we had to commit to a three stop.
"That maybe today wasn't the fastest is given the degradation but from there I pushed flat out to catch Checo.
"We had a good run on him, good podium after starting P7 and I think we can be happy with that."