Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton demonstrated enough pace to win the Brazilian Grand Prix and hailed his recovery drive from the pitlane to fourth place as "astonishing".
The newly-crowned Formula One world champion started Sunday's race from the Interlagos pitlane after a crash in the first part of qualifying resulted in a host of changes to his W08, including the fitting of a new specification power unit.
Hamilton benefited from a chaotic start and a Safety Car period to make short work of scything his way through the field. A long opening stint on the soft tyre saw Hamilton move into the race lead, before he returned out in fifth after he eventually stopped on Lap 44.
The Briton passed Max Verstappen for fourth and was consistently the fastest man on-track in the closing stages, but ultimately fell short of a spot on the podium by 0.8s, while just 5.4s separated Hamilton from race-winner Sebastian Vettel.
"For me it was the best fourth place I have ever seen and if you consider he started from the pit lane and ended the race 5.4 seconds behind the leader is quite an astonishing drive," Wolff said.
"I think a win would have been possible. He was the quickest guy out there. But you must remember that Sebastian was managing the pace at every time of the race, apart from the last laps. So we haven't probably seen the real race."
Wolff revealed that a team strategy meeting in the morning ahead of the race predicted Hamilton could manage a fourth-place finish in the best case scenario under normal race circumstances.
"When we discussed it in the morning we didn't see it as a realistic target without a safety car of P4. We had the safety car which helped us a little bit but the [performance] gap to the Ferraris was too close to the have really achieved much more."