Andreas Seidl believes it was a case of "damage limitation" for McLaren at the end of a "tricky" weekend in Turkey.
In this year's fight for third in the constructors' championship, Ferrari was the faster outfit from the start of the weekend, with McLaren struggling to cope with the long medium-speed turns at Istanbul Park.
The result means the gap between the two teams has now been cut to just seven and a half points.
"On Lando's side, it was not possible to do anything more than he did," explained Seidl.
"It was a very tricky race in tricky conditions. Together with the team, he maximised everything that was on the table.
"Seeing the performance of our car this weekend, with the result, in the end, we can be happy with the damage limitation.
"We are still seven and a half points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors' championship and we simply have to keep going."
Sainz pace not a surprise - Seidl
Daniel Ricciardo started alongside Sainz after taking on new PU components but was unable to match the Spaniard's scintillating drive through the field during the first half of the race.
Asked if this was a surprise to the team, Seidl replied: "No, because they simply had a car that was a lot quicker this weekend and in the end, we also saw that in the race.
"From the first outing onwards we could see the Ferrari car was simply a stronger package throughout the lap.
"I don't think there was one specific area. We are struggling on these kinds of tracks which we have seen several times this year that resulted in a clear lap time gap. That was why it was a lot easier for Carlos to get through the field."
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