Carlos Sainz says he had to “smash the brakes” in order to avoid striking Alexander Albon when the Red Bull driver spun in front of him at Imola.
Sainz overhauled McLaren team-mate Lando Norris early on but spent much of the race towards the lower fringes of the top 10 as part of a train of cars.
A late Safety Car period, required when Max Verstappen suffered a high-speed tyre failure, bunched the field and at the restart Sergio Perez challenged Albon.
Perez moved ahead but as Albon negotiated the exit of the Villeneuve chicane he lost control of his RB16 and spun, forcing the pursuing Sainz to take evasive action.
“It was a very close call,” said Sainz. “We had done a lot of tough work up until then, and suddenly it was Alex spinning in front of me.
“I had to react really quickly on the brakes, smash the brakes, and locked up everything trying not to crash into him, and just missed him by the tiniest of margins.
“I thought I had touched him with my front wing when he spun.
“So I’m happy to salvage that after a race where we managed overtake Lando in the first few laps and then I always felt like I had more pace than the guys in front of me, but it was just too difficult overtake.”
Sainz moved up to eighth place in the Drivers’ Championship, at the expense of Albon and Pierre Gasly, by finishing the race in seventh.