Melbourne: Fernando Alonso struggled for positives after a dreary qualifying session on Saturday, saying the Ferrari cars had taken a step back in performance after the first day of practice at the Australian Grand Prix.
The double world champion will line up fifth on the grid on Sunday after finishing more than 1.4 seconds slower than pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel, while his team mate Felipe Massa also failed to impress with the eighth fastest lap.
"We missed something today that we need to understand a little bit better," the Spaniard told reporters in the paddock at Albert Park.
"Also the distance from Toro Rosso, Sauber or Renault -- in winter testing and yesterday (it) was around one second in front of them."
"Today was only two or three-tenths (of a second), so it`s something lacking in our car."
"In Sepang, we need to be closer to the pole for sure," Alonso added, referring to the next round in Malaysia.
Brazilian Massa said his team had over-estimated the wear of the Pirelli tyres at Albert Park`s street circuit and were punished by taking a conservative tyre selection.
The new tyres introduced this year wear quicker than the Bridgestones, with the hope that extra pitstops will make the races more unpredictable and exciting.
"Maybe on this track, on this asphalt, this temperature, it does not help so much our car, to be honest, to have the grip straight away from the tyres," the 29-year-old Massa said.
"We need to understand why... I think all these things together didn`t help our car, so I think we`re supposed to be better than what we were."
While a yawning chasm separates Ferrari from Red Bull`s blistering speed, Alonso said he still held out hope of a podium spot.
"Nothing changes for tomorrow. I think strategy will be normal, I think nothing too risky or too aggressive," he added.
"The goal is to be on the podium tomorrow. I think it`s possible for us starting fifth."
"I remember 2008, 2009 finishing fourth here, not being in Q3, so this is a race with many things that can happen."
His team mate held far lower ambitions, however, and was already looking ahead to Sepang.
"The most important thing is to finish the race to score points," Massa said.
"We know how difficult it is, the first race, with reliability as well, so let`s finish this race in a good direction."