Fernando Alonso says he is aware that Ferrari "must" improve quickly if it is to fight for victory soon.
The Spaniard finished in a distant fourth position in the season-opening race in Australia, and was nearly a second off the pace again in today's qualifying in Sepang. Alonso admitted there was no hiding from the fact that Ferrari's car is simply not quick enough at the moment.
"The tires are the same for everybody so I don't think the tires are a problem," said Alonso. "The car is not quick enough.
"These days aerodynamics are 90 percent of the performance of the car, so I think that's one area that we need to analyse better and normally every improvement you put in the car, again, 90 percent of the time is an aerodynamic update. So that's something where they maybe did a better job than us at the moment.
"Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough in Australia, not quick enough here to fight for pole, China is in five days' time so I expect a difficult race as well. We'll see. At the moment that's what we have and we need to score as many points as possible."
The two-time champion said, however, that he was staying very calm about the situation, as the championship will be very long once more.
"I'm very optimistic for the championship chances. I think this is a long championship with many races and anything can happen. Last year we struggled in some races, like in Turkey when I was out of Q3, and then one week later I was fighting for pole position in Monaco. We have to be really concentrated.
"There is no secret we need to improve. We must improve in the next coming races because we are not quick enough at the moment. But also we have to remain very calm, very focused because the championship is very long."
Alonso, fifth today, admitted he was not expecting to qualify so high up and reckons he will be on the podium in the race.
"We were expecting maybe more problems, and a worse qualifying position," he said. "To be fifth, starting from the clean side, with the race in front of us.. I think if we finish the race we will be on the podium."