Fernando Alonso says Ferrari must react quickly if it is to stand a chance in the championship following a very disappointing first qualifying of the year in Melbourne.
The Spaniard qualified in 12th position after spinning off in Q2, although he admitted he did not have the pace to do much better had he not made that mistake.
With the Ferrari proving to be off the pace of the leading teams already, Alonso conceded the Maranello squad cannot afford a slow recovery like last year if it wants to stay in the championship fight.
"If we improve the car quickly we can target important things like the championship, etc. If we don't improve the car quickly then we won't be able to do it," Alonso told reporters after qualifying. "Last year I was 1.4 seconds off the first, and this year I'm a second off the first in Q2. So we are better than last year, so to speak.
"What happens is that we need to improve. Last year we were 1.4 seconds behind and we won the ninth race at Silverstone. This year we can't wait until the ninth race to win a grand prix. We have to do it much earlier."
Alonso admitted Ferrari has failed to reach the target of hitting the ground running with its new car, and says now the team must do its best to recover.
"We are obviously not quick enough, we are not competitive to fight for the top places at the moment so it is something that maybe we knew, or expected, or had some ideas after winter testing and today we confirmed that we are not competitive. So there is still a lot of work to do, we have to be more united than ever, we have to work. I'm sure we worked 24 hours a day before this race and now we need to work 25 – it is the only way to improve the car and to win races.
"This is now the target. The target was to start the championship with a competitive car, able to win races. That was the message all winter and all the second part of last year, we didn't arrive to that target to arrive to Australia with a winning car. So we need to arrive as soon as possible with a winning car in the next couple of a grand prix."
The two-time champion said he had made a mistake during Q2, and claimed he was at least happy to have more tires available for Sunday.
"I think I touched the grass, I didn't realize, obviously, but looking at the TV the left tires were on the grass, so I spun putting the tires there and qualifying finished unfortunately in the gravel.
"I don't know what could be the position without the incident, maybe it was possible to go in Q3, maybe not, because the times were very close. If you go in Q3, you have no new tires for tomorrow so at the end of the day maybe it's a good compromise to be P12 with new tires."