Fernando Alonso says Ferrari should be "honest" about its own performance at the moment and concede its main goal should be podiums rather than victories.
The Spaniard admitted the start of the season has been difficult for the Italian squad, having been unable to match the pace of Red Bull. Alonso acknowledged it is unrealistic to expect Ferrari to be fighting for wins right now and says the team should keep an honest approach about its goals.
"I think it was a difficult start to the season for us," said Alonso on Thursday in Shanghai. "The problem is that we are not quick enough. The reasons we know, but we need to work to improve the car.
"There are no secrets in F1. Aerodynamics are still the main thing for performance and if we are some gap behind the leaders it is because we need to improve aerodynamically, mainly, so we will try to do it as soon as possible. We know the championship is long so we need to score as many points as possible.
"Then when we have a competitive car, we need to deliver the win – but at the moment we need to be more realistic. Be honest with ourselves and perhaps think of the podium as a main target."
The Spanish driver said he is not expecting to be closer to the top in China, with just one week between the Shanghai race and Sepang, where he finished in sixth position.
"I think there has been only four days from the Malaysia race so the cars will be very similar for everybody in China," he said. "I expect again a difficult weekend as I said in Malaysia, but it is true that this is a different circuit. We saw last year some differences between circuits, track to track, in performance of the cars. So, hopefully, this is a good one for us and we can be much closer to them in qualifying, and then especially in the race.
"We try to do the best we can, we have some new parts in the car but I think everybody will bring small improvements every race so I think performance wise we will be very similar."
Alonso insisted he is encouraged by his team's pace in race trim, but admitted the problems with qualifying were still puzzling.
"Obviously, in qualifying we are struggling a little bit more than the race pace for different reasons as well, maybe one is tire temperature which I don't believe," Alonso said. "Maybe when everyone puts new tires on, everyone delivers a good lap and then in the race it is more difficult to do 58 laps in qualifying mode. We were able to do it in Malaysia."
The two-time champion said the problems he had with his movable rear wing in Sepang had been fixed for China.