Ferrari technical chief Pat Fry is sure Fernando Alonso would have reached Q3 in Australian Grand Prix qualifying but for his Q2 spin, but doubts he could have got higher than row four.
Alonso will start the Formula 1 season-opener in Melbourne from 12th place after spinning into the gravel during Q2.
"There's no denying that was a difficult qualifying," said Fry. "It's true that with Fernando, we could have got into Q3 with relative ease, given the time he did on his only lap in Q2 with used softs, but I don't think we could have got higher than the fourth row."
Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa fared even worse and was only 16th fastest, as predictions of a tough start for Ferrari came true.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali urged fans to keep the faith in Ferrari.
"Everyone had been waiting for this hour of qualifying to understand what the pecking order would be: we knew it would be tough for us and that's how it went," he said.
"I understand that at the moment, our fans are disappointed, but I would urge them to be cautious before making any definitive judgement, as if everything was already over. We need to remain calm and concentrated. We have a lot of work to do and our engineers are well aware of that, as indeed they were before even leaving for Melbourne.
"The season is going to be very long, just as tomorrow's race will be long and hard. Given our grid positions, the realistic aim is for us to get both cars into the points. As usual, we will do our utmost."
Fry is sure Ferrari can fare better in the race.
"Let's hope that over a long distance things can be better and we will at least try and exploit the fact that Fernando has no less than four sets of new tires, while Felipe has two," he said. "Clearly the two drivers' grid positions are what they are, but we will give it our best shot.
"And it is equally clear that we must work like never before to make the F2012 quicker and to try and reduce the gap to the best as soon as possible."