Adrian Sutil says the Force India car is still lacking downforce after the German and team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella finished at the bottom of the times in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The German driver was seven tenths of a second slower than his closest rival in Q1, and both him and Fisichella were unable to escape the final row of the grid.
Sutil admitted the lack of grip is making things very difficult for him.
"We knew it was going to be difficult here today," said Sutil. "We couldn't find a balance as we don't have enough downforce just yet. This is our main issue and why it is very difficult to drive right now.
"Although today was tough, we should be more competitive in the race as the pace on Friday over longer runs was better. Our goal now is to finish without any incidents.
"We know our car is reliable so maybe we can pick up some places like this."
Fisichella was also left lamenting the car's lack of downforce and is just aiming to finish tomorrow's race.
"Today it felt better than yesterday but it was still tough," said the Italian. "We are lacking grip aerodynamically, particularly in the slow speed corners.
"This race might be tough but we know there is another step to come in Bahrain so the aim here is to get to the finish. We need to have a good strategy and try to do what we can."