Heikki Kovalainen expects his Caterham team to join the midfield pack before the end of the season despite a disappointing start to 2012.
The ex-Lotus outfit had been confident of breaking into the group this season, but in Australia and Malaysia, neither the Finn nor team-mate Vitaly Petrov looked to have the pace to do so.
Caterham has taken some upgrades to the Chinese Grand Prix that it hopes will chip away at the gap and Kovalainen is confident that the team will achieve its goal later in the year.
"It's hard to say, but what we have got to be targeting is to close that gap to the midfield," said Kovalainen when asked by AUTOSPORT when he expects Caterham to catch the pack. "Towards the end of the season, we should be able to do that.
"Hopefully it will be quicker than that, but we can't expect other people to sit still. Everybody is moving forward. Hopefully, we have got more to come than some teams in front of us because we are still down on resources and facilities.
"We are not at the level that some other teams are but we know where the main areas are to improve."
Kovalainen admits that Caterham still has some way to go before it can get into serious contention for Q2 on pace.
In Australia, he was almost one second behind the car ahead of him in qualifying, while in Malaysia he was still three-tenths behind Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne despite the Frenchman having to abandon his best lap after a massive tire lock-up.
"The reality is that we are not quite there," said Kovalainen. "We haven't quite joined that pack yet.
"Once we have joined that group, we will pick a few cars off sometimes because it's so tight. But it's hard to pick out a car or team who is just in front of us. They are in the pack and it changes according to the session, but we are always in our normal position because we haven't been able to make a step forward.
"But we have made progress over the winter and we are making progress all of the time. It just takes time. It comes down to more people and better facilities and we are currently improving both of these areas. We are on the right track."