Mercedes felt a lack of affinity with the soft tire masked its pace in Abu Dhabi qualifying today, as Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg took eighth and ninth on the grid.
The team had looked competitive through practice, but could not join the fight at the front in Q3.
Team boss Ross Brawn said: "We made very solid progress into Q3 today with the car looking pretty reasonable throughout qualifying. However, we were much better on the prime tyre with both Nico and Michael struggling on the option in Q3. This gives us reason to be optimistic in the race tomorrow when we should be on the right strategy."
Rosberg agreed that the tires had been the main issue in the crucial part of qualifying.
"The speed was there today, however unfortunately only on the hard tyre, so it's disappointing to be starting from ninth place on the grid," he said. "For our race strategy, I had to run the options in Q3 and I just struggled with them all the way through qualifying."
Schumacher felt his issue had been more that his Q3 runs were less than perfect.
"I didn't have the best last lap in Q3 today unfortunately as I didn't quite get the sectors together," he said. "That was a shame because I could have ended up one or even two positions higher. However, this gives me room to improve for tomorrow and that will be my target for the race."