Sebastian Vettel said Red Bull had to take a different tactical approach to the Chinese Grand Prix as Mercedes and Ferrari are such strong rivals this weekend.
Vettel did not fight for pole in Shanghai Q3, instead lapping slowly on medium tires and securing ninth on the grid. McLaren's Jenson Button adopted the same plan and will start eighth.
Everyone ahead will begin the race on soft tires, which are only expected to last a handful of laps.
"We saw some people are very fast, especially the Mercedes and Ferrari, so we decided to go in a different direction," Vettel explained. "The soft tires don't last long so the medium tire seems a better race tire.
"We have the possibility to choose, but I think it's clear what we are trying to do today. Whether it is smart or not we will see."
Vettel said he had been trying to complete a slow lap in Q3 to at least ensure he was the highest-placed of the medium tire runners, but had to abandon his effort with what he suspected was a brake problem.
"I lost the brake pedal or something broke, so I couldn't finish the lap anyway," he said. "I checked the tires and there's no damage. There wasn't much load on them when I locked up."