Sebastian Vettel described Lewis Hamilton's British Grand Prix pole lap as a "phenomenal" effort that was out of Red Bull's reach.
Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole by 0.452 seconds over team-mate Nico Rosberg, with Vettel and his Red Bull partner Mark Webber a further tenth adrift on row two.
"Either Lewis found a shortcut or he has something special around here," said Vettel. "It was a phenomenal lap, not in our reach today. I had a good lap and was close with Mark. We did what we could.
"Certainly we are not giving away anything consciously or on purpose, they are bloody quick in qualifying. We are not too bad, but they are in a different world on Saturday afternoon."
Despite Hamilton's belief that Red Bull is still in better shape for race day, Vettel said he was not taking a Mercedes slump for granted.
"I think P3 was our maximum [in qualifying] but for tomorrow who knows -- they are also getting better," said Vettel. "It helps the more time we spend on the tires -- let's leave it there..."
Vettel's main title rival Fernando Alonso is only 10th on the grid following a tough qualifying for Ferrari, but the champion said he was not counting the Spaniard out.
"It is not good news for him and I'm sure he wanted to be higher up," said Vettel. "It's a bit of a surprise, they have been very competitive here for the last few years.
"I'm not too interested in the results today, in the race lots of things can happen. In terms of race pace and tyre wear they will be stronger tomorrow and if everything goes to plan, they will finish higher up than 10th. Anything else will be a surprise."