Nico Rosberg says his ninth-place grid slot represents the maximum Mercedes could have achieved in qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix.
Both Rosberg and team-mate Michael Schumacher made it into Q3 - a marked improvement on last weekend's form at Suzuka - but neither driver was able to get within one second of poleman Mark Webber.
Rosberg said the car lacked the one-lap pace to challenge further up the grid, but was hopeful the situation would be different over a race distance.
"Ninth place was the maximum that we could have achieved today," he insisted.
"We set up the car well but we're lacking the performance to challenge any further towards the front.
"We're working hard to improve the situation, and hopefully our race pace will be better and we can score some decent points here in Korea.
"The track layout here and the cooler temperatures should suit to us more than in the recent races, so I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."
Schumacher meanwhile said the team had made progress from Japan but still labelled its qualifying performance 'average'.
"The positive aspect about today's performance was that we made a step forward relative to last weekend and got into Q3," he explained.
"But overall, it was an average kind of day. We were expecting to end up somewhere between positions eight and 10, but things didn't go quite right in the final sector of my quick lap.
"Looking ahead to tomorrow, I think we can hope to look quite respectable: our long runs were quite good, as were the tyres. Let's see how the race unfolds."