Timo Glock believes Virgin Racing risks failing to qualify for forthcoming grand prix events this year unless significant improvements are made to the performance of their cars.
Virgin was optimistic during pre-season testing that its performance had improved after a difficult debut season in Formula 1. Yet both Glock and new team-mate Jerome D'Ambrosio could only qualify on the back row for the Australian Grand Prix after struggling badly for pace.
Although the Virgin team was better prepared for the race this year - having brought a fuel tank too small to last a full race distance in 2010 the German believes its speed has fallen away.
"We went forward in terms of the whole structure of the team", said Glock, "the work from the mechanics and engineering side much better than last year. But performance wise, in my opinion, we moved backwards.
"The others just made massive steps. We are just not able to make these big steps. We didn't believe it in Barcelona [testing] but now it's quite obvious that we are not where we should be. The team has to think about certain things and make changes to get us closer. We cannot continue like this. It's not possible."
Virgin Racing came close to joining the HRT cars of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan below the newly re-introduced 107 per cent qualifying limit in Melbourne, and Glock is worried this could be repeated in Malaysia.
"Definitely. At one point we were 105 [per cent] off, I think, so we had a bit of a margin. But if the other guys put soft tyres on and really go for it in Q1, we will be massively in trouble.
"The balance of the car is not that bad. Simply, we just have not enough downforce, and the people in the team have to realise that."
When asked if the Virgin team's high-profile use of Computational Fluid Dynamics rather than wind tunnel testing when designing their car was a factor, the former-Toyota pilot admitted this may have hurt development.
"Could be. We have to think about these things now. Other teams are using CFD but mixed with the wind tunnel, so we have to come to the point and rethink about this."