Ferrari has admitted that eighth and 13th positions were about the best it could have hoped for in qualifying for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai - as the Scuderia continues to fight 'on the back foot' with a car that it believes to be as much as a second off the outright pace.

The scarlet brigade has endured a torrid start to the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign, leaving the first two races in Australia and Malaysia with no points on the board as a result of poor pace, unreliability, driver errors and strategic blunders. For an outfit battling to successfully defend its constructors' title glory, that kind of form, it is well aware, is simply not good enough.

Unfortunately for Ferrari, its Chinese weekend looks set to maintain that trend, with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen lining up eighth in qualifying and Felipe Massa just 13th, the Brazilian failing to make the top ten on the starting grid for the second outing in succession. The F60 is currently not fitted with one of the now fully legal 'double-decker' diffusers, and until it is, fears Stefano Domenicali, the Prancing Horse will continue to merely canter rather than gallop.

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"A team like Ferrari cannot claim to be happy with getting one car through to the final part of qualifying," acknowledged the Maranello-based concern's team principal, "but given our current technical situation, that's what we could aim for today. It was a shame for Felipe who could also have got through to Q3.

"We knew this would be a difficult weekend, fought out on the back foot - and that is proving to be the case. Now we have a race to run, in which there will be many unknown factors to contend with. Reliability will be crucial - we will try and get the most out of the potential at our disposal, to bring home the best possible result."

Raikkonen was unable to progress far in Q3 given that the Finn had used up all of his new tyres in ensuring he made it through to the top ten shoot-out in the first place, as Massa blamed traffic and an error for his low-key showing, whilst also bemoaning Ferrari's decision to ditch its controversial KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology for this race until the device's teething problems are ironed out.

"The first run in Q2 was pretty good, but on the second I made a mistake going into turn nine which kept me out of Q3," reported the Brazilian. "I had a bit of traffic on my 'out' lap, which meant I didn't get the tyres up to the right temperature.

"We must try and get through these two difficult races, bringing home a few points, working in the meantime on the development of the car. Not having KERS is definitely a handicap in my case, especially in qualifying. This is another area where we must work, to go back to using it as soon as possible."

"Of course I'm not happy with eighth place," concurred Raikkonen, who has already all-but given up hope of regaining the crown he won in 2007, "but given our current potential, we have to settle for this. We got everything out of the car but we had no more new tyres for Q3, and therefore it's already something to have put quite a few of our competitors behind us.

"The problem is still the same - we are just not quick enough. The car's handling isn't bad, but as I've said before, we are giving away a second to the best. I hope we get some developments quickly but, in the meantime, we are trying to do the best with what we've got.

"I hope we have a good race and pick up a few points. I don't know where we might have been if we'd had KERS; at some points it gives you an advantage, but at others it can be a disadvantage. It would have been useful to run it on at least one car to understand the situation better."

Chief race engineer Chris Dyer conceded that points can be the only target for Ferrari in the interim period before the F60 is brought fully up-to-speed with its new diffuser, but he is hopeful that the team will at least be able to finally get off the mark this weekend in Shanghai - a race in which it has triumphed in three of the five previous editions.

Though the predicted rain - which could help Raikkonen and Massa to make up some ground - is not expected to arrive until after the grand prix, Dyer hinted that both drivers are on sensible fuel loads, and therefore if everything runs as planned for once should be in with a shout.

"After the disappointment of Malaysia, this qualifying had some light and shade," the Kiwi reflected. "Kimi secured a good position, managing to make it through to the top ten, while unfortunately Felipe was out of the final part of the session because of a mistake that prevented him from improving on his second run in Q2, just missing out by less than a tenth. In Q3, on worn tyres, Kimi did a great job, managing to put two cars behind him. We have a good strategy and hope to pick up a few points in tomorrow's race."