Sebastien Buemi believes Toyota Gazoo Racing will be “completely out of the fight” at this weekend’s 4 Hours of Shanghai as the FIA World Endurance Championship’s handicap system continues to bite.

Under new rules to try and equalise performance in the LMP1 class for the 2019-20 season, teams are handicapped depending on their championship position, with Toyota facing a reduction in hybrid power and petrol energy per lap.

The deficit was estimated to be worth 1.4 seconds per lap for the championship-leading #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid at Fuji last month, leaving it unable to contend with the sister #8 car for victory.

Both Toyotas will face even more significant handicaps in Shsanghai this weekend, giving LMP1 rivals Rebellion Racing and Ginetta an opportunity to end its perfect start to the season.

Speaking in the pre-race press conference on Friday, #8 Toyota driver Buemi cast doubt on the team’s chances at the Shanghai International Circuit in light of the handicaps.

“I think it will be the first time where we’ll be actually fighting with the LMP2. We’ll do the best we can,” Buemi said.

“Obviously it’s a four-hour race and things can happen, but on pure pace, we have no real hope to fight the other guys.

“We don’t get the tyres to work in their right window now. It’s difficult. We’ve been trying to optimise everything we can but it’s going to be a completely different challenge that we’ve had in the past.

“Here, I think we’re completely out of the fight. We’re most likely going to start fourth or fifth and we’re going to try to have a fight.

“But right now, it looks like we won’t be able to have a fight.”

Practice on Friday in Shanghai saw the Ginetta-backed Team LNT head the timesheets with its #6 car, albeit by just 0.061 seconds from the #8 Toyota.