Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali fears Fernando Alonso's Formula One world title hopes could be scuppered this weekend unless his team give the Spaniard a fighting chance in qualifying.
Alonso goes into the final grand prix of the year in Brazil trailing Sebastian Vettel by 13 points, and with the odds long on overhauling the Red Bull star at the death.
"We always say it, but we need to improve our qualifying pace," said Domenicali, in light of Alonso qualifying a dismal ninth in Sunday's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas.
Ferrari's Achilles heel is their one-lap pace on a Saturday as the 31-year-old has qualified on the top two rows of the grid only once in the last nine races since claiming back-to-back pole positions at Silverstone and Hockenheim.
Despite that, Alonso has managed to conjure some astonishing results as he has been on the podium in six of the last seven races to keep his championship hopes alive and take the battle down to the wire.
But if Alonso is to pip Vettel in becoming the ninth driver to win three world titles, he will almost certainly have to at least get ahead of the German on the grid at Interlagos.
Domenicali added: "Unfortunately, in Austin we had one of the worst qualifyings of our championship. So we need to make sure in Brazil it is a different situation and it doesn't happen again otherwise it will be very, very difficult."
Arguably, Alonso's best hope of victory will be for Vettel to suffer a reliability issue that either compromises his grid position or affects him in the race.
"Pragmatically speaking we know the result has to be better," added Domenicali. "We have to be in front of Sebastian and we need some drivers in the middle, without thinking of the worst-case scenario.
"This is the approach we need. We know it's not easy because he (Vettel) is driving very well and he has a very quick car. But that doesn't change what we have to do. We have to focus on our job and see what will be the outcome of the race."