Ferrari say they are unlikely to be fast enough to finish on the podium at the start of the Formula 1 season.
Technical director Pat Fry admitted at the end of a troubled pre-season testing programme on Sunday that the team had "a lot of work to do".
"I am disappointed by our performance level at the moment," he said.
Asked if he ruled out a podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix on 18 March, Fry said: "At the moment, yes, but I'm always pretty pessimistic."
Fry's comments come after lead driver Fernando Alonso told Spanish television that Ferrari would have to "suffer" in the first few races because "we are not 100%".
Alonso added: "We still have many things to improve. We have to grit our teeth and keep improving little by little."
Ferrari have admitted that they took risks with the design of their car this season in an attempt to close the gap to Red Bull, who have dominated the last two seasons.
But the result has been a complicated car that Ferrari are struggling to understand.
Ferrari have also had to abandon, at least temporarily, a major design philosophy in the car concerning the way they blew the exhausts for aerodynamic effect.
"The change we made to the exhaust position has put us a bit on the back foot," Fry said.
"We're just trying to optimise for that. We've got a lot of work going on at the factory. We'll have new bits to test in Melbourne."