Jenson Button blamed poor grip for his disappointing show in qualifying for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old McLaren driver failed to make it to the final session on Saturday and will start from 11th place on the grid.
The defending drivers' champion struggled throughout the session and was lapping almost two seconds slower than the high-flying Red Bulls in Q2. Button, 30, who won at the Hungaroring in 2006, admitted he was disappointed and claimed that a lack of grip hampered his performance.
"In practice the car was working really well, but in qualifying I just couldn't find a balance," he said.
"We changed the car a little bit, but it didn't help a lot. I was happy with the car this morning, but this afternoon there was just no grip. It wasn't a great session and I'm not really happy."
Button suggested on Thursday that if McLaren were to retain their championship lead, a podium finish was vital, and was left crossing his fingers that fresh tyres and a good start will help him finish in a better position on Sunday.
"I'm on the clean side at least, and I've got two new sets of tyres for the race as well," he said.
"Hopefully we can fight from there."
His Mclaren team-mate and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton managed to qualify in fifth, but admitted that there was no chance of matching the Red Bulls' times.
He said: "Well, your target is always pole, but the Red Bulls are impossible to beat - they are 1.7secs ahead."
Hamilton, champion in 2008, said all he could do was laugh when he saw how much quicker the Red Bull car is than his McLaren.
"It's a second in the middle sector and half a second in the final sector," he said. "For Jenson and me, we just look at the onboard footage and laugh.
"I don't know what they are doing, but it's incredible."
Hamilton added that he was targeting a podium finish on Sunday.
"It was possible I could get close to (Felipe) Massa, but I don't think I could have beaten him today. I pulled every inch out of the car and I'm happy with the job I did. We've got to work hard but it's a good position to start tomorrow. It's a long haul down to Turn One so anything's possible. Fourth or third would be spectacular."