Pierre Gasly says his Toro Rosso team is "really stressed" about losing sixth place in the Formula 1 constructors' championship, as it can only "pray" for a favourable Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a poor qualifying.
Toro Rosso is four and six points ahead of Renault and Haas respectively in the teams' standings heading into the season finale at the Yas Marina circuit, and dropping down the order would cost the Italian outfit millions in revenue.
Gasly led the way for Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi qualifying but only managed 17th at a track where he's excelled in his junior career - whereas Renault's Nico Hulkenberg placed as high as seventh.
Gasly said: "I think today was good, compared to Brendan [Hartley], I managed to do a good lap so this is the only positive, but that's not the target.
"This weekend we need to keep the sixth position and at the moment it's out of our hands, really, because we don't have the pace to fight.
"It's a bit annoying to look at things without being able to really have an impact on it."
Should the relevant teams' cars finish where they start on Sunday, Hulkenberg's seventh place would be enough to swing the fight for sixth in Renault's favour – and Gasly, who in addition has reliability worries due to running "an old MGU-H", admitted Toro Rosso's hopes relied on other midfield teams.
"Hopefully the Force India will be fast enough. I think at the moment the only thing we can do is to pray tomorrow morning for Hulkenberg to finish eighth," he said.
"At the moment I see Franz [Tost] is really stressed, as much as we are, because in the end if we want to be competitive next year, it's really important to keep this sixth position, because it'll have an impact on the development.
"It's a bit frustrating not to be a bit further on the grid, to be fighting properly - starting from 17th, it's difficult to do something, but for sure we'll try everything."
Hartley: I didn't do a good job
Teammate Hartley said he was disappointed with his own performance in qualifying on top of Toro Rosso's struggles, as the Kiwi trailed Gasly by three quarters of a second.
"We didn't have a lot to lose so we've been also throwing a lot of changes at the car, because we knew we had a 10-place grid penalty, so we've been desperate to find some performance somewhere," Hartley said.
"Didn't work out in qualifying, I didn't get a lap together at all. A bit disappointed personally, I didn't do a good job."
Explaining the STR12's weak Yas Marina performance, Gasly said: "In terms of downforce we are not where we would like to be. And we're not competitive in the corners, and neither in the straights.
"There are many areas we need to improve, but when you put this problem, plus this one, plus this one, at the end the gap is pretty big, so it's tough."
Hartley, who also joined the outfit mid-season, echoed Gasly's sentiments.
"The truth is, I don't know, we seem to be lacking pace everywhere. The long run, we're in the mix with the Haas and the Sauber... but points I think are going to be a tough ask."
Additional reporting by Oleg Karpov and Ben Anderson