LONDON, March 14 Formula One tailenders Virgin Racing are 'behind the target" and will find it tough to move up the starting grid in the season's early races, their German driver Timo Glock said on Monday.
Team principal John Booth had set an aim of reaching the second phase of qualifying (Q2) once the season starts in Australia next week but Glock told Reuters that it would be a big challenge.
"At the moment, looking at the tests, that will be difficult in the first couple of races," he said at an event to promote a new sponsorship deal with business and financial broadcaster CNBC.
"I think we will have to wait for the bigger upgrade which comes to Turkey (the first European race in May) where everyone will bring an update," he added.
"As far as I see it at the tests, we are still away from the midfield teams and (getting to) Q2 will be difficult. Especially Toro Rosso picked up quite a lot of speed over the winter and they look very strong. Sauber as well.
"They were all the teams where I thought we could catch up a bit more but they made quite a big step and we still have to make a big one. It looks like we are a bit behind the target at the moment," said Glock, also noting that fellow 2010 newcomers Team Lotus appeared to have pulled away.
The main goal for the first four long-haul races, he said, was to finish races and hope that others slipped up.
Virgin were one of three new teams last season, all of which failed to score a point, and ended up last overall in the championship.
They are now racing under a Russian licence after securing a title sponsorship with Russian sportscar maker Marussia.
Glock missed the last pre-season test in Barcelona last week after having surgery to remove his appendix but he said he would be fit for Melbourne.
"It feels like I am 10 kilos lighter now and that gives us a bit of an advantage in Australia," he joked.
"I feel okay. All good. I'm back in training a bit, got the stitches out on Friday and went straight on the bike on Saturday and yesterday,
"It felt all right. The muscle is still a bit stiff and that takes a while but I think i should be back at my (usual) fitness levels in Australia. I'm not worrying because I trained quite hard over the winter."
(Editing by John Mehaffey; To query or comment on this story firstname.lastname@example.org)