Nick Heidfeld blamed traffic during his only qualifying run in Q2 for his disappointing position ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.
The German opted to do just one run in the second qualifying segment, but Renault team-mate Vitaly Petrov caused a red flag with two minutes to go because of a problem with his car.
The incident meant all drivers were on a mad rush to set a time in the final two minutes, and many found traffic during the flying laps.
Heidfeld was left frustrated after qualifying in 16th place.
"It's quite frustrating to be starting from P16 because I don't think it's a fair reflection of our pace," said Heidfeld. "We were always going to do one run on the soft tyres in Q2, but the red flag made the last few minutes on Q2 very busy.
"You really needed to be first in the queue at the end of the pitlane because there was not much time to get around and cross the line before the end of the session. I managed to do one final lap, but I was stuck in traffic and I couldn't get a clean lap.
"As I said, our race pace is definitely better than our grid position, but starting from P16 is not going to be easy. I think it's a track where you can overtake so hopefully I can make a good start, like in the previous two races, and fight for points."
Subscribe to Autosport Plus
Register for free