Kamui Kobayashi believes that Sauber still has work to do to solve the tyre warm-up problems that blighted its qualifying performances last season.
The Japanese missed out on Q3 in Australia last weekend despite showing potential top-10 pace after struggling with front tyre temperature in Q2.
Although the high track temperatures typical of Sepang should help mitigate the problem, Kobayashi has called on the team to improve its warm-up characteristics, especially given how close it is in the midfield
"We still need to improve qualifying," said Kobayashi. "Still we are struggling with the tyre warm-up. We couldn't get the temperature into the front tyres.
"Even to the top teams, the gap is much closer than last year, which is a good sign. But it's important to be at 100 per cent in qualifying and the race. If we are missing a little bit, we will be down."
Despite the qualifying troubles, Kobayashi is impressed with the performance of the Ferrari-engined Sauber C31, which he took to sixth place in Australia.
He believes that rear wing damage picked up on the first lap meant that his car had more potential than it showed even though he was able to fight with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg.
"We can see that we had good performance, even though I had a damaged wing," said Kobayashi. "It is difficult to say what the performance loss was, because we were always in someone's slipstream, but it was not small.
"Everything is fine with the car and I am very confident. Our target for qualifying is Q3 and then it's about avoiding damage at the beginning to see the performance. Unfortunately we didn't show our full performance in Australia."