Nico Rosberg accepted that Mercedes was simply not quick enough as Daniel Ricciardo collected pole position for Red Bull in Monaco.
Both Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were hindered early in Q3 by a fuel pressure problem, which delayed their arrival on track.
Once in action, Rosberg was able to post the second quickest time, with Hamilton in third.
"I don't think it went away, it never was with me," Rosberg said, referring to his lap.
"Daniel was just quick today, they got a well deserved pole, and that’s it, we just weren’t quick enough."
Hamilton was downbeat after encountering more reliability troubles in a season affected by setbacks.
"It was a difficult qualifying," he rued.
"I don’t know what to say at the moment. The good news is I got out to do a lap. It wasn’t as bad as bad as some of the races have been.
"I'm grateful to be up in third. Obviously pole was there for the taking, but I’ll do what I can in the race to salvage what I can from today’s result."