The team started its 2013 campaign with the aim of challenging for sixth in the constructors' championship, but has scored just one point following Jean-Eric Vergne's 10th place finish at Sepang.
While Ricciardo admitted the team's opening two races had fallen below expectations, he insisted the team was yet to unlock the full potential of the STR8.
"In practice [for Malaysia] we were around 17th and feared we hadn't made progress," he said, "but we discovered some positives in the afternoon.
"We're not where we want to be but there's potential. There's definitely more room to find in the car.
"Unfortunately out of the box we haven't been that quick so we need to throw some changes at it to see what it does.
"We probably threw a few too many at it so we put on less today which helped, but there's more potential in the car and we just need to unlock it. It'll take time but we understand more [now] which is nice."
Ricciardo added that he remains hopeful that fighting to get into Q3 will be possible in future races.
"We were all hoping to be that team that everyone's talking about; I think everyone wants to be that team," he said.
"We haven't been that team yet. It's still early but for sure we want to be quicker at this stage.
"We wanted to really right for Q3. It hasn't been evident in the first races but we can keep progressing."
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