Lewis Hamilton revealed that his MP4-27 was set up more for the race than for qualifying as he was set to incur a penalty anyway in China.
Entering Saturday's qualifying, Hamilton was well aware that whatever position he qualified in would not be where he starts the Chinese GP after he being hit with a five-place penalty for changing his gearbox.
As a result, McLaren opted to go gear his car up more towards Sunday's 56-lap race at the Shanghai International.
"Looking at the race, we've got a good car but I'm going to have to work my way up through the field tomorrow," said Hamilton, who was second quickest but will start P7.
"But as long as I move forward in the race, I'll be happy.
"I've set my car up to be at its strongest in the race. So, although Jenson and I are a little bit further back than we'd like, and we've got a bit of work to do, we can still make it.
"There's a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we're right with them in terms of race pace. This is a track where you can overtake, and we've got DRS too - so I'm massively excited about tomorrow."
One of the drivers Hamilton will have to overtake if he wants the victory is Rosberg, who claimed his first-ever F1 pole position by 0.505s ahead of the McLaren driver.
And Hamilton was one of the first to congratulate his friend.
"Very big congratulations to Nico today. We first met back in 1997 and were team-mates in 2000. We've been good friends ever since.
"When we were team-mates, we always dreamed of qualifying first and second together in Formula 1 - and it's crazy that we did that today.