Sebastian Vettel admits he is surprised how competitive Ferrari proved to be during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, having been so far off in terms of one-lap pace in Australia.
Lewis Hamilton took pole by over 0.6s in Melbourne, with Kimi Raikkonen second and Vettel in third place. With Ferrari looking quick throughout the weekend in Bahrain, Vettel pipped teammate Raikkonen to pole as the Scuderia locked out the front row – with Mercedes cars in third and fourth – and admits he wasn’t expecting such a quick turnaround.
“I think it’s surprising for us to be, after Australia, that competitive,” Vettel said. “So, obviously, we, I think, have a good base. The car is working; in Australia, I think we struggled with the feel for the car. Here it’s been better, so we improved a little bit, working the car.
“At the beginning of the season, it’s always difficult because you don’t know yet the car that well. It’s getting better, so obviously today was quite nice and the car came alive. I didn’t have much session this afternoon, so it was a bit tricky to know what to expect but I felt quite good right from the start and knew that I could make progress throughout the session.
“Q3, that’s when I wanted it to peak, and I think I peaked in the first run, just before the last corner. I wanted a bit too much. So, I knew I had a bit in me and it was a bit copy/paste the final lap I had, but the last corner I managed to stay away from the curbs.
“So very happy with both laps in the end and happy obviously with the result, with the car, the way the car was handling and responding. Chuffed!”
Valtteri Bottas was third quickest while Hamilton has a gearbox penalty and will start ninth. The Finn also says Mercedes was not expecting to face such a difficult time in Bahrain.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Bottas said. “I agree that we were not having the pace this weekend that we’ve been expecting coming here but we also didn’t have anything new since Melbourne. It’s a very different circuit, very different kind of tarmac, different temperatures, everything so for sure we still need to understand completely why.
“For sure we are struggling a little bit with some overheating issues with the tires. Obviously less so in the evening sessions but still, we have work to do. It’s like we’ve been saying all through the beginning of the season that we are not miles away.
“Today, Ferrari, this weekend so far has been the quicker car so that’s where we are. We were better in Australia, we need to understand why we were not quickest today but for sure we still have tomorrow to see how the pace is.”