Sebastian Vettel admits Ferrari has been left surprised by the advantage it holds over Mercedes after dominating qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Mercedes topped both Friday practice sessions courtesy of Lewis Hamilton but it was Ferrari that hit the front in colder conditions on Saturday, with Vettel snatching pole position from teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the second race in a row. Surprisingly the gap back to Mercedes was half a second, and Vettel admits Ferrari was not expecting to hold such a margin.
“Yes, we are [surprised],” Vettel said. “I think the first three races have been a bit different now. The tracks are quite different to each other and to have that much of a gap is a bit of a surprise.
“But I think it’s also a track where you just need to get in and find that sweet spot and if you are a little bit out then easily you drop a little bit of time. So, I wouldn’t be surprised tomorrow if that gap disappears and it will be a very tight race.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t mind if it stays there but I think it will be a tight race amongst the top three teams, and a long, tough race, but obviously it’s good to start from the front.”
Asked if Ferrari has sacrificed race pace to be quicker in qualifying, Vettel replied: “No, I think we try to look at both, obviously, and tomorrow the forecast is quite different [warmer] so I think we kept that in mind. Obviously we see how it works tomorrow but the answer is still no.”
Raikkonen was quicker though the first two sectors on the final runs in qualifying before losing the time to Vettel in the last part of the lap, and while the Finn is unsure where he specifically lost out he believes the pace on Saturday bodes well for the race.
“I honestly don’t know how you could sacrifice something today to be better tomorrow,” Raikkonen said. “We have nothing that you could change like that. I never… as long as I remember, there has never been a case like that. You have somehow different setups for two days. It’s what you have. If it’s fast in qualifying it’s fast in the race, if it works.”