Mind the gap! Vettel surprised by Ferrari advantage

Ferrari were half a second quicker than Mercedes in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, to the surprise of Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.   -  Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel was surprised by the gulf in performance between Ferrari and Mercedes ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel produced a stunning lap to qualify on pole ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, half a second clear of Silver Arrows duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

The result follows victories for Vettel in Australia and Bahrain and has prompted some to suggest that Formula One could be in the midst of a power shift, as Ferrari show promising early signs of a return to their dominance of the early 2000s.

But Vettel is wary of getting carried away, stressing that the Shanghai International Circuit can be an unforgiving track.

"I think the first three races have been a bit different," said Vettel. "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."

Vettel pipped Raikkonen by 0.087 seconds late in Q3 to claim a second successive pole.

"It was a crazy session – the car was unbelievable and it just got better," added Vettel. "I think right from the first lap in the first of part of qualifying, in Q1, I was really happy and, in the end, we didn't have to do much on the car.

"I didn't have to fight so much finding the last fine tunings. I was very happy with the settings I had from the beginning. Usually you change quite a lot, you change your mind. 

"It was tricky because also the wind was changing, [but] the last lap in Q3 I knew I could step it up. I knew I had a bit more in me, because on the first run I had two moments... I lost the rear twice, so I lost a bit of momentum in those places.

"So I knew that I had a little bit more and obviously in the last lap I got it all together and [was] very happy that when I crossed the line I was looking up to see the screen and I saw something green, which is usually good, and a little bit of purple.

"Really pleased. It was a tight session but I think again a great result for the team."

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