Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel is confident that Ferrari will give Mercedes an even greater challenge in race conditions in Bahrain.

After showing impressive long run pace throughout Friday practice, the Scuderia’s two cars managed to challenge Mercedes over one lap during windy conditions in qualifying.

Vettel fell short of Lewis Hamilton pole-winning time by 0.4 seconds in Saturday night’s qualifying session, but crucially split the two Silver Arrows to put his SF15-T on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s 57-lap race.

“I’m very happy with second today,” Vettel said after qualifying. “It was a tough session; at the beginning I didn’t find the rhythm that I seemed to have in practice.

“But towards the end it was getting better, I was feeling happier in the car and felt more comfortable to push.”

Despite being almost half a second off Hamilton’s pace, the German remains hopeful of adding to his recent Malaysia triumph given the red cars ran closely to the pace of the Mercedes’ on higher-fuel runs in practice and seemed to show less tyre degradation in the warm conditions.

“Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good start and then a good race from there. In the race we are maybe a bit closer [to Mercedes’ pace] so we’ll see what happens,” he added.

Teammate Kimi Räikkönen wound up fourth-fastest in the sister Ferrari – just 0.245s slower than Vettel – to claim his first top-four qualifying result since the 2013 German Grand Prix almost two years ago.

The 2007 World Champion said that his SF15-T had a lot more grip to push harder but decided to use that to his advantage in the 57 lap race rather than push his rubber too hard in qualifying.

“I think there was more grip [in the final qualifying phase] than I expected, so afterwards it’s easy to say I could have pushed a bit harder in certain places,” Räikkönen explained.

“But the car was OK and the lap wasn’t too bad, maybe I just ran a little bit wide in one corner.”

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8