Despite having been out-paced throughout free practice on Friday, and again on Saturday morning, Sebastian Vettel revealed that he had hoped to have been closer to the Mercedes drivers when it came to qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The German, who surprised the F1 fraternity by winning in Malaysia two weeks ago, again proved to be the biggest threat to Mercedes in qualifying, overcoming an early interruption from Felipe Massa to claim the inside of row two for Sunday's race, but admitted that he had hoped to see the gap to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg come down, instead of extending to nearly a second.

"I'm happy with today I guess," he sighed, "It was a different strategy we had in Q3, going only once on a used set [of tyres] and these guys were a little quicker than we expected to be honest. But I think we got everything right and P3 was our maximum today.

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"We knew it would be tough in qualifying. Q2 looked quite promising, but Q3 was a bit more what we saw in practice, so quite a large gap. But we are fairly happy to make sure we are right behind them. Obviously we want to close the gap, and maybe tomorrow we are a bit closer, but right now we can be reasonably happy."

Vettel clearly remains optimistic that he can present more of a challenge on raceday, given the better race pace and tyre usage that Ferrari displayed at Sepang. With a new set of soft Pirellis remaining in his locker after the decision to only run once in Q3, the German is hoping to give the Mercedes a run for their money on raceday.

"I think we should be a little bit closer - how close we will find out," he said, "I'm looking forward to going racing - and to racing them tomorrow. It is not very far to turn one, so I guess that's fairly straightforward, but it's a long race and tyres are very important here so, obviously, we'll try to do well and get a lot of points. It was a shame not to get both cars on the second row, but I was told Kimi [Raikkonen] was a bit unlucky on the warm-up lap..."

Asked whether it had been necessary for both Ferraris to use the softer rubber in the opening phase of qualifying, Vettel claimed that it could have been risky not to given the gap in performance between the two tyres on offer. With the likes of Sauber, Toro Rosso and even Force India moving ahead of the best medium times when they bolted on the option tyre, the German insisted that there had been no choice but to follow suit - even if the subsequent revelation that Mercedes ran exclusively on the harder rubber surprised him.

"I think it was possible [to remain on mediums], but very, very close, so if you don't make it, you start the race from P16 or P17," he opined, "That is why we decided to [run on softs]. If I am right, I think everyone put the option on in the first part of qualifying... [Mercedes] didn't? Then they were just quick..."