Nico Rosberg says he didn't expect to be beaten to the front row by Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, admitting that starting third is 'not ideal'.

Pole sitter in Bahrain for the last two years, Rosberg - like his rivals - set out late on to push for pole position on the soft tyres, but not only did he fall a sizeable six tenths short of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, he would also be beaten by Vettel.

Two tenths shy of the Ferrari driver at the chequered flag, a visibly disappointed Rosberg - who comes into the weekend 17 points adrift of Hamilton in the standings - admits he didn't expect Vettel to be as much of a challenge over a single lap.

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"Strategy-wise I got it wrong," he said. "I was thinking too much about the race and I underestimated Seb's speed, and also how much it would cost me by taking it easier in qualifying two on the race-set of tyres.

"I just lacked rhythm as a result and I just had one shot at it in the end with a new set, so that's where I went wrong today. I'm disappointed because Sebastian beat me. If I'd been second that would have been damage limitation, but being third is not really not ideal."

Reflecting on the decision to use a set of tyres in Q1, which limited him to just a single fast run in Q3, Rosberg concedes he was his own 'poor management' of the situation.

"I didn't expect the used tyre to be so slow. It was really, really poor. I expected it to be good, especially as I took it easy on that tyre in Q1, but it was really poor, which meant I only had a shot at the end, and that was just poor management, really poor management.

"[The fault was] My side...altogether. We always do it together, but I'm definitely largely responsible for that."