Sebastian Vettel conceded that Ferrari needs to keep working on its qualifying performance after a last lap improvement failed to keep pace with the two Mercedes drivers in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton's first effort error allowed Vettel to hold down a provisional front row spot for the second round of the 2016 world championship but, while he managed to drag a small improvement out of the SF16-H on his final lap, Vettel had no answer when both Mercedes went nearly half a second quicker than their initial attempts.
Hamilton jumped from fourth to first, surprising even team-mate Nico Rosberg, while Vettel had to settle for third overall and a share of row two with Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
"I was very happy with the first attempt, but my second attempt was pretty much copy/paste," the German admitted, "I felt that there was a little bit [of an improvement], but 5/100 is probably not enough if they improve by half a second!"
Despite his frustration, however, Vettel insisted that Ferrari still had a lot to be pleased about, having taken the fight to Mercedes in FP3 and been their only rival in qualifying.
"I think we are very happy today," he claimed, "I was very happy with the car, which felt fantastic throughout qualifying and just kept getting better as the circuit got quicker. There isn't one place on the track where the car doesn't feel right. It feels good, but we know we're not yet where we want to be, but step-by-step I think we're getting there and know what to do."
Having almost stolen victory in Australia, Vettel is hoping for another lightning getaway and fewer strategic errors in Bahrain.
"Let's see what we can do tomorrow," he smiled, "Ideally, we can do the same thing at the start that we did two weeks ago it's a long race and there a lot of things that can happen...
"We were very strong in the race [here last year], and Kimi put a lot of pressure on Nico at the end of the race and managed to get past, so… Obviously, it's impossible to predict, but the car feels good. It felt good this afternoon, with different conditions to the evening, and kept getting better which, in some ways is down to the track, but also making little improvements here and there. So I'm very happy with how it feels over one lap, but also for the race. I'm high on confidence but whether that's enough, we'll see...
"We have a couple of [tyre] options depending on how you start the race, where you are at the first corner, first lap… I think it should be fairly clear which tyres are the preferred ones to use and we'll go from there but, as we've seen, last year, Kimi was on a different strategy to Lewis, Nico and myself and it worked out at the end, so there's always scope for doing something different. We'll see what happens - if we can be smart tomorrow, I'll do it."
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