Kimi Raikkonen hopes to be able to mix it with the Mercedes in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, despite the Silver Arrows 'jumping away' from Ferrari on their final qualifying runs.
The Finn will line up fourth on the grid for Sunday's race, but posted the second fastest time in final practice on Saturday afternoon - behind Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel - and appeared in the mix form pole position until Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg turned on the afterburners on the final qualifying runs.
However, encouraged by Ferrari's race pace in Australia - where both drivers took turns to lead before a DNF (Raikkonen) and strategy error (Vettel) cost the Scuderia a shot at victory - Raikkonen remains optimistic that at least a podium, to add to the seven he already has at Bahrain International Circuit, is possible this weekend.
"I think we were pretty close to Mercedes until the last run," the 2007 world champion insisted, "It looks like they do something different at the end of Q3, they seem to have more horsepower or whatever it is, because they always jump away. But qualifying is one thing, the race is quite another...
"We know that, in the race, we're always slightly stronger against them, closer at least. Will tomorrow be the same? Who knows? We try to do our best and see how it goes and where we're going to end up. It's obviously not going to be easy, we know we have work to do, but slowly we're making things better and hopefully we'll be even closer to them in qualifying [in future]."
Raikkonen was the only driver amongst the 'big four' still running in the latter stages of qualifying not to improve his time on his final run, and admitted to a slight mistake on the crucial lap.
"Today was not too bad and I was happy with the car but, on the last set of tyres, I struggled in the first few corners and I lost a bit of time," he revealed, "I knew my lap wasn't going to be better after that, as I didn't get the tyres to work as I wanted in the first corners.
"Overall, the weekend has been pretty okay so far. Yes, we want to be higher up and have work to be done but, we are more or less there. It's very hard to say where we're going to be against Mercedes - or even the other teams - so we can only do our maximum and, if it's enough, it's nice. If it's not, we try to make the best out of it. We don't know how the race will pan out, but we'll try to make a good start and then go as fast as we can."
Typically, Raikkonen appeared underwhelmed by the news that Hamilton's pole lap had been the fastest ever recorded at BIC, the Briton's 'sexy lap' eclipsing the previous time held by Mark Webber for the past ten years.
"It's completely different," the Finn insisted, "You cannot compare it, because it depended on so many things. Over one lap, we can now be quite fast but, in the race tomorrow, we start with full tanks and all the rest, so we're a lot slower. That's where the big difference between ten years ago and now is, the race lap times are nowhere near as quick as what we can do in one lap..."
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