Sebastian Vettel surprised by Bahrain GP pole as Ferrari dominate

Where do Mc Laren sit in the pecking order? | Image Octane

Where do Mc Laren sit in the pecking order? | Image Octane

"I was very happy with both laps in the end, and very happy with the result and the way the auto was handling and responding", he added.

"I think it's surprising for us after Australia to be that competitive", said the German.

But Gasly caught many off guard on Saturday by going sixth fastest in qualifying for Toro Rosso, meaning he will start fifth in Sunday's race.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas will start from third place and accepted that Mercedes has to understand why its pole-setting pace from Australia could not be carried over to Bahrain. In the last run, I was in traffic, but what can I do?

"It's getting better and today was quite nice, the auto came alive".

That should theoretically allow him to go longer in the race before needing to pit, opening up strategic possibilities Mercedes might be able to exploit in the event of a safety vehicle, like Ferrari did in Australia.

From ninth on the grid, he faces a long, hard race trying to get on to the podium.

He added: "Ferrari are just quicker in general everywhere".

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"There will be chances to do something with the strategy and I will eke out all the performance and strength I can from the auto". Fernando Alonso was 0.313s clear of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, but that will be little consolation for the two-time champion who was 0.4s off the Honda-powered Toro Rosso of Gasly. The Dutchman was furious with himself after losing control at Turn 2 and shunting into a tyre barrier before taking a ride back to the garage on a scooter.

Eight minutes later, the session resumed.

Ferrari can take benefit from Raikkonen's speed, with all the Finn appearing a strong bet because of his very first pole position since last season's Monaco Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Renault ahead of Force India's Esteban Ocon and teammate Carlos Sainz.

Eliminated: 16th Romain Grosjean (Haas), 17th Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), 18th Sergey Sirotkin (Williams), 19th Charles Leclerc (Sauber), 20th Lance Stroll (Williams).

Vettel caused a minor drama during the session when some of the bodywork fitted to his Ferrari's sidepod worked loose and began flapping about, forcing the German four-time champion to pit for repairs.

His race engineer informed him that the Ferrari was running in a more powerful engine mode according to the pit wall's Global Positioning System data, but there was no doubt Hamilton left plenty of lap time on the table in the corners as well.

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth in the session but will have to take a three-position penalty after his Mercedes team found an issue with his gearbox.

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