Ferrari closer to Mercedes than it looks, say Raikkonen and Vettel

Kimi Raikkonen believes Ferrari's deficit to Mercedes is no cause for alarm following the opening qualifying session of the new Formula 1 season in Australia

Ferrari closer to Mercedes than it looks, say Raikkonen and Vettel

The suggestion following pre-season testing was Ferrari would pose more of a threat to Mercedes this year.

But Raikkonen finished 1.196 seconds adrift of Lewis Hamilton, who clinched the 50th pole of his career, to start fourth on the grid at Melbourne's Albert Park just behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel who was 0.838s down.

"There's a difference obviously," said Raikkonen.

"I struggled a bit with the warm-up. On the last set [of tyres] it was slightly better, but I wouldn't look too much into that time difference between us and Mercedes here.

"Obviously we would rather be in front, but it's been quite a strange weekend so far, and for us it would be better to have slightly warmer conditions to get the tyres ready and working better.

"But the car feels pretty good, so I think it's too early, and once we go to the next races and normal circuits I think we'll see the real picture.

"Obviously they [Mercedes] are still very fast, but I don't think you should be too worried."

Vettel also feels the gap was unrepresentative, particularly as the new qualifying format resulted in him opting to save a set of fresh super-softs for the race.

"I've said many times we have made a step forwards, which I think we have, and especially tomorrow we should be quite a bit closer," said Vettel.

"We expected them to be strong in qualifying, which they were. We had a bit of a rougher start to find the rhythm - certainly I had - which got better throughout qualifying.

"I'm very happy with the lap I had in the end, so we called it there and saved a set of tyres for tomorrow.

"Sure, we're not on the front row, but we still have high hopes for the race and it's going to be a long year.

"We know this car has a lot of potential, so in starting out third and fourth, locking out the second row, it's a good achievement."

Nico Rosberg, who starts second behind team-mate Hamilton, was left surprised by the gap to Ferrari, although he appreciates there were extenuating circumstances.

"It [the gap] is not real because we had two runs [in Q3], they only had one run," said Rosberg.

"Sebastian was really compromised in his qualifying because he only had one tyre left in Q3, and he had to make that stick.

"So that's a different situation to us as we were easy going and could just take some risks out there.

"So let's be careful, but for sure the gap has surprised us today and we're very happy about it at the moment.

"We all know Ferrari is always quicker in the race than in qualifying, so let's hold our horses and see how it goes tomorrow."

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In quotes: The F1 paddock's full verdict on revamped qualifying
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