Sebastian Vettel is expecting a tight fight for victory at the Chinese Grand Prix despite leading a shock Ferrari front row lock-out in qualifying ahead of the reigning world champions.
Shanghai has been a Mercedes stronghold throughout the V6 turbo era but it failed to match Ferrari's pace in qualifying. Vettel pipped Raikkonen in the closing seconds of Q3 for the second race weekend in a row as Ferrari finished 0.5s ahead of Valtteri Bottas in third.
Vettel expects Mercedes to be closer in the race but admits Ferrari was braced for a tougher challenge on Saturday.
When asked if Ferrari was surprised to see the size of the gap, Vettel said: "Yes, we are. I think the first three races have been a bit different now so obviously the tracks are quite different to each other and to have that much of a gap, I think, is a surprise.
"But I think it's also a track where you need to get in and find that sweet spot and if you're a little bit out then easily you drop a little bit of time. I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow that gap disappears and it will be a very tight race. Obviously I wouldn't mind if it stays there but I think it will be a tight race amongst the top three teams and a long tough race but obviously it's good to start at the front."
Raikkonen had been on provisional pole and looked set to improve on his final lap time, but it was Vettel who emerged ahead after finding enough to swap places with the Finn at the top of the order. Vettel -- who had been quickest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying -- says the pole position was just about cutting out the small errors which had hampered his initial run in Q3.
"I think right from the start of qualifying I was happy and in the end we didn't do much on the car. I didn't have to fight so much, finding the last fine-tuning, so I was very happy with the settings I had from the beginning. Usually you change quite a lot and you change your mind.
"It was tricky because the wind was changing, sometimes it was more, sometimes it was less, and a bit gusty as well, so trying to look around the lap where the flags are to get a bit of a reference but the last lap in Q3 I knew I could step it up. I had a bit more in me because in the first run I had two moments out of Turn 3, accelerating I was probably a bit keen, and the same out of six, I lost the rear twice so I lost a bit of momentum in those places. So I knew I had a bit more and obviously in the last lap I got it all together and I'm very happy.
"When I crossed the line to see the screen and I saw something green which is usually pretty good and a little bit of purple so I'm really pleased. Obviously it was a tight session but a great result for the team."
Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix U.S. coverage presented by Mothers Polish (All times Eastern)
On the Grid - Sunday, April 15 - 1:30AM - ESPN2
Race - Sunday, April 15 - 2:05AM - ESPN2
Encore - Sunday April 15 - 1:00PM - ESPNEWS
Encore - Sunday, April 15 - 09:00PM - ESPN2