Vettel says Ferrari have more pace for race

Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:08am EDT
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The gap between dominant Mercedes and the chasing pack appeared as wide as ever after Saturday's much-criticized qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix but Sebastian Vettel still expects his Ferrari to challenge during the race.

World champion Lewis Hamilton captured his 50th pole with a record-setting lap of one minute 23.837 seconds at the season-opener at Albert Park, well clear of team mate Nico Rosberg and nearly a full second faster than third-placed Vettel.

Vettel and Raikkonen, who will line up fourth, had ample time in the third and final qualifying phase to attempt a quicker lap but tellingly stayed in their garage, meaning the session's final minutes wound down without a driver on track.

Four-times world champion Vettel said the Ferrari drivers eschewed the chance to challenge Hamilton's time to preserve their tyres for Sunday rather than throw in the towel.

"I think I said many times that we have done a step forwards, which I think we have," the German told reporters.

"I think especially tomorrow we should be quite a bit closer. We expected them to be strong in qualifying, which they were.

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

"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 I think as a starting out, third and fourth, locking out the second row, is a good achievement."   Continued...

 
Formula One -  Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 19/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel during qualifying at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.   REUTERS/Jason Reed