Vettel puzzled by big gap to Mercedes in qualifying

Finland's Valtteri Bottas took his first Formula One pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday with a sizzling lap that ended Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton's bid for a seventh in a row.

Red Bull's smiling Australian, who finished third overall last season behind the Mercedes duo of now-retired champion Nico Rosberg and Hamilton, has had reason to scowl after the first two races of 2017.

"Today we had a bit of a margin over the Ferraris but generally in race trim they seem to be a bit quicker, so we expect them to be closer tomorrow", he added. "We should have a good auto in the race and take it from there".

"Valtteri found some great pace", Hamilton said. "We are both starting on the front row and I really managed to get a lot of lap time out the vehicle in the cooler night time conditions". "How it is behaving and also working with the team and fine-tuning the set-up of the vehicle - I'm getting better with that as well with the engineers". When I got the time I was a bit down to be honest, because four-tenths was a lot more than I expected, also given how good the lap felt.

"The more time you spend with the auto and driving it, you get more at one with the vehicle".

"I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sector, which is unusual as it's usually a very strong sector for me". It's easy to lock up or miss apex slightly but hopefully if I can concentrate it will be alright tomorrow.

Lance Stroll failed to make Q3 and will start 12th just ahead of Pascal Wehrlein, who will return to the starting grid for the first time this year in an impressive 13th place after sitting out the first two races, reported ESPN.

"I'm honestly not disappointed [about not getting pole position]", Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

"I haven't seen where we lost most of the time, but a little spread everywhere", he said. It's definitely going to be a close battle.

"It's great how close it is between the teams, it brings out the best in each driver", Hamilton said. "Obviously, I will try my hardest to win the race but whichever the case, he's going to have one (victory) at some stage this year".

"But there's no point to start dreaming". D Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 5. It took a few races but I've got it and hopefully it's the first of many.

Team principal Christian Horner said the real test would be the first race of the European season in Barcelona next month when major updates come through, but Ricciardo was looking further down the road. "I'm sure we can be alright". "It always was, at least a three-way battle as Valtteri has been right there with us from the beginning, so nothing changes".

Brazilian Felipe Massa starts eighth for Williams and France's Romain Grosjean ninth for Haas.

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