Mercedes braced for close fight with Ferrari

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Toto Wolff has admitted that Ferrari now looks to be a consistent competitor for Mercedes, given that Vettel has now been able to qualify second, simply outpacing Nico Rosberg and coming very close to pole.

After Vettel's win in Malaysia, some expected Ferrari to have had a one-off success, making use of the special conditions at the venue. The team's recent performances however, including qualifying for the Bahrain GP, have alerted Mercedes.

"The balance of power has shifted this year and we have a serious challenger at all circuits and in all conditions", Toto Wolff said.

"Last year, the performance gap meant that we could be reasonably confident of claiming the front row each weekend - but that's not the case any more. Ferrari has done a great job and they are snapping at our heels. Lewis put in a fantastic lap tonight."

While Lewis Hamilton said to be very happy with his qualifying performance and Nico Rosberg blamed himself for losing out to Vettel due to putting too much focus on the race - Rosberg did a conservative lap in Q2 to save his tyres, Paddy Lowe warned the race will be a tricky affair in trying to keep Ferrari behind.

"We didn't have a great session in FP3 and headed into qualifying not feeling particularly confident of our pace", Lowe said.

"Indeed, as it turned out, nobody was quick enough to make it through Q1 without using Option tyres. We progressed through Q2 with a single run on Options and then elected to save a new set of tyres for the race by running a used set for the first lap in Q3 - just as Ferrari did. That meant it came down to a final lap battle between our cars and the two Ferraris.

"Lewis delivered a great pole lap while unfortunately Nico just missed out on a front row place alongside him. All of the top four cars will have a new set of Option tyres available for the race, which will mean it will be extremely close between all of us. We're looking forward to an exciting evening tomorrow."