Sebastian Vettel has a great opportunity to make it two race wins out of two in the new Formula 1 season after clinching pole position in the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Ferrari outpaced Mercedes in the Bahraini desert through practice and qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton qualifying in fourth behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas.
To compound matters further, the defending world champion has been hit with a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorized gearbox change in the Australian Grand Prix, meaning he will start ninth in Bahrain.
Raikkonen was the fastest driver during practice, but Vettel pulled out all the stops late in qualifying to be 0.143s ahead of his teammate.
"We worked on the balance [of the car], we looked into it quite a lot. We improved it yesterday, we improved it today," Vettel told Formula1.com.
"Overall, we are a bit happier this weekend. We are happy with how the car was responding, how the front end was responding – you can also see it in the result.
"The good news is we are close, in all the conditions, we're close with everyone."
Bottas could not explain why Mercedes looked off the pace in Bahrain after looking dominant in the season-opening race in Melbourne.
"It's a very different circuit, very different kind of tarmac, different temperatures, everything so for sure we still need to understand completely why," the Finn said.
"For sure we are struggling a little bit with some overheating issues with the tyres. Obviously less so in the evening sessions but still, we have work to do."
Bahrain GP qualifying top 10
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:27.958
- Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:28.101
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:28.124
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:28.220
- Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:28.398
- Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) 1:29.329
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 1:29.358
- Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) 1:29.570
- Esteban Ocon (Force India) 1:29.874
- Carlos Sainz (Renault) 1:29.986
Where to watch Bahrain GP
Bahrain GP starts at 8.30pm IST on April 8. The race will be broadcast live on Star Sports 2 HD. Live streaming services are available on Hotstar.