Raikkonen and Vettel cautious about challenging Mercedes in Bahrain

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Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel remain cautious about challenging Mercedes at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix despite their practice pace suggesting a second win of the year could be within Ferrari’s reach.

Raikkonen headed up a Ferrari one-two in the first free practice session in Bahrain on Friday, but the Finn was forced to settle for third place in FP2 behind Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

The warmer conditions in Bahrain should suit the Ferrari SF15-T car, giving the drivers a chance to build on Vettel’s win in Malaysia when high temperatures allowed him to beat Mercedes out on track.

Despite setting an impressive long run pace, Raikkonen remained cautious, saying that the team still is not where it wants to be.

“I think we are not as good as we want to be,” Raikkonen said. “In the second session it was a bit tricky with the set-up, we had some problems with the handling and we struggled in a few places.

“This evening we’ll analyze all the data in order  to improve and do a better job tomorrow. Having a clear qualifying makes life easier in the race.

“I don’t know if we can challenge Mercedes, tomorrow is another day, conditions can change and this plays a big part, so let’s wait and see.”

Vettel finished second in FP1 and fourth in FP2 behind his teammate, but his session was overshadowed by a late run-in with Force India’s Sergio Perez.

“I came out of the garage and had a problem,” the German explained. “I hit the brakes but suddenly there was a blow and I couldn’t brake properly. Therefore I hit Sergio Perez in the corner.

“Of course I’m sorry, but I couldn’t do anything else in that moment. I was looking for Sergio to say sorry, but he was still sitting in the car.”

Vettel was not punished for the incident, and was pleased with the rest of his Friday, although he remains unsure whether Ferrari can really challenge Mercedes in Bahrain.

“My fast lap was not perfect, but everything in the car feels good,” Vettel said. “Of course tonight it was quite different from this afternoon, as it was much colder.

“It’s hard to say if we got closer to Mercedes, everybody seemed to be closer to them but I’m sure they didn’t show everything today.”

You can watch qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix live on CNBC from 11am ET.