We've been underperforming and yesterday and today have been a disaster on my side so I've got to try to rectify that and get myself back into my normal performance mode otherwise, more valuable points will be lost. "Thank you guys, great qualifying, great vehicle", said Vettel, who also started the last race in Bahrain from pole, over the team radio.
Raikkonen appeared on course to start from pole only for Vettel to finish just eight hundredths of a second clear following a dramatic late lap.
"I didn't see him until late and left a bit of room".
Asked by Autosport what happened in the final sector, Raikkonen said: "Nothing really happened".
"We just need to have pace".
"It's in the top three of the easier ones to overtake", he agreed.
Hamilton was never a force to reckon with this time, however, qualifying only fourth and losing a place immediately at the start.
Vettel, victor of the opening two races in Australia and Bahrain, now leads Hamilton in the overall standings by 17 points.
Team boss Toto Wolff was likewise struggling to explain the turnaround in form between Mercedes and Ferrari.
"That would not be the right mindset", he said.
"I had no intention of resisting, there was no point in doing so they were too fast".
"The amusing thing about being outperformed on Saturday is that you are the lion that is just waiting to jump on its prey", he added.
Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo never looked in contention for pole position but easily secured the third row of the grid, with the Dutchman beating the Australian by 0.15 seconds in fifth and sixth.
"I was defending, I obviously saw him very close in the first three corners, in the exit as well".
"We definitely have work to do", Bottas said. "That will be fun".
The Briton, like Vettel a four times world champion, has won in Shanghai an unprecedented five times.
"I think for us it was quite straightforward", he said. "It is a track where you just need to get in and find that sweet spot".
Vettel, who finished second in Shanghai past year, has five career podium finishes at this race but his only win came all the way back in 2009, so don't be surprised if Hamilton and Mercedes get back to their winning ways this weekend.
"Really pleased. It was a tight session but I think again a great result for the team".
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