SHANGHAI (AFP) - Sebastian Vettel admitted he needs to raise his game after Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo on Saturday again out-qualified the four-time world champion at the Chinese Grand Prix.
But the Australian was no match for pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest by almost six-tenths of a second, but he put himself ahead of Vettel by qualifying on the front row for the second time this season, with the German third.
Ricciardo was also comfortably quicker than Vettel in all three practice sessions for Sunday's race and he has now been Red Bull's fastest qualifier in three out of four grands prix this season.
Vettel said he had no excuses as both drivers have the same car, and that Ricciardo, in his first season with Red Bull, has simply been performing better than the reigning champion.
"I think Daniel is doing a very good job, he has not just had one good weekend, he had good weekends, and so far he seems to be able to get the maximum out of the car," said Vettel.
"On my side, maybe I'm struggling a little bit more, but at the end of the day we have the same car.
"There's nothing between cars, so if he manages to beat me, then he beats me on the circuit, fair and square."
Vettel, who won nine races in a row to close out his fourth successive championship in 2013, is not used to coming second to anyone, let alone his own team-mate. Neither is he happy about it.
"Of course, that's not to my liking but equally, I know that I have to do a little bit better," he said.
The affable Ricciardo, 24, is hoping to bounce back from this week's failed appeal against his disqualification from second in Australia over a technical infringement.
And he was clearly looking forward to trying to rein in the Mercedes of Hamilton, and keep Vettel behind him.
"Looking forward to tomorrow. If it's dry I think we can race up the front," said Ricciardo.
"I'll be ducking my head down the straight, like in a go-kart but yeah, we'll hopefully hang on and fight for at least a podium I hope."