MANAMA (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton expects resurgent Ferrari to be hard to beat in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel hopes to prove him right.
After the pair qualified on the front row, with Hamilton on pole for the fourth race in succession for Mercedes, Vettel told reporters his Italian team had taken another important step.
"We are trying to push on all areas but, for now, I think we can be very, very happy with where we are," said the four-time champion, who has been on the podium in all three races for Ferrari since he left Red Bull.
"Today is the first time we were able to split them (the Mercedes drivers) in true dry conditions in qualifying, so very happy."
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg qualified third, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fourth.
Hamilton, who has won two out of three races and leads Vettel by 13 points in the standings, will not be able to control the race as he did in China when he had Rosberg behind him.
All the talk before Bahrain was of a re-run of last year's race, a wheel-to-wheel battle between the Mercedes drivers under the floodlights.
It could turn out instead to be a repeat of last month's Malaysian Grand Prix where the front row was the same, and Rosberg also qualified third, but Vettel won with better tyre management and strategy.
"We've gone over it tonnes of times already about what we have learnt but it doesn't get us away from the fact that they are very quick this weekend," said Hamilton.