Ferrari F1 boss says deficit to Mercedes 'looks impossible'

Mika Hakkinen in his MP4/13

Mika Hakkinen in his MP4/13 Credit GETTY IMAGES

Although Vettel can still match Hamilton's tally of nine race wins this year by winning the season's final four rounds (he now has five victories), the Mercedes driver would still have one more second place to his name (three to two). Hamilton had been strong all weekend topping all three practice sessions before taking pole and in the race he exploited his advantage to maximum effect. "I'm happy that we could bring it home, this was my first podium here in Suzuka which was great". Fernando Alonso drove well to pressure faster cars in the terrible McLaren.

"I don't really have an answer for that and it's not something I'm really focused on".

While Lewis Hamilton looked as is he was out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive as the sun shone on Suzuka, Ferrari spluttered and stalled as any chance of winning either world championship faded.

Bottas said that he was certain that this would be the outcome of the race the minute he qualified in second position on Saturday.

"I'm not the one who makes the rules but I think it's a similar scenario to what I had in China with him", said Verstappen. But he kept closing - where am I supposed to go?

But Bottas denied reports that he would always be required to ride shotgun to Hamilton until the 2018 championship is formally decided.

'I don't even want to think about him breaking a finger. "It just depends on the situation, like the race in Russian Federation". "But I also felt that we were faster".

The Mercedes cars looked to be cruising for mush of the race.

After a virtual safety vehicle, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres.

Bottas locked up on a number of occasions, including one point while he was trying to navigate lapped traffic, and it seemed that he was suffering tyre wear.

Verstappen saw it differently, sniffing: "He could have been a bit more careful". He now has six wins now from the last seven races. "It's not been going in our favour, which of course we need to understand why, if others did something better, then we need to know why".

"How many times you can afford to wait?"

"You have two decisions and one is right and one is wrong". The cars are quicker than ever. "It might have looked more hard with Max than what it actually was, but it felt like a good margin", he said.

Mercedes read the weather conditions perfectly, ensuring that both drivers were able to record their best laps early in the third qualifying before the rain increased to secure their fifth consecutive one-two in qualifying at Suzuka.

When asked if the mistake was a result of the mounting pressure that comes from dropping so far behind in the title race, Vettel said: "No, no".

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who started 15th after an engine failure in qualifying, finished fourth for Red Bull and ahead of Raikkonen after making the jump during the pitstops.

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