The sight of Sebastian Vettel streaking off to a dominant race win at Suzuka in the 2012 F1 Japanese Grand Prix seemed to bring home to Lewis Hamilton just how much of an outside bet he now is for the championship.

"The Red Bulls are going to be hard to beat," he admitted after finishing in fifth place in Japan. "I'm quite a realistic person so I know my situation, but I'll never give up. I'll keep pushing."

Hamilton insisted that he was actually "Quite happy with my race to be honest," after being fortunate to stay out of trouble at the start. He was also able to look after his tyres particularly well - to the point where he really didn't want to come into the pits when the team called him.

"The lap that I came in I was half a second up and I said to the team, 'My tyres are fine, my tyres are fine, I want to continue' - but they wanted to bring me in," recalled Hamilton of his second stop of the race. "It was obviously the right call. We had a good battle with Kimi in the first corner. The guys did a fantastic job in the pit stops."

"Lewis's second stop was excellent," agreed McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "A superb strategy call backed by super-slick work by our pit crew - and as a result Lewis emerged from the pitlane more or less alongside Kimi, edged ahead of him through turn 1, then skilfully held him at bay and collected 10 valuable points for fifth place as a result."

Hamilton was still puzzled at why the car's performance varied so much during the race, however.

"I had this amazing understeer through qualifying and then today was exactly the same,' he said. "That's why I was falling back from the group, I wasn't quick enough

"Then all of a sudden I had this thud on the rear, lap 20 something, and all of a sudden the car started turning and then after that I was able to push. I don't know why that was and we have to analyse and find out why

"From that moment on, it felt really good," he added. "But it was too late to have much of an effect on the result."

That left him behind his team mate Jenson Button, although at least between them the duo were able to contribute to the McLaren effort in the constructors championship.

"Congratulations to Jenson," said Hamilton. "He drove well all weekend, and, between us, we got some decent points for the team today."

"Both Jenson and Lewis drove good and combative races, scoring 22 world championship points between them," added Whitmarsh. "But obviously, given our impressive points-scoring record over the past few grands prix, we'd hoped to achieve rather better than fourth and fifth when we arrived in Suzuka earlier this week."

Hamilton said that he was already looking forward to next weekend's race in Korea, and that the key to an improved performance would be doing better on Saturday in particular.

"This just wasn't the weekend for me. With better qualifying, we can get better results - and that'll be our aim in South Korea next week," he said. "I'm already looking forward to it."

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