Jenson Button admitted that McLaren simply didn't have what it took to threaten Sebastian Vettel's dominance in the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Japan - and that finishing just off the podium behind Vettel, Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi was about right.

"Fourth definitely isn't a bad result, particularly considering I started from eighth," he said, adding that McLaren "didn't really have the pace in the race.

"I ran as high as third during the first stint, but in hindsight it was probably an error to make our first pitstop so early," he continued. "Both Kamui and I were compromised behind a Toro Rosso, and that cost both of us a bit of time to Felipe."

"Jenson was unlucky to get stuck behind Daniel [Ricciardo], and lost quite a bit of time after his first pitstop as a result," expanded McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

Massa was able to use the advantage of his own flying start on bran-new tyres, which Button said had made all the difference over that first stint and allowed the Ferrari to jump ahead into second place during the first sequence of pit stops.

"You can go longer and keep the speed up, so he was able to jump both of us after the first stops," explained Button of Massa's success.

Button's last hope of making the podium had been to run a long middle stint and then use the advantage of comparatively fresh tyres to close up on Kobayashi and take third place before the chequered flag. But in the end, Button simply ran out of time.

"I was able to push and start catching Kamui, but he controlled his final set of tyres very well," Button admitted. "I could get close to him, but the only way I was going to get into the DRS zone was by braking extra-late into the chicane, and, every time I tried, I locked up and ran wide."

"Still, this result isn't too bad," he insisted. "We got some more points - we just didn't have the pace to go for the win today."

Button shared his team mate Lewis Hamilton's view that Red Bull would be difficult to beat in the either the drivers or the constructors championship battles from here on, at least based on the evidence at Suzuka.

"They're a little bit quicker than what we thought, but they're always quick here," he pointed out. "This is for some reason always a Red Bull circuit.

"We've got to hope for some reason this is a standout race for them, but I'd be surprised. They're going well, they're doing a good job and getting both cars on the front row proved that yesterday."

Whitmarsh was slightly more optimistic about the respective performances of the two teams.

"When you consider that Red Bull's drivers lined up for this afternoon's race from P1 and P2, and our two drivers started it from P8 and P9, the fact that they extended their constructors' championship lead over us by just five points has to be seen as a decent bit of damage limitation on our part," he pointed out.

"From Japan we fly to South Korea, where we'll be looking to score strongly," Whitmarsh continued. "The tussle for this season's world championships - both drivers' and constructors' - will be extremely hard-fought. But all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will dig very deep over the final five grands prix in a big effort to ensure that we're right there, in the mix, competing for ultimate honours, when the dust finally settles on what's shaping up to be an extremely exciting battle."


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