Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff defended the team's decision not to continue pounding around a wet Suzuka circuit in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, despite admitting that its main rivals appeared closer than ever after Singapore.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Wolff conceded that the result from Marina Bay, in which Mercedes posted its worst finish of the season as Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo claimed a comfortable 1-2, highlighted a perceived narrowing of the gap between Mercedes and its pursuers, which the wet sessions at Suzuka did little to alleviate.

"You always have to look at [Ferrari] - and also Red Bull made a step forward - as they are strong competitors," Wolff noted, "You cannot expect or take it for granted that you are always quickest and always winning races. This is not normal for F1 so we are going to have an eye on them. This circuit should certainly suit us much more than Singapore but, certainly, the enemy has come alive!

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"I think the last [race] was a surprise because the way they won it - complete domination. But everyone is keen to see good competition in F1 and especially Ferrari. It is such an iconic brand, to see them bouncing back is good for the sport and good for us to have a strong competitor. It makes it more precious to win."

Despite recognising Ferrari's improvement, Wolff insisted that there had been little to gain in running championship pacesetters Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg throughout the day's two rain-affected practice sessions in Japan.

"It was very difficult conditions and, if you look at the forecast, it doesn't make much sense to run in the heavy rain," he confirmed, "If you don't need to test any new items on the car, you don't need to take the risk.

"In F, there is no such thing as a silver bullet; that suddenly someone discovered something or we found that we made one particular mistake. It's just many things that came together. Singapore is a very different circuit and we weren't looking very good in hindsight last year either - although we won the race, qualifying wasn't our best.

"We have five or six areas we are looking into and if you combine all that its where you end up. You need to make the tyres work and therefore you need a mechanical set-up that works. You want to avoid them running too hot and running too cold, and having the grip in that one lap which you manage to put yourself on pole. Then you can control the front."