Sebastian Vettel was left to wonder what might have been at the Japanese Grand Prix as he suspected Ferrari's strategy had handed Mercedes another 1-2 result at Suzuka.

The German, who had had to give best to the Silver Arrows in qualifying just one week after dominating the Singapore Grand Prix, benefited from polesitter Nico Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton battling through the first two turns, jumping his countryman as he ran wide, but was unable to sustain his advantage beyond the second round of pit-stops as Ferrari failed to react immediately to Mercedes' strategy.

"We thought we were safe," Vettel reflected, "The tyres were in reasonable shape but I think Nico was a surprise with the pace he had on his out-lap. I was very happy with my in-lap, which was happening at the same time, but it was a question of a couple of tenths into turn one, when he had the upper hand, and then it was clear that it would be difficult because he was catching me before [the stops]. The fact that Lewis disappeared showed they had a bit more speed today.

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"Had we pitted one lap sooner, it could have been a bit more interesting - and more challenging for Nico to get past - because it's not so easy to follow the cars here through the high speed sections. I think we had a good chance, but he made the most of the out-lap that he had. With hindsight, it's always easy."

Third place nevertheless keeps Vettel on the fringes of the championship battle, although, having closed the gap in Singapore, he now falls back to 59 points adrift of Hamilton. With five races to run, however, the Ferrari driver refuses to concede...

"It's not done until it's done - the chance is there and what kind of racing driver would I be if I stopped believing?" he asked, "Of course, it's difficult because the opponent is very strong - they are currently in stronger form than us and its not easy to turn things around when you are behind - but you have to keep believing, otherwise it is pointless rocking up and trying to fight.

"I think there is always a chance on Sunday although, being realistic, I think it will be very difficult. But who knows what is going to happen? We have to keep doing our thing - that's the maximum we can do. Everything else is not in our hands."