Sebastian Vettel admits fifth place seemed a 'long way away' when he started the Singapore Grand Prix from the back of the grid, even if he feels he was just a safety car shy of a possible podium challenge in the end.

The German suffered technical problems at the start of qualifying that left him consigned to the back of the grid, but despite a poor getaway he soon began picking his way up the order.

Spurred on by a long first stint, Vettel supplemented his charge with a number of impressive passes as he clawed his way back up to fifth place, ahead of Max Verstappen who started fourth. It was a result he admits he hadn't anticipated before the race.

F1 World Championship Standings (After Singapore GP)

"Anything can happen here," he said. "For sure it was a long way away and seemed out of reach after the poor start, but then I think we slowly got into the groove and especially in the last two stints the car really came alive and we make good progress so it was good fun, I enjoyed it a lot.

"I had a really bad start, didn't go anywhere, had a lot of wheel slip - it was obviously really low grip. Very different if you start last, I think this is probably my first time really dead last. I think I've started from the pit lane a couple of times, but last on the grid. Then there was the incident on the main straight but I was far back enough to have a lot of time to see where the car was going.

"Then after the safety car, was trying to make progress which at the beginning was quite good and then I got stuck behind the Sauber for quite many laps. Then I think running into the back of the Force India of Sergio I think was the limit on those tyres.

"No safety car which I think both of us we were hoping for that could have helped and then really on the ultrasofts I could make use of the pace of the car and make big progress, had some good overtaking and some good battles which I enjoyed a lot so it was a fun race."

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Finishing less than half-a-minute off race winner Nico Rosberg, Vettel says it was a shame a fortuitous safety car didn't arrive to potentially take him all the way the podium.

"At some point I thought we maybe could get close to the battle for third with Kimi and Lewis but in the end the gap was a bit too big - I think we lost a bit too much probably in the opening stages of the race which also was to be expected. I think we were hoping for a safety car that didn't come, but nonetheless I think it was an optimal result."

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