Sebastian Vettel has qualified third for the Japanese Grand Prix behind both Mercedes drivers but after being promoted to the front row says it was overall ‘positive’ and that Ferrari should be stronger in the race at Suzuka.

Vettel missed out on an opportunity for pole in Malaysia due to an engine issue excluded him from qualifying while the Mercedes struggled and despite a recovery drive to a fourth-place finish he slipped further behind Hamilton in the points and is now 34 points behind his title rival.

Qualifying less than a ten-and-a-half of a second off Bottas, Vettel said he was happy with P3, which turns into P2 due to a five-place grid penalty for the Finnish driver after a gearbox change.

“I'm pretty happy to be honest - the car balance is getting better, obviously we’re lacking a bit of performance but all in all it was a positive day. I think the car should be a bit better in the race,” Vettel said.

“Last run in Q3 I tried a little bit more than maybe it was but I feel the gap behind is quite big and Valtteri wasn’t really a threat, he gets the penalty tomorrow so a bit more risk, didn’t work but still happy with third and then the front row tomorrow, we’ll see how the start goes. We can get a quite good start."

Vettel said he believed the Ferraris could outpace the Mercedes in the race, even with his teammate Raikkonen, also facing a grid penalty, starting outside the top 10.

"Obviously you always know what you’re doing but they’ve been up and down - last week they weren’t very quick, this week they seem to be back to normal.

"So I think so far this year it’s been very close and I expect it to be very close tomorrow, very fast. I think normally we are a bit stronger in the race than quail so it’s worth getting the pit together and then seeing what we can do, engineering or at the start or during the race.

"I think the car is quick so even if - last weekend showed that even if you qualify out of position, start out of position you can come back so I’m sure he [Raikkonen] will have a strong race from where he starts."

Vettel said the most decisive factor might be who can react to conditions tomorrow, when the 2017 cars will be running in Suzuka in sunshine for the first time following wet and damp sessions so far and could radically alter both teams' performance,

"I think the biggest change for tomorrow will be the conditions - I think there should be sunshine which makes everything a bit hotter so we’ll have to see how that goes."

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