Max Verstappen doubts he would have been able to pass Lewis Hamilton for Formula 1 victory in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix despite going a late charge that was ultimately halted by traffic.

Verstappen spent the majority of the race at Suzuka running second, but whittled the gap to Hamilton down from five seconds to less than one with two laps to go as the Briton struggled with a vibration on his tyres.

Verstappen was held up by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, both of whom did not move aside immediately under blue flags for the Dutchman, allowing Hamilton some breathing room to cross the line 1.2 seconds ahead.

"It didn’t help. For me it was the last lap more with Massa," Verstappen said of the traffic.

"At the end of the day I wouldn’t have passed Lewis anyway because it’s really hard once he’s in free air. It was more like when Lewis getting held up that I could close and then you can do something.

"But once he got past, it’s tough. It’s of course not ideal, but it wouldn’t have been different."

Verstappen was pleased how his race went, taking back-to-back podiums for the first time since Malaysia and Japan last year.

"The first stint, I think it was alright. Lewis was a bit faster, and after the pit stop we had better balance on soft tyres," Verstappen explained.

"I just managed to keep the gap at around two or three seconds and I didn’t want to close up more because you struggle with front tyres, in case you may be needed them in the end. So, I think the car in the race was really competitive. Like Lewis said, we have a bit more wing so we are more competitive through the corners.

"On the straights we have an even bigger deficit but it seems to work for us in the race, so of course happy to be on the podium here again."


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