Sebastian Vettel believes Max Verstappen was “lucky” to have escaped any damage in their Japanese Grand Prix collision.

The pair made contact at Spoon when Vettel attacked the Red Bull driver for third place having made early progress from his lowly starting position of eighth on the grid.

Vettel attempted a late move down the inside but ended up spinning off and falling down the order as the two tangled. The Ferrari driver was adamant Verstappen was completely to blame, though the incident was ultimately deemed a racing incident by the stewards.

COTA #1 - Hamilton Vs Vettel

Verstappen, who went on to finish third despite a five-second time penalty for forcing Kimi Raikkonen off track in a separate clash, claimed Vettel had simply understeered into him and felt he “could have been more careful.”

"He was lucky to carry on,” Vettel said. “I don’t know if he had any damage, but lucky to carry on. I was the one that spun and had the damage and I ended up last.

“I think it didn’t help both of us. The way also he came back on the track with Kimi. I don’t want this to end up as Sebastian says this, Max says this. I will talk about it with him when it’s the right time. This way I prefer.

“I’m not a big fan of penalties and all that. I think we go racing not drive around and wait for decisions from outside. I think it’s the right thing not to look at every incident and try to always come out with some penalty.

“Nevertheless, obviously, for me I went for the gap that was there and as soon as Max saw that I was side-by-side, he tried everything to squeeze me but didn’t give me any room.

“So, then it was then inevitable to make contact.”

Vettel recovered from the rear of the field to finish a distant sixth, a result which all but ended the German’s hopes of beating Lewis Hamilton to the 2018 title.

Hamilton claimed a convincing victory at Suzuka to extend his points lead to 67, meaning he could clinch the championship as early as the next race in the United States.

Asked if he is now taking more risks in the title battle given his significant deficit, Vettel replied: “Not really. I’m not trying to do something silly when I’m out there.

“As I said, I think the gap was there and there’s not so many chances you get when you are close. Being that close as well through Spoon, I was quite sure that it would be difficult to stay there and try something on the back straight.

“So, I was fairly open minded when coming out of the hairpin. The tow that I had was very powerful and the gap was there. As I said, I was side-by-side.

“I think the problem was that as soon as he saw I was side by side, he opened the brakes, tried to push,” he added. “But, I think that’s wrong because I don’t think he makes the corner either.

“He just looks at me but I think he should keep the overview of the track and we should both try and make the corner in the first place and then sort out who is inside, outside, first, second, whatever.”