Vettel set the standard during Q3, to help Ferrari lock out the front row but come the second turn, both were behind the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. Charles Leclerc ultimately finished further down the pecking order due to his collision with Max Verstappen but Vettel was able to hold on to second despite Lewis Hamilton coming very close to an overtake in the closing stages.
Vettel gave an honest assessment of his Japanese Grand Prix and admitted their rivals were just quicker than them.
“We had a very good morning, but the afternoon was less good in terms of the result we were able to achieve as a team," Vettel said in Ferrari's post-race report.
"The start wasn’t good for either me or Charles and without that, we could have had both cars fighting at the front. It was difficult today and to be fair. Our rivals were simply quicker, Valtteri was just flying.
"Towards the end my only target was to stay ahead of Lewis. I knew that down the straights he struggled to overtake, so I just tried to have clean exits in the places where it mattered.”