The Red Bull's of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who won the last race in Malaysia, did not set a time in the afternoon but had been third and sixth quickest in the morning session, respectively.
Contrastingly, just six weeks ago Vettel was top of the championship.
With Lewis Hamilton leading the race at the time of this writing and looking as if he'll surely extend his championship lead, this race is Vettel's worst nightmare come to life. My team has done a great job.
We predicted that a one-stopper would be effective in cooler conditions, but this strategy proved to be equally strong in warmer weather, thanks to the ideal consistency of both compounds and the early safety auto periods (both real and virtual).
Depending on results, Hamilton could win his fourth title at the next race in the United States on October 22. We have seen with Sebastian's misfortune how quickly you can lose points.
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"I was excited to have a good race with Sebastian here, as I was in the last race, but he's obviously been incredibly unfortunate", said Hamilton after the race.
"I wouldn't say I have one hand on it", he said. "They are so meticulous, and that is why we have the reliability we are having". Still I was able to just hold him behind.
He does not need to win another race between now and the season's end to sew up the title but he is not about to let up.
"To be honest, there's not really any need for me to change the approach".
"I think the start will dictate a lot", Ricciardo told reporters.
He added: "It has taken me forever to get this pole".
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Ashley Williams, who has endured a hard time at club level with Everton, was a huge presence in central defence. Gareth Southgate could use the Three Lions' final group game as an opportunity to experiment.
The German retired on the fourth lap at Suzuka after his mechanics had worked feverishly on the starting grid to try and fix his vehicle. Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third.
"It's normal to be critical, especially if things go wrong because it's part of our job", he said.
"It was not ideal for both of us, he lost time and I think I lost quite a few seconds at that point as well which would have helped me massively at the end of the race".
Hamilton leads the German by 34 points with just five races to go.
Vettel had lined up alongside Hamilton on the front row at a sunny Suzuka, hoping the hotter conditions could handicap the Briton after he proved unbeatable in Saturday's cooler qualifying. "But from then on I had a good start and it was pretty much under control from there".
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