Sebastian Vettel defended Ferrari after a dreadful qualifying session at the Japanese Grand Prix left him "looking stupid" and set to start the race in eighth position.
Already trailing Lewis Hamilton by 50 points in the Formula One drivers' standings with only five races remaining, Vettel had a miserable session as his Mercedes rival claimed pole while he could only place ninth.
A grid penalty for Esteban Ocon means Vettel will actually start the race at Suzuka in eighth, but that remains his lowest starting position of the F1 season, with Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen making up the top three.
Anticipating further rain after Q2, Ferrari sent the German and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen out on intermediate tyres for the final session, but the track had dried and the team were left scrambling to change back over to slicks. By the time they returned, the rain was back.
Vettel, who made a mistake on his sole run on dry tyres, said: "No, [not a good day for Ferrari].
"The first run was OK, I had a mistake in Spoon so I lost some time there due to that but the second run we didn't make it out on time because then the rain came down.
"If it starts to rain five, six, seven minutes earlier we either did a miracle because we're the only clever ones and if it's like that obviously we're the only ones looking stupid.
"Therefore, I defend the decision, it's our decision as a team. Now it's easy to say it was the wrong decision. I was asked if I was OK with it and I said yes.
"Obviously it wasn't wet enough to start with and then the rain didn't come, it came later.
"It's not the position we deserve to be in, we have better speed than ninth, but [Sunday] is a new day, it's not easy when you start further back but it's not impossible."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was happy to discuss Vettel's woes, with Verstappen and fourth-placed Raikkonen looking like the only potential obstacles as his team chase a sixth victory in seven races.
"It's a really grim starting position for [Sebastian]," Wolff said.
"He has a fast car but obviously fighting with Lewis, if everything runs well it's going to be difficult for him off the start.
"The [Mercedes] guys just got it right, there was a lot of discussion about strategy and what tyres to use in qualifying."
With Hamilton's momentum continuing, Verstappen's response to being asked whether he could get involved in the Hamilton-Vettel title battle summed up the state of play.
He said: "Is it even a battle anymore? I don't know!"
23 de marzo 2019
|Italy 2 Finland 0: Young stars Kean and Barella inspire victory|
|Top seed Osaka dumped out of Miami Open by Hsieh|
|Spain 2 Norway 1: Ramos penalty gets La Roja up and running|
|Wasps keen on Edwards reunion|
|Liverpool title win would make me the happiest man in the world - Gerrard|
|Saracens cut Exeter´s lead with Harlequins victory|
|Injured Serena Williams withdraws from Miami Open|
|Yaha scores four as Catalans complete comeback to sink Leeds|
|Sagan´s Milan-San Remo dream continues to elude him|
|Patriots owner Robert Kraft ´truly sorry´ over scandal|
|Brazil 1 Panama 1: Paqueta´s first goal cannot prevent embarrassing draw|
|Gibraltar 0 Republic of Ireland 1: McCarthy starts second spell with underwhelming win|
|Warriors star Stephen Curry rested for Mavericks game|
|Harbhajan puts Kohli´s RCB in a spin in IPL opener|
|Axing Sunwolves will damage Asian rugby, claims CEO|
|Chiefs tame Bulls to claim first win of Super Rugby season|
|Low: Sane, Gnabry fit to face Netherlands|
|Northampton expect Hartley return this season|
|Alaphilippe claims first monument with Milan-San Remo win|
|It was only a friendly – Martino tempers expectations after winning start with Mexico|
|Bale ´raring to go´ for Wales|
|Fury-Wilder rematch not until 2020|
|Van Dijk preparing for ´special game´ against Germany|
|Burundi reach first AFCON at expense of Aubameyang´s Gabon|
|Netherlands can´t underestimate Germany, warns Koeman|
|Zion Williamson will not dunk on me, says UCF´s Tacko Fall|
|Anscombe wants Cardiff stay, says Blues coach|
|Thigh problem leaves Coman in doubt|
|Injured Ramsey withdraws from Wales squad|
|Walton wants Lakers to battle on after missing playoffs|
|Folau equals record as Waratahs end Crusaders streak|
|Mourinho targets June return to club management|
|Richarlison pays tribute to ´essential´ Silva|
|Zion out to avoid ´what ifs´ in March Madness|
|Crusaders & Waratahs honour Christchurch attack victims before Super Rugby clash|
|Wilshere targets West Ham return before end of the season|
|Roosters return to form to get off the mark|
|Vinicius and Neymar would get in any team - Casemiro|
|D´Antoni marvels at Harden´s 61: ´One of the best performances´|
|Folau equals Super Rugby try-scoring record|
|Kane hails ´incredible´ Sterling after Wembley hat-trick|
|Malinga to retire after T20 World Cup|
|LeBron: Lakers season ´not what we signed up for´|
|Elvira pulls clear in Kuala Lumpur|
|Lukaku ruled out of Belgium´s trip to Cyprus|
|Thunder stay tied with surging Clippers after big win over Raptors|
|Svitolina, Muguruza exit Miami Open|
|Brady, SuperSonics and the iPod shuffle – the last time LeBron missed the NBA playoffs|
|LeBron, Lakers eliminated from playoff contention|
|Mexico 3 Chile 1: Martino makes winning start|
|Ronaldo display not a focus for Santos|
|Harden equals own Rockets record|
|Isner edges through as Thiem, Nishikori exit|
|Djokovic brushes past Tomic in Miami opener|
|Casey, Cook share Valspar Championship lead|
|Thiem crashes out in Miami|
|MLB 2019 preview: Predicting the AL´s division champs, pennant winner, award getters|
|MLB 2019 preview: Predicting the NL´s division champs, pennant winner, award getters|
|Dier injury could open door to Rice|
|Messi and Ronaldo frustrated on international returns|
|Hudson-Odoi ´speechless´ after becoming youngest competitive England debutant|
|Sterling has come full circle for England – Southgate|
|Giroud is unfairly criticised, says Deschamps|
|Injured Messi to miss Morocco friendly|
|Santos convinced Portugal will be spurred on by Ukraine stalemate|
22 de marzo 2019
|Scarlets hammered by Blues, Leinster beaten in Edinburgh|
|Northampton´s fast start sees off Leicester|
|Southgate applauds ´electric´ Sterling after hat-trick|
|Sterling the symbol and superstar of Southgate´s England|
|Struggling Giants and high-flying Saints enjoy big victories|