Sebastian Vettel set to avoid Suzuka gearbox penalty

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But Verstappen was significantly faster once the race started while Vettel showed the Ferrari's potential by going from last to fourth and beating Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen's win did not have the on-track assist that has generally opened the door for Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull victories, although the absence of the Ferraris was obviously a blessing. The impact however caused serious damage to the rear of the German's auto.

In the constructors' championship, Mercedes has taken 68 points from the two races - Ferrari's struggles represented by the 12 points they have taken in the same period.

In Malaysia, meanwhile, Ferrari encountered engine problems with both their cars.

"These next races are going to be crucial in terms of ironing out some of the creases we have with the vehicle".

He is confident that the tyre temperature issue which appears central to the car's grip and its performance will be mitigated for the next race this weekend.

Despite losing further ground to Hamilton - who extending his title lead to 34 points by finishing second - Vettel is confident Ferrari can avoid similar reliability problems in the remaining five rounds. "Dipping in and out of the window is the fundamental story of 2017", Wolff said. This was a coming-out performance for Verstappen, and a coming-back one for Red Bull.

"To beat Mercedes fair and square was beyond our expectation", Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

"I think it's enough now of cars turning one way or the other and ending having a shunt", Vettel said, suggesting 18-year-old Stroll had not been looking where he was going. "There was nothing I could do". Hamilton and Force India's Esteban Ocon are the only drivers to have finished every race so far. Where the latter achieved the maximum in their favourite races, the red team did not enjoy the same fruits.

For that to occur a win in Japan is simply a must and with Ferrari set to exercise an option to change both engine and vehicle parts for the concluding race - which surely now must be a no-brainer - they can still exhibit their authority over the lesser reliable cars. "That was partly really good work from the engineers, but also fortunate".

In 28 races at Suzuka, the victor has come from the front row on 24 occasions and been on pole in 13.

"We must not forget we are talking about the auto that leads the constructors championship and leads the drivers' championship, it is not a lame duck", he added. But a strong showing at Suzuka would sweep away much of the gloom and doom that has followed the Japanese manufacturer around again this season, and hopefully ring in some optimism for 2018.