Max Verstappen reckons there was no way past Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese Grand Prix, even though traffic brought him into play in the closing stages of the race.
The Red Bull driver closed onto the back of Hamilton's gearbox on the penultimate lap when the race leader got stuck behind backmarker Fernando Alonso but lost time himself when trying to find a way around the Spaniard.
That allowed Hamilton -- who had reported he was struggling with vibrations on his rear tyres -- to pull a gap and crucially move out of DRS range, as he held on to claim his 61st career win and his fourth victory at Suzuka.
"I could see Lewis managing his tyres and, with traffic, it seemed difficult for him to follow other cars compared to me," Verstappen explained. "When you close up, you lose a lot of downforce. I couldn't really attack him, but I tried."
When asked if he felt getting bogged down behind Alonso cost him the win, Verstappen replied: "It didn't help, but it was more last lap with Massa. But I don't think I could get past Lewis, I could close up. It was not ideal but it wouldn't have made a difference."
Malaysian Grand Prix winner Verstappen, who jumped Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the start before passing the ailing Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, struggled to match Hamilton in the opening stint on the super-softs tyres. However, the Dutchman was able to chip into the Mercedes driver's lead once he switched compounds.
"Once I got past Seb I could do my own thing. First stint was alright, Lewis was a bit faster and then on soft tyres we had a better balance. I didn't want to close up [to Hamilton] too much in case [that] destroyed my front tyres and I needed them at the end."