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!"
|Howe: South coast derby draw a fair result|
|Our heads were in Manchester – Allegri left fuming at Juventus´ loss of focus|
|Derby County 2 Sheffield United 1: Marriott blunts Blades with 77th-minute winner|
|We have so many problems – Jokanovic alarmed by Fulham defensive woes|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Liverpool 1: Salah snaps winless streak|
|Pellegrini ruing injuries after Yarmolenko hurts ankle|
|Villarreal 1 Atletico Madrid 1: Simeone´s side denied LaLiga top spot|
|Gracia: Not easy to dominate Wolves like that|
|Isner´s Finals hopes hindered by Stockholm defeat|
|Dyche incredulous at refereeing decisions in Man City thrashing|
|Juventus 1 Genoa 1: Champions´ winning run ends despite record Ronaldo goal|
|´Fantastic´ Lamela urged to find consistency by Pochettino|
|You don´t want to lose any players - Young speaks out on Wade NFL speculation|
|Championship Review: Smith gets off to a winning start, Leeds beaten|
|Guardiola hails extraordinary Fernandinho after Burnley drubbing|
|Pochettino lauds Lloris as one of world´s best after West Ham heroics|
|Paris Saint-Germain 5 Amiens 0: Ten wins in a row for PSG as Neymar rests|
|Cristiano Ronaldo nets record 400th league goal|
|Marcelo backing beleaguered Lopetegui despite Madrid slump|
|Garcia dazzles to hit the front at shortened Valderrama Masters|
|Cardiff City 4 Fulham 2: Paterson gets Bluebirds off the mark|
|Newcastle United 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 1: Benitez´s men bottom after dismal defeat|
|West Ham 0 Tottenham 1: In-form Lamela settles London derby|
|Manchester City 5 Burnley 0: De Bruyne returns in comfortable win|
|Wolves 0 Watford 2: Capoue and Pereyra turn form book on its head|
|Bournemouth 0 Southampton 0: Howe´s side stifled by Saints|
|Prove you´re crazy about Inter - Spalletti rallies players ahead of Milan derby|
|Wolfsburg 1 Bayern Munich 3: Lewandowski leads Kovac out of trouble|
|Goerges betters Bencic to clinch Luxembourg title|
|Morgan wants more from ´rusty´ England despite series win|
|Sarri says sorry after touchline bust-up overshadows Chelsea´s late escape|
|Chelsea draw an ´awful´ result for excellent United, says Mourinho|
|The Chelsea assistant that angered Mourinho - Who is Marco Ianni?|
|Steve Kerr supports Colin Kaepernick: ´I think he deserves a chance to play´|
|Lopetegui ´more motivated than ever´ amid Real Madrid sack reports|
|That´s football – Rudiger shrugs off late Ianni-Mourinho fracas|
|AC Milan´s improved mentality could be difference against Inter - Gattuso|
|Emotional Kasatkina comes back from the brink to win Kremlin Cup|
|Forget it, it´s over - Mourinho accepts apology over touchline row|
|Mourinho in furious bust-up with Chelsea staff after late equaliser|
|Chelsea 2 Manchester United 2: Barkley strike denies Mourinho|
|Raptors star Kawhi Leonard: Too early for MVP chants|
|WTA Finals 2018: Profiling the ´elite eight´|
|Cipriani sent off and facing ban for high tackle|
|Real Madrid 1 Levante 2: Lopetegui on the brink as abysmal run continues|
|Warriors coach Kerr: Jerebko ´one of us´ after game-winning tip-in|
|Real Madrid break record for longest goalless run|
|England wrap up ODI series in Kandy rain|
|Melbourne Victory 1 Melbourne City 2: Honda scores but suffers losing start|
|Mata starts for United as Chelsea boss Sarri selects Morata|
|Dovizioso prepared for another Marquez duel|
|Isco returns as Bale makes the bench for Real Madrid|
|Maddison feeling at home with Puel´s Foxes|
|Ruthless Australia beat Tonga in historic Test|
|Pep talks helped Mendy make the most of his time out of action|
|Wantaway Butler revels in boos|
|Emery: Arsenal must be calm with returning Koscielny|
|Sevilla don´t fear Messi or Barca – Kjaer|
|Conte, Zidane and the AC Milan contenders clouding Gattuso´s future|
|Koepka in control in South Korea, on track to become world number one|
|Dovizioso grabs pole at Motegi, Marquez sixth|
|Langer backs Marsh for ODI squad|
|Butler turns boos to MVP chants in Timberwolves´ first win|
|Brewers force game seven against Dodgers in NLCS|
|Guardiola admits Hart decision may have been a mistake|
|Vieira: Balotelli the same now as he was at 16|
|Butragueno backs under-fire Lopetegui|
|Liverpool´s defensive improvement has hurt attack – Klopp|
|Butler booed by Timberwolves fans during introductions|
|Pochettino: Dier´s Ramos tackle highlighted Spurs´ attitude|