The German trails runaway Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 50 points with just five races left this season and his Mercedes rival rubbed salt in Vettel's wounds by dominating Friday's free practice at Suzuka.
The Briton lapped the 5.8-kilometre Suzuka circuit in one minute, 28.691 seconds on the yellow-marked soft tyre, going 0.446 seconds faster than Bottas, who set his quickest time on the slower medium tyre.
Hamilton was even faster on the "soft" tyre, the middle compound this weekend, than Vettel was on the fastest "super-soft".
Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas, was second during both sessions.
Title rivals Ferrari, who used the faster super soft compound compared to Hamilton supposedly slower soft compound were nearly a second back in fourth and fifth.
"I love this track, it's my favourite track in the world, so I'd better enjoy it and not spoil it by starting to count the things that are against me and focus on the things that are working for me".
"That makes me really doubt whether they've shown the whole performance", he said.
"It's the best rollercoaster ride, that first section, that I've particularly felt in a Formula One vehicle". "I think we know what the auto can do".
"We'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow". "My team and I, we're working so well together in fine-tuning this auto".
One man unlikely to be revelling in Hamilton's fine form is Vettel, who heads into the race with the title battle out of his hands for the first time this year. "It's a monster lap and you always think that there's a little bit more here".
Vettel had hoped the Suzuka circuit would suit his auto better than the last two races in Singapore and Russian Federation to ignite his fading title hopes but on Friday's evidence the Mercedes pair will be hard to beat.
Its situation appears far from ideal, however, with both Vettel and Raikkonen suffering blisters during their long runs on Friday afternoon.
"We have a full night ahead to investigate all the changes we made and find the right set-up. We couldn't do that today but it doesn't matter what they do, we look at ourselves, and we will try to get the best out of our package". "I wasn't totally satisfied with the feeling in the auto today".
"We need to keep pushing and try", the Ferrari driver said.
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