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!"
|Pogba relishing ´pressure game´ against in-form Hazard|
|Don´t bet on Cardiff survival, warns Warnock|
|Buffon enjoying Tuchel´s methods at PSG|
|RIP to Wimbledon epics! Isner feels like The Undertaker following final-set tie-break rule|
|Sevilla performance sealed Bernat´s Bayern exit - Hoeness|
|Keita set to miss out as Liverpool monitor injured stars|
|He didn´t want to be here – Guardiola doubts Sancho will return to Manchester City|
|Sarri: Manchester United are the best in the Premier League|
|Mourinho salutes ´brave´ Shaw for ´best possible´ response to criticism|
|No Ballon d´Or distractions for Griezmann, insists Simeone|
|Wigan stand by Hardaker as full-back prepares to undergo rehabilitation|
|Barcelona deny Neymar talk|
|Hazard can win the Ballon d´Or as a Chelsea player, insists Sarri|
|De Bruyne in contention to start in Manchester City´s clash with Burnley|
|Neymar needs to mature to reach Messi levels - Xavi|
|We have a hell of a lot to do - Paine slams Australia batting|
|Kerber and Osaka to meet at WTA Finals|
|Lorenzo out of Japanese MotoGP|
|Real Madrid handed Africa trip in Copa del Rey|
|Allegri: Ronaldo has sharpened Juventus focus|
|No Wade in Wasps squad amid NFL reports|
|Rooney: Five of us controlled Man United dressing room|
|Bayern bosses launch scathing attack on ´disrespectful´ media|
|Saints lock in Lawes to new deal|
|Adelaide United 1 Sydney 1: Debutant Le Fondre rescues a point|
|Madrid can´t look back, only forward - Lopetegui confident of revival|
|Wimbledon to introduce final-set tie-breaks|
|Abbas inspires Pakistan to series victory|
|Madrid boss Lopetegui hopeful on Bale availability|
|Mood is positive at Bayern, insists under-pressure Kovac|
|LeBron offers food for thought after losing Lakers debut|
|Bolt future not an immediate concern for Mariners|
|Hazard: I could finish my career at Chelsea|
|Buffon hoping to avoid Champions League final against Juventus|
|Wilshere not ready for West Ham return|
|Chelsea v Manchester United: Hazard better under Sarri than he ever was with Mourinho|
|The big Friday Premier League quiz|
|Khawaja suffers meniscal tear, doubt for India series|
|Babbel: Klopp must win trophies now at Liverpool|
|LeBron makes spectacular start on Lakers debut, but LA fall to Trail Blazers|
|Broncos thrash Cardinals to end losing streak|
|Price leads Red Sox past Astros and into World Series|
|LeBron makes fast start on Lakers debut with two massive dunks|
|Real Salt Lake 4 New England Revolution 1: Hosts boost play-off chances|
|Simmons gets triple-double in win over Bulls|
|´Ambitious´ Maguire wants Champions League football|
|Henry praises ´charismatic leader´ Falcao|
|WATCH: Cardinals WR Fitzgerald tackles former QB Warner on sidelines|
|Spurs right not to make signings – Pochettino|
|Icardi happy at Inter, close to contract renewal|
|This Week in U.S. Sports: Bosa leaves Ohio State while the World Series is almost set|
|Liverpool boost as Salah and Van Dijk join training|
|Cowboys discuss road woes, Prescott says team ´addressed the elephant in the room´|
|Isner scrapes through in Stockholm, Monfils eliminates Tsonga|
|Hinch says Altuve would be out with injury in regular season|
|WATCH: Schwarzenegger tells LeBron to make Lakers great again|
|LeBron tells Lakers coach Walton: I´m always fresh!|
|Mayweather should come back to fight me - Alvarez|
|Goerges battles past Vekic, Kasatkina wins all-Russian tie|
|Ask 32,000 Gibraltarians if the Nations League is meaningless - Styche|
|They´re going to speak about it for years - Azhar reflects on comical run out|
|Garcia in the mix as weather hits Andalucia Valderrama Masters|
|From lacking a ´football brain´ to signing a new contract – the Mourinho-Shaw saga|
|Alonso teases Indy 500 return as Hamilton reveals NASCAR temptation|
|Guptill ruled out of Black Caps´ UAE tour|
|UEFA investigating PSG-Red Star fan clashes|
|Just ´another weekend´ for champion-elect Hamilton|
|G League will offer $125K to top prospects in lieu of NCAA one-and-done route|
|Chargers defensive end Bosa ´a few weeks´ away from return, says father|
|Bale back in full Real Madrid training|