Sebastian Vettel expects close fight with Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka

Maurice's Memories: Japanese Grand Prix (2:12)

Maurice Hamilton looks back on his first ever visit to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. (2:12)

Sebastian Vettel is confident he can put polesitter and championship rival Lewis Hamilton under pressure at the Japanese Grand Prix having secured second on the grid.

Vettel qualified third at Suzuka in the knowledge Valtteri Bottas is set to serve a gearbox penalty in the other Mercedes, meaning the Ferrari driver moved up to a spot on the front row. Hamilton never looked like being beaten over one lap, with his 1:27.319 shattering the previous circuit lap record held by Michael Schumacher, but Vettel is expecting a different story when the lights go out on Sunday.

When asked how he felt with his qualifying performance, Vettel said: "Oh, pretty good, pretty happy to be honest -- the car balance is getting better, obviously we're lacking a bit of performance but all in all it was a positive day. I think the car should be a bit better in the race."

Mercedes has returned to form at Suzuka after two races marked by a struggle to match the pace of its nearest rival. Vettel thinks the two teams have always been closely matched regardless of which has been ahead on raw pace

"I don't know what pace they will have. Obviously you always know what you're doing but they've been up and down - last week they weren't very quick, this week they seem to be back to normal. So I think so far this year it's been very close and I expect it to be very close tomorrow, very fast.

"I think normally we are a bit stronger in the race than quail so it's worth getting the pit together and then seeing what we can do, engineering or at the start or during the race."