Mercedes driver, Sir Lewis Hamilton, would have liked to race longer into the evening in Suzuka on Sunday after he huffed, puffed, but could not quite knock down the door to fourth place.
The Briton started the race sixth behind Esteban Ocon, and he was endeavouring to pass the Frenchman in the opening couple of laps, but was denied that opportunity by a red flag.
Carlos Sainz had crashed into the wall, leaving debris and part of an advertising hoarding on the track, while Alex Albon’s Williams had ground to a halt after an engine failure.
After a lengthy delay, the race resumed behind the Safety Car, and Hamilton was one of the first to report that the track was in a good enough condition to go racing.
Green flag running began with 40 minutes left on the two-hour clock, and Hamilton was doing his best to clear Ocon.
He got side-by-side with the Alpine on more than one occasion, but as he pulled out of the slipstream, the 26-year-old’s powerful Renault engine allowed him to drive away from the draggy Mercedes.
Try as he might, the seven-time champion could not quite clear Ocon, and he had to settle for fifth.
Full points were awarded because two hours of running was completed, but the race had not been stopped by a red flag, so the limited points ruling did not apply.
This meant a second world title for Max Verstappen, who won the race while Charles Leclerc finished third, and after a day of lengthy delays, Hamilton was glad to get some racing done in front of the excited Japanese crowd.
“I mean I don’t feel frustrated,” he told Sky Sports.
“It was just a sprint race, I think I did the best I could and at least we got some points today.
“We were just so slow in a straight line. I was getting as close as I could – and you could probably see it on the TV – as soon as I would pull out, they would just pull away.
“So, yeah, I wish it was a longer race. I’m glad that we got some laps for the fans here, although it’s not really a massive race for them considering how long they waited.
“But, onto the next one.”
A recovery vehicle was inexplicably sent out by race control after Sainz’s accident, and it nearly wiped out Pierre Gasly as he drove past, leading to intense criticism of the FIA, who have not learned anything from Jules Bianchi’s fatal crash in 2014.
Hamilton will keep discussions about that internal, but he was just happy to be out there racing.
“Everyone will be commenting on it, so I don’t really have a care to,” he explained.
“In terms of the conditions, just restarting, it was awesome. I mean that’s what motor racing’s about.
“I had a blast, it was so tough, so hard to see. It’s really hard to see the car skating around but that’s motor racing.
“I think the restart that we had at the end, I think it was perfect timing, and I just wish we could have gone longer into a bit of the dark… we lost a little bit of the light.”
The 37-year-old congratulated Verstappen on his second world title, and believes that his team will come into next season with a better package.
“Congrats to Max,” said Hamilton.
“I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe that we, as a team, we’ve not gone from being world champions to not being able to build a good car.
“I have no doubts that we’ll have a better car next year. Whether or not we’ve rectified every issue that we’ve had this year, we’ll find out next year.”
Hamilton’s team-mate, George Russell, ended up eighth behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
At the end of the race, the Stevenage-born racer asked his team, “are you sure the race is over?” indicating that he wanted to continue.