Suzuka, Japan: Red Bull and Ferrari feared Formula One had shrugged off the blip of Singapore and resumed `normal service` after dominant champions Mercedes swept the front row in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
"Mercedes are back to their usual level of competitiveness as we have seen, unfortunately, all year," commented Ferrari`s Sebastian Vettel, winner from pole in Singapore last weekend but now back to fourth on the grid.
"They will be the ones to beat tomorrow but for sure we will try everything we can, even if we may expect stronger
competition from Red Bull Racing and Williams," added the German, the only non-Mercedes driver to win this year.
Red Bull`s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, second in Singapore while Mercedes struggled for pace with Lewis Hamilton retiring and Nico Rosberg fourth, agreed with the assessment after qualifying seventh.
"I don`t think we really left much on the table," he said.
"We hoped Singapore would last but if I had to put money on it, I would have said they (Mercedes) would have been first or second so no real surprise.
"I`m sure Williams and Ferrari are going to be pretty close, I have a feeling we use our tyres a bit better than them so maybe we can put ourselves in the fight through some strategy but otherwise I`ll just be running around trying to tag on the back of them."
Rosberg qualified on pole on Saturday with Hamilton alongside.
"It’s fantastic after such a difficult weekend in Singapore to be back to our usual strength today," said the German.
Double world champion Hamilton, winner of seven grands prix this year, leads Rosberg by 41 points with six races remaining. The Briton won at a wet Suzuka last year after Rosberg had started on pole.