Sebastian Vettel conceded he had made a mistake and produced a "really poor start" as he failed to convert pole position into a victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Ferrari had secured a shock front-row lockout in qualifying, which finished just three hours before the race started on Sunday after Typhoon Hagibis wreaked havoc with the weekend schedule.
But Vettel, who was on pole for the first time in 10 races, appeared to move early before stopping himself to avoid a jump-start penalty.
He could only watch on as eventual race winner Valtteri Bottas surged into the lead from third on the grid and ended the race more concerned with holding off Lewis Hamilton to finish in second place.
"The lights were on a long time, but it was my mistake so I lost the momentum there," Vettel said.
"It ended up worse than just having a poor start, it was a really poor start.
"Then it was difficult because Mercedes were quite quick in the race, especially at the back of the stint they had more pace than us.
"They could play a lot more tactics [after my poor start] because they had one car out ahead in the lead and we weren't a threat to him.
"Valtteri was flying at the end of the first stint, then Lewis tried to do one stop and I guess it didn't work. I knew that he would come up behind in the end.
"I just paced myself around all the bits of the track where I could and just tried to get good exits at the points where he was a threat. That worked but obviously it was a tough afternoon to maintain second."
While taking the blame for his slow start, Vettel was not convinced Ferrari would have had the race pace to win in any case.
"With the lack of pace, second is probably the maximum but for sure I'm still not happy with the start," said the German, whose team-mate Charles Leclerc suffered a first-lap clash with Max Verstappen.
"After that it was fine overall and it has been a positive day. With everything packed into one day, to get pole and second is reasonable. It is a shame about what happened to Charles as we could have challenged a bit more."
Leclerc finished in sixth place and the results meant Mercedes claimed a sixth consecutive constructors' championship with four races to spare.