"I had to really make a decision when Max was closing me down, to not fight him and risk him crashing into me, because he's going to give it everything - he's got nothing to lose, whereas I've got everything to lose", Hamilton said, as quoted by Sky Sports.
When's the Japanese GP on Sky? Where the latter achieved the maximum in their favourite races, the red team did not enjoy the same fruits.
"Of course, if I could choose I would want it the other way around", he admits.
"It's not done until there's nothing more to push in".
The bare result glosses over the fact that Vettel, starting from last place on the grid after an engine problem ended his qualifying, nearly got a podium position.
Hamilton has not been beaten by Vettel since the summer break but Mercedes' dominance of Monza at the start of September failed to transfer to either Singapore or Malaysia, when Ferrari possessed the fastest auto.
Lewis Hamilton should overcome worries about Mercedes' lack of pace with victory here, a race he has won three times before.
"You look at the last one [Malaysia], we were far off, and all of a sudden we got pole position". "It all added up to our hardest race of the year, as we had to confront prob lems that we will now analyse in depth", commented team principal Maurizio Arrivabene.More news: Pence points NASA back to moon landing - forget Mars for now
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The Englishman says some working practices will be changed from this weekend.
"We need to score more than them". "It was just a very unusual incident.Obviously the race wasn't going on so it wasn't intentional for either of us", said the eighth-placed finisher.
Mercedes are also optimistic their vehicle will be more suited to the conditions at Suzuka, where both the cooler weather and track layout should be more favourable for the W08.
Hamilton snatched the title lead from Vettel at Monza last month but Mercedes, who have dominated the sport in recent years, face a growing threat from Ferrari and Red Bull.
Hamilton backed Mercedes to deliver in the cooler conditions in Japan but warned there could still be a twist in the title run-in.
If Hamilton leaves Suzuka with a 29-point lead over Vettel, he will only need to finish second at the remaining four rounds to secure the championship - regardless of Vettel's results. There are many question marks still for me, for the team. Me and the vehicle have lots in common - it's got great potential but doesn't always want to do what you tell it to.
Sepang CEO Razlan Razali told Reuters on Friday that Malaysia would not want to host Formula One even if it were offered for free, with the sport not serving up enough excitement to draw in the local crowds. The next race will be held in Japan on October 8, 2017.