Romain Grosjean admits he allowed himself to think that a breakthrough Formula 1 victory was on the cards in the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Frenchman made a quick getaway from fourth on the grid and demoted both Red Bulls to take control of the race until Vettel passed him on lap 41.
Grosjean made good progress in his opening stints on the medium tyres, but he felt a switch to the harder compound on lap 30 suffocated any chance of victory.
"I thought today was going to be the day that my first victory was coming," he said.
"We were quick on the medium tyres, but unfortunately the car was less good on the hards."
Sebastian Vettel reeled in Grosjean during the closing phase of the race and took the lead on lap 41, with team-mate Mark Webber closing in on the Lotus driver soon after.
"It was nice with Mark at the end," remarked Grosjean, "but I couldn't pull away from him on the hard tyres as they began degrading.
"In our strategy meeting, though, we never thought we could beat the Red Bulls today and we are where we expected to be.
"It was nice until the end, but we caught some slow cars and they blocked me quite a lot."