A fast-starting Valtteri Bottas challenged Verstappen for second into Turn 1 on the opening lap, but the Finn was hustled down the pack by first Daniel Ricciardo, and then demoted to fifth by Sebastian Vettel during the pitstop phase. From there it was a lonely race home to fifth for a disappointed Valtteri.
"Today was difficult, I was trying everything I can, I was giving it all I had, but I was lacking pace and I was sliding around," he said.
"The start was definitely the best part of the day. It was really good, I could actually attack a little bit and fight for positions. But not long after that I just started to drop down and couldn't keep up with the others.
"In the first stint I had quite a lot of understeer, so I was struggling with the balance. The story of the race was managing the tyre temperatures. If I tried harder, then I started to overheat the tyre and slide even more, so I had to manage everything and that's why I was so slow.
"We need to analyse the race because the upgrade package should have been quite a step forward in terms of downforce, but I couldn't really see it. There are still a lot of things we need to try to understand, we need to learn from today.
"For Japan, we need to make sure we choose all the right bits for the car, and hopefully we will see some cooler temperatures."