Sebastian Vettel was making impressive progress during the Japanese Grand Prix, after starting from eighth on the grid and after a safety car period, the Ferrari driver was all over the back of Max Verstappen’s third-placed Red Bull when he had a dive into Spoon Curve…
The result was that on lap eight with third place in sight, Vettel found himself facing oncoming traffic and at the wrong end of the field. What followed was an afternoon of catch-up for the German who finished sixth, way behind title rival and race winner Lewis Hamilton.
Asked after the race if in retrospect he would think twice about the move on Verstappen that resulted in his mistake, the German replied, “Do you ask him if he should think twice when he defends? This is part of racing. I don’t regret the move. With hindsight, it’s always easy. His battery was clipping, mine was boosting. He didn’t give enough room and we touched.”
What was a 50 points deficit to Hamilton in the title race is now a massive 67 points with four races to go, the knock-out punch likely to be landed long before lights out at Yas Marina Circuit next month.
As for his chances, Vettel was obviously at pains to find coherent words, “It’s about everybody. It’s probably the toughest… I don’t know. I find it an inspiration that you walk into the garage and the guys are all fired up.”
“The spirit is unbroken. It’s difficult from where we are, but what have we got to lose? We’re trying our utmost to fight and resist, but I don’t think it can get any bigger.”
The collision with Verstappen was probably the penultimate nail before the final one is driven into the coffin of Ferrari’s and their driver’s season, the lunge through the highspeed double left-hander was reckless at that point of the race when he clearly had an advantage.
Vettel explained his impatience and the result thereof, “I was pushing to get past. I wasn’t desperate to get past. I knew he had a five-second penalty. The gap was there, but as soon as he saw me, he defended, but I had the inside. In my opinion, he tries to push when he shouldn’t.”
“Look at the incident he had with Kimi. It’s not always right the other guy has to move. I got through the whole field without any trouble. You need to always leave a space. In that case I couldn’t go anywhere,” insisted the Ferrari driver.
Heading to United States Grand Prix, the maths is pretty simple: Hamilton will be 2018 Formula 1 World Champion – for the fifth time – if he outscores Vettel by eight points in Austin.