Lewis Hamilton sympathises with Sebastian Vettel after new title setback
Hamilton moves 59 points clear of Vettel with four races remaining with victory at the Japanese GP
Lewis Hamilton has sympathised with Sebastian Vettel after the Ferrari driver suffered another shattering blow to his title challenge at the Japanese GP.
Since losing the lead of the world championship last month during Ferrari's humbling at the Italian GP, Vettel has crashed in Singapore and started last in Malaysia.
Vettel's latest setback, a fatal engine glitch which reduced the Ferrari driver to a spectator for most of the afternoon, leaves the German 59 points behind with four races remaining and Hamilton on the verge of the championship.
"He's been very unfortunate through no fault of his own," said Hamilton. "I was excited to have a good race with Sebastian here but he's been incredibly unfortunate."
And there could still be more bad luck to follow. Vettel, distracted as his Ferrari crew fought to fix the fault on the Suzuka grid, has been handed a reprimand by the race stewards for his late arrival for the pre-race national anthem ceremony. It's Vettel's second reprimand of the season. One more will trigger an automatic grid demotion.
Late for the anthem, the German also had little to say to the waiting media before departing the circuit early. For Hamilton, meanwhile, the fat lady is clearing her throat - even if the Englishman himself is refusing to accept he is on the brink of a fourth world championship.,
"I wouldn't say I have one hand on it," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "There are still 100 points available.
"I'm still going to keep the pedal to the metal."
Even after Vettel departed the scene, the Mercedes driver couldn't afford any let-up in Sunday's race as Max Verstappen twice closed to within a second of the race leader.
"For the first half of the race it was very, very well under control," said Hamilton. "But the second half of the race was a lot harder.
"Tyres, balance of the car, traffic we were getting a lot of the time. Then with the Virtual Safety Car, which I did a good job under, the front tyres weren't working so I had massive understeer.
"Then all of a sudden he [Verstappen] was on me. He looked so big in my mirrors but really grateful the car stuck together and I didn't make any mistakes. I'm really proud of that."