After Singapore, the German’s chances already took a big hit with his first corner crash.
And now in Malaysia, Vettel is starting the race dead last after a technical problem aboard his Ferrari in qualifying.
His old Red Bull boss, Dr Helmut Marko, admits Vettel’s title hopes have taken a big blow.
“But maybe he’ll get lucky with the safety car,” he told Speed Week.
“What I do know is that he does not give up. That is his mental strength. He has to hope for luck in the race and to end up between third and fifth in the race. That would be the best damage limitation,” Marko added.
Even though Vettel and Ferrari’s troubles have directly benefitted Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff admitted he sympathises with Vettel.
“I feel sympathy with them because I know the situation,” he told Turun Sanomat newspaper.
“We’ve been through it before. I remember Lewis’ engine on fire in Budapest in 2014, and the same thing when he was clearly leading in Malaysia last year.
“Fans all over the world want to see this battle for the championship take place on the circuit,” Wolff added. “On the other hand, this is motor sport and to succeed you need everything to fall in place.”
F1 legend Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, agrees.
“A high-performing sportsman like Sebastian is never going to sit down and say it’s over,” he is quoted by Bild newspaper.