Sebastian Vettel’s fading his fifth title hopes were dealt an almost fatal blow when the German retired from the Japanese Grand Prix with spark plug issue on Sunday as his Ferrari suffered a major misfortune for a third race in a row.
(Ferrari race report) – Ferrari comes away from Japan with the points for fifth after Kimi made up that same number of places off the grid. From the outset, Sebastian Vettel was robbed of any chance to fight for the win, when a spark plug on one cylinder failed.
However, Kimi’s performance proved that the team and the car are capable of getting the job done and until the maths says it’s over, we will keep trying. Moving on to the race: it started wth Vettel on the right side alongside Hamilton, with Kimi tenth, after taking a penalty for the gearbox change between P3 and qualifying.
Vettel got off the line well, but not well enough to take the lead, as Kimi maintained position, before dropping down the order after running off track, while dueling with Hulkenberg. But on Seb’s car there was already a problem with the ignition and he lost one place on the opening lap.
The Safety Car came out after Sainz crashed and Sebastian was sixth and losing ground. The number 5 car was called back into the pits and the mechanics tried to fix the problem. However, a few minutes later Vettel climbed out of the cockpit.
A spark plug was broken and it was pointless to go on. Meanwhile, having started on the Soft tyres he had used in Q2, Kimi found himself eighth, 18 seconds off the lead. He passed Massa on lap 14 and kept chasing. By lap 28, he was fourth before pitting for Supersofts and rejoining in sixth.
At the start of lap 33, he set his sights on Hulkenberg and passed him. From then on, he managed the fuel and tyres in the closing stages, also putting in some very quick laps, while the Virtual Safety Car came out with four laps remaining. With two cars on track, it would have been a different story.
Vettel says following the race, he feels the need to ‘protect’ Ferrari from further criticism following his title bid was hit by more reliability troubles in Japan.
“It’s normal you’re critical, especially if things go wrong, it’s part of our job,” said Vettel. “I feel I need to protect them [the team] – we’ve done an incredible job so far.
“It is obviously a pity the last two races with the reliability issues, but you know, it’s like that sometimes. Of course it hurts, and we’re all disappointed.
“But now we need to get back, get some rest and then go flat-out for the last four races and see what happens.” The German added.
“We still have a chance, but yeah, obviously it’s not as much in our control as we’d like,” said Vettel. “Overall the team is in a good way and we are improving race by race.
“We’ve gone a lot further than people thought. So, there’s also some positives. But, now you don’t look at the positives, because it’s not the day to look at positives.”