A string of bad luck forced to slow down Sebastian Vettel’s title race – the German suffered the pain of another DNF on Sunday at Japan as his F1 title hopes vanished almost over the horizon. 59-euro priced spark plug problems forced the German out of Sunday’s Japanese GP on the fourth lap after his Ferrari mechanics had worked excitedly on the starting grid to try and fix an engine problem.
At Malaysia an engine failure cost Vettel a great opportunity to start at the front of the grid; a disastrous crash at the start of the Singapore race handed Hamilton a handful of points.
Currently the four-time world champion more under-pressure, Vettel is one reprimand away from a grid penalty following being punished for missing the national anthem ahead of the Japanese GP. The reprimand resulted that, Vettel must avoid getting a reprimand for any driving offence over the remaining four races of the campaign.
“Of course, it hurts, and were all disappointed,” said Vettel, who hugged his mechanics and gave the crowd a quick wave after returning to the pits.
“For sure now you don’t look at the positives because it’s not the day to look at positives,” he added.
However, Ferrari president, Sergio Marchionne recently insists Vettel’s 2017 title charge is not over.
Ferrari “will not give up, the important thing is not to lose the confidence that brought us so far,” he told Italian finance broadcaster Class CNBC.
“Without being arrogant I think Ferrari is at or beyond Mercedes’ level today,” Marchionne added.
Four races remain on the schedule, and no lead in Formula 1 is safe over that long a timeframe, no matter how insurmountable it seems. Hamilton is currently 59 points ahead of Vettel and listed as a 1/9 favorite to win the Driver’s Championship, an impressive degree of certainty for a sport that can (occasionally) be so unpredictable. There could be value wagering on Vettel. If you like the German’s chances to pull a late-season upset but aren’t sure how to do it, you can consult this helpful guide to using sportsbooks.
The German has defended his Italian outfit after suffering a fresh and possibly decisive championship blow at the Japanese GP.
“It’s normal to be critical, especially if things go wrong because it’s part of our job,” Vettel told Sky F1. “But I need to protect them [Ferrari] – they’ve done an incredible job so far.
“It’s just a pity in the two races with the reliability issues. But it’s like that sometimes and of course it hurts and I’m disappointed, but now it’s important to get some rest and give my all for the last four races and see what happens.”
Mercedes also opted to introduce all four of its power units very early in the season, so a crash or an untimely failure could put Hamilton on the back of the grid. Even better, an as-of-yet undiscovered reliability issue popping up as the power units age would leave Mercedes completely hamstrung, with no ability to make further developments within the allowable limits. Extreme weather could also favor Vettel: so far the Ferrari seems to be more capable in varying conditions, when it manages to stay out of the way of crashing cars.