Sports

Rosberg, Hamilton feel for troubled Vettel

Mercedes' Lewis closes in on fourth world title as Seb suffers another setback

Ferrari's continuing reliability woes have robbed Formula One fans of a thrilling battle, last year's world champion Nico Rosberg said as his former teammate Lewis Hamilton closed in on a fourth world title after winning yesterday's Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg, who had to go down to the last race before securing his title, expressed disappointment at the latest in a sequence of setbacks for Ferrari's leading contender Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel returned to the pits and stepped out of the car after four laps of the Suzuka race, leaving Mercedes' Hamilton to win and go 59 points clear with four races left.

Hamilton will secure his fourth title if he wins the next race in the United States on Oct 22 and Vettel finishes no higher than sixth.

"For all of us F1 fans, we wanted to see the big action out there. With Sebastian having a problem straight off the start, that's not really what we want to see," said Rosberg, at Suzuka as a pundit for Sky Sports television.

"But it's also not what Mercedes want to see because they want to win after a great battle. And Lewis as well.

"Lewis is a fighter and he would love to have that great battle with Seb and come out on top. But that's the way it is and that's the way racing is," added the German, who retired last December.

Hamilton also felt for a rival suffering through no fault of his own.

"I was excited to have a good race with Sebastian here but he's been incredibly unfortunate," said the Briton.

  • JAPAN GP TOP 5

    1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:31.194

    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.211sec

    3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.679sec

    4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +10.580sec

    5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +32.622sec

Vettel blamed yesterday's problem on a humble spark plug, an item costing little more than small change on a car packed with millions of dollars' worth of cutting-edge technology.

It was his third setback in as many races, with the four-time champion crashing out on the opening lap in Singapore and then starting in last place in Malaysia due to engine problems in qualifying.

  • 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 306 points

    2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 247 pts

    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 234 pts

    4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 192 pts

    5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 148 pts

Said Vettel: "I think it was a small problem causing a big issue. We didn't have power already on the formation lap, no power at the start and then the first couple of laps already.

"We tried to reset everything to try and get the power back but we couldn't. It looks like there was a problem with the spark plug. Not much we could have done. Unfortunately not our day."

The 30-year-old German, who hugged his mechanics and gave the crowd a quick wave after returning to the pits, added: "Of course it hurts, and we're all disappointed.

FLAT OUT

"Now I think we just have to get back, get some rest and go flat out for the last four races and see what happens."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who had gone to the Ferrari pit wall after the race to commiserate with his rivals, said: "If four races ago, I would have told you that Sebastian is going to DNF (not finish) two times and not score well one time, you would have said that's almost impossible.

"The Ferrari guys certainly feel awful at the moment," he told Sky. "I get on very well with them and with (principal) Maurizio (Arrivabene) and it's not a situation you want to be in.

"Maybe it's a development slope of the team. They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017 and their car is super-fast, it just lacks reliability, and that is the next step."

On the odds stacked against him, Vettel said: "I don't need to be a genius or a mathematician.

"I think we are improving race by race, we've got a lot further than people have thought so there's also some positives.

"But for sure now you don't look at the positives because it's not the day to look at positives." - WIRE SERVICES

SEBASTIAN VETTELlewis hamiltonFormula 1