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EVEN Mis­sion:Im­pos­si­ble star Tom Cruise would baulk at the task fac­ing Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel af­ter Sun­day’s Ja­panese Grand Prix.

The Ger­man’s hopes of win­ning a fifth For­mula One ti­tle this sea­son moved away from slim and closer to non-ex­is­tent at Suzuka.

Lewis Hamil­ton’s pole-to-flag vic­tory, the Bri­ton’s sixth win in seven races and ninth of the sea­son, de­liv­ered an­other ham­mer blow to a ri­val whose chal­lenge has swiftly self-de­struc­ted.

Vet­tel is now 67 points be­hind his Mer­cedes ri­val with four races – worth a max­i­mum 100 points – to go.

The bat­tle be­tween the two four­times cham­pi­ons looks ef­fec­tively over, even if there is still fight­ing talk from Maranello.

“I know that the sit­u­a­tion looks im­pos­si­ble,” Fer­rari team boss Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene said on Sun­day. “But our job some­times is to chal­lenge the im­pos­si­ble.

“This is what we are go­ing to do and we try to do for the fu­ture four races.”

In fact, it could all be over in two weeks’ time at the US Grand Prix in Austin, where a win with Vet­tel fin­ish­ing lower than sec­ond is all Hamil­ton needs to seal the deal with three races to spare.

“You say nearly (done), so ob­vi­ously there is still a chance,” said Vet­tel, cut­ting a re­signed fig­ure as he spoke to re­porters.

“At the last cou­ple of races we made it a bit too easy for them but also credit to them as they ex­e­cuted well, which is the name of the game.

“We need to look af­ter our­selves and do our bit the next cou­ple of races and then we see.”

Fer­rari’s cam­paign has un­rav­elled spec­tac­u­larly as the sea­son has worn on, with what ap­peared set to be a ti­tanic bat­tle of two four­time cham­pi­ons in­stead turn­ing into a one-horse race.

Mis­takes from both Vet­tel and the Ital­ian team, as well as strat­egy blun­ders such as a failed tyre gam­ble in qual­i­fy­ing at Suzuka, have cost them dear.

They no longer have the fastest car, with Mer­cedes lock­ing out the front row and fin­ish­ing in one-two for­ma­tion in the last two races.

Hamil­ton is also in the form of his life and has to be favourite for vic­tory again in Austin, where he has won ev­ery race bar one since the Texan track joined the cal­en­dar in 2012.

Vet­tel’s high­est fin­ish since his win in Bel­gium at the end of Au­gust has been third and he will need to win at least the next two, with Hamil­ton fail­ing to score, for any mir­a­cle to look re­motely pos­si­ble.

Still, nei­ther Mer­cedes nor Hamil­ton are tak­ing any­thing for granted.

“A DNF (non-fin­ish) and the con­se­quent bad re­sult sud­denly wipes off a large chunk of your points,” said Mer­cedes boss Toto Wolff.

“I know from the prob­a­bil­ity stand­point it doesn’t look likely, but this is mo­tor rac­ing.

“I’ve seen many black swans swim­ming across the pond in my life ... that’s why I’d rather wait un­til it’s re­ally done.” | Reuters

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