Vet­tel re­fuses to back down af­ter Hamil­ton vic­tory

For­mula One ti­tle de­feat looms for Fer­rari

Post - - SPORT - DEREK WIL­SON

LEWIS Hamil­ton was gifted a win at the Rus­sian Grand Prix by Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas, but For­mula One ti­tle ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel is re­fus­ing to throw in the towel on the cham­pi­onship.

Who­ever the ath­lete, what­ever the sport, there is a near-stan­dard set of com­ments trot­ted out when de­feat is loom­ing but not yet con­firmed.

Vet­tel and Fer­rari were draw­ing deeply on those words on Sun­day, af­ter an­other dis­ap­point­ing out­ing at the Rus­sian Grand Prix left his For­mula One ti­tle hopes hang­ing by a thread.

“Maybe the next cou­ple of tracks are bet­ter suited for us, we will know when we get there,” he said af­ter fin­ish­ing third in Sochi, be­hind the Mercedes of Valt­teri Bot­tas and beat­ing ri­val Lewis Hamil­ton.

“We need to keep push­ing and try; who knows what will hap­pen in the next races.”

The Ja­panese Grand Prix is this Sun­day and there is one week off be­fore the dou­ble-header of the US and Mex­ico.

Trail­ing Hamil­ton by 50 points with just five races re­main­ing, Vet­tel no longer has the destiny of the cham­pi­onship in his own hands – even five vic­to­ries may not be enough.

But on cur­rent form, few would con­sider that a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity. Win­ning just once would be a sig­nif­i­cant start and only some ill-for­tune for Hamil­ton will likely open the door.

“I still be­lieve in our chances; yes, ob­vi­ously it’s not get­ting big­ger,” Vet­tel said. “But who knows, it takes one DNF (did not fin­ish) and then all of a sud­den things look dif­fer­ent – ide­ally two,” Vet­tel joked, has­ten­ing to add: “Which I’m not wish­ing on Lewis.”

Hamil­ton cut a sub­dued fig­ure de­spite clos­ing in on his fifth cham­pi­onship, with the man­ner of his vic­tory weigh­ing heav­ily on his shoul­ders.

Team or­ders sent him ahead of then leader Bot­tas ap­proach­ing the half­way point and he strug­gled to rec­on­cile prag­ma­tism with his rac­ing spirit.

“Usu­ally we’d be elated but I can un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult it was for Valt­teri,” he said.

“He did a fan­tas­tic job and he de­served to win.”

Mercedes mo­tor­sport chief Toto Wolff was un­der­stand­ing, if un­re­pen­tant to­wards the feel­ings of the Finn.

“There is a harsh re­al­ity that you can ex­tend the lead by sev­eral points in a cham­pi­onship that has been very tough and very dif­fi­cult at times,” he said. “Some­times you have to take it and this is what we did to­day.” Vet­tel – per­haps re­flect­ing on the lack of team or­ders which cost him at the Ital­ian Grand Prix – was blunter.

“I think in the po­si­tion they were in it was a no-brainer what they did to­day, so maybe not all the ques­tions are jus­ti­fied,” he said. That could also be seen as him look­ing ahead to the next five races and call­ing for ev­ery bit of as­sis­tance pos­si­ble – in­clud­ing from team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen – to close the gap to Hamil­ton.

With all Fer­rari might throw at him, Hamil­ton is on “the brink of his fourth cham­pi­onship in five years”, ac­cord­ing to Bri­tain’s Daily Tele­graph, while Ger­many’s Sued­deutsche Zeitung pa­per said “only a mir­a­cle can help Vet­tel.”

PIC­TURE: EPA/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Third placed Ger­man For­mula One driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel of Fer­rari at the Rus­sian 2018 For­mula One Grand Prix awards cer­e­mony at the Sochi Au­to­drom cir­cuit in Sochi, Rus­sia, on Sun­day.

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