Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Sports | By Johanna Francis

Lewis Hamilton defends Sebastian Vettel and urges 'respect' from media

Lewis Hamilton defends Sebastian Vettel and urges 'respect' from media

It was meant to be the year Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were finally going to go head to head.

Ferrari were at fault for putting Vettel on the wrong tyres in Saturday's dry-wet qualifying session in Suzuka before the German's clash with Verstappen in the race dropped him to last.

"The target is to just put the points, not win every race".

"It's about everybody", Vettel told Sky Sports.

"Surely it didn't help when we finished sixth and they won the race". So I was nervous I had lost part of my floor or something because the auto was moving for unknown reasons, but then it started to get better and better, after some tweaks to the settings.

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.

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Hamilton now has a 67-point lead to the German with four races to go in the season. "This is what we are going to do", he added. But, while it is not in the nature of a racing driver to give up or publicly concede defeat when there's even a sniff of a chance, even he must know that, barring a catastrophic stroke of misfortune, Hamilton can not be stopped. He is oozing confidence as was evident from a radio transmission during Friday's second practice session in Suzuka.

"I'm not sure it was his mistake", he said. "I would've been happy to have had that every race following that". Vettel doesn't even have the fastest auto anymore. Until recently Ferrari appeared to have the quickest vehicle on the grid, but failed to capitalise.

Vettel won the first two races in Australia and Bahrain and appeared to have the faster auto for much of the first half of the season. Hamilton, as a result, goes into the next race in the United States very much as the favourite.

Ferrari may have been frustrated by Verstappen's role in this latest farce - he hindered Kimi Raikkonen, too - but it has been outclassed all year long and must find a response fast before another season of masterful Mercedes racing is upon us.

The British driver will head to Austin, Texas, a venue where he is unbeaten since 2013, in the knowledge that another victory, and failure from his fallen rival Sebastian Vettel to finish in the top two, will secure his title fate a week on Sunday. The track became increasingly damp, and there would be no challenge to Hamilton who, barring a disaster, will now extend his title lead and further tighten his grip on championship number five.

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