Sepang — Sebastian Vettel fell further behind Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton after Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix but the Ferrari driver sees cause for optimism in the title battle.
Starting in last place after a power unit problem prevented him setting a time in qualifying, with his Mercedes rival lining up on pole position, the German’s remarkable drive to fourth place, combined with Hamilton being beaten by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, meant Vettel limited the damage to six points.
While that still stretched Hamilton’s overall advantage to 34 points, it was better than the German might have feared.
"I am still optimistic, because we know that we have a quick car," said Vettel. "It’s been a difficult weekend, but nevertheless the speed is there."
Vettel’s title hopes have been dealt a severe blow for two races in a row now. An opening lap crash at the last race in Singapore, where he had started on pole, cost him 25 points to Hamilton, who capitalised to win from fifth.
The German four-time champion had gone into the Malaysian weekend 28 points behind his rival. Had Hamilton won on Sunday with Vettel fourth, or outscored the 30-year-old by more than seven points, the Briton would have moved into a position to win the title no matter what Vettel did, even if it were winning the next five races.