Sebastian Vettel has challenged Ferrari to prove it is a better team than its recent form suggests after seeing his drivers’ championship hopes all but ended.
Lewis Hamilton has won the last four races in a row to open up a 67-point lead in the standings, and only needs to outscore Vettel by eight points in Austin’s Circuit of The Americas next weekend to win the title. That means if Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish second, something he hasn’t done over those last four races.
Presented with the suggestion that leading Ferrari could be a burden on him, Vettel insists he does not have extra influence at Maranello but takes heart from the way the atmosphere within team has remained good over recent weeks.
“I’m not leading Ferrari,” Vettel said. “I think I’m a part of the team and that’s what I want to be, not anything else, and I think we have great potential in this team. Obviously the last weeks have been tough for us.
“Overall though, I think we could be in a better place — we’re not, so that’s also for a reason. But we look forward and I think, even if the last weeks have been difficult, the spirit inside the team, if you look at the guys and so on, it’s incredible how powerful they are, how strong they are, how positive they are throughout.
“I think that always made this team very strong and will make this team stronger for the next race and for the future.
“We know that we still have a lot of potential to unleash, and we need to work and dig a little bit deeper and so on, but for now obviously we want to prove that the last races are not what we can deliver.”
Vettel is not ruling himself out of the title race while there remains a mathematical possibility of overhauling Hamilton, even if the Briton needs to pick up just 33 points — the equivalent of three fifth-places and one top eight — in the remaining four grands prix.
“Well, there’s still a chance. The last couple races we made it a bit too easy for them but also credit to them — they executed well. It’s the name of the game but we need to look after ourselves, do our best in the next couple of races, and then we’ll see. But surely it didn’t help when we finish sixth and they win the race.”