Sebastian Vettel still believes in slim championship hopes

Sebastian Vettel believes wins at the upcoming races could be enough to put pressure on Mercedes and force a dramatic turnaround in the drivers’ championship in the final five races.

After finishing third at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, Vettel is now 50 points adrift of title rival Lewis Hamilton and his championship chances are hanging by a thread. Even if he finishes first at all five remaining races, Hamilton could still clinch the title with four third place finishes and a second over the same period.

But Vettel said he had not given up on the title and pointed out that a failure to finish on Hamilton’s side would swing the championship back the other way.

“I wasn’t a genius in maths classes, but I was clever enough to pay attention and it’s not getting easier if we lose points [to Hamilton],” he said on Sunday. “I still believe in our chances; yes, obviously it’s not getting bigger if you finish behind but who knows, it takes one DNF and then all of a sudden things look different — ideally two [DNFs]!

“I’m not wishing that on Lewis but you never know what happens, so we need to stay on top of our game which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend: make sure that from where we are now we focus on winning the last races.

“We need to make sure we are always there, so if it’s a third we can get or if it’s a win, we need to get those third places and the wins to make sure we do — everything else, unfortunately, is not entirely in our hands.

“But I still think that if we win the next races, we can put a lot of pressure on them and make something happen, so that’s what we need to focus on. It’s not easy, but I believe if everything goes well then we have a chance.”

Although Hamilton won on Sunday, it was in controversial circumstances after his teammate Valtteri Bottas was asked to give up the lead of the race for him on lap 25. Both drivers were visibly uncomfortable during the podium ceremony after the race, but Vettel said he would not try to capitalise on the frosty atmosphere at Mercedes.

“It’s not my style,” he said. “Controversy, for whatever reason, is more attractive than happy news and smiley faces, but I don’t think it’s fair now asking them tough questions because I think what they did and how they played together as a team makes complete sense.

“Obviously it was a bit dull for the race, but I think it made sense. It’s not nice to ask them difficult questions and I think for the team it doesn’t make a difference who wins and for the drivers’ championship it does. I think everybody understands why they did it.”