SUZUKA, Japan — He may be a season-high 50 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship but Sebastian Vettel is refusing to treat this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as a “now or never” race.
Wins to Hamilton in Singapore and Russia has seen the Mercedes driver take firm control of the title fight with just five races remaining in the season. So dominant is Hamilton’s position right now that he could still claim the title even if Vettel was to end the year on a five-race winning streak.
However, Vettel, who has only finished ahead of Hamilton in one of the past six races, insists he isn’t putting any extra pressure on Ferrari or himself this weekend in Suzuka — a track he has won at on four occasions.
“I don’t like the now or never approach, I don’t think there’s much sense in that,” Vettel said on Thursday in Japan. “We attack every weekend and every weekend is different, tracks are different and circumstances are different.
“Within a week you cannot do too many things differently so we hope that the track suits us better and we have a better weekend than in Russia. I’m very happy to be here, I love this track, it is my favourite track in the world, so I want to enjoy it and not spoil it by starting to count things that are against me. I’ll not focus on the things that are against me.”
Despite the points gulf in both championships, Ferrari has widely been seen as the team with the best car for the majority of 2018. However, in recent races the pendulum has swung back to Mercedes, particularly after the Silver Arrows were able to control and effectively implement team orders for a one-two at the Russian Grand Prix.
Vettel said that Ferrari hasn’t been afforded that sort of luxury this year, despite what others on the outside think.
“We have a strong car but I don’t think, against people’s opinions, that we had a dominant car at any point this year,” Vettel said. “It has been very close and very close all year but there were too many races from our side where we were not close enough.
“We’ve always been very close, in many races close enough to have a good fight [but then there’s] a race like last weekend where they could play with us in the race and they had more pace. There were other races in the season where we didn’t have the pace that they had.”