Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 championship hopes took another huge hit in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix after an engine issue forced him to retire from the race early.
Vettel led the drivers’ championship for Ferrari all the way up to the Italian Grand Prix at the end of September, when Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton moved three points ahead.
Vettel retired in Singapore and finished fourth in Malaysia, with Hamilton going P1 and P2 in those races to move 34 points clear heading into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Ferrari was forced to change a spark plug on Vettel’s car on the grid after finding an issue, only for the German to report a lack of power soon after the race starting.
Vettel lost a place to Max Verstappen at the hairpin before slipping all the way back to sixth on the main straight, with yet more positions being lost after a brief safety car period.
Ferrari had no choice but to retire Vettel from the race, ending his hopes of cutting the gap to Hamilton, who currently leads the race for Mercedes.
Should Hamilton win at Suzuka, the Briton would be able to wrap up the F1 title in two weeks’ time at the United States Grand Prix if he won in Austin and Vettel finished sixth or lower.