Sebastian Vettel said he was left in “no man’s land” during the fight with Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s United State Grand Prix as his Formula 1 title hopes were all but ended.
Vettel led the opening five laps at the Circuit of The Amerias in Austin, Texas after a flying start from P2 on the grid, but was powerless to keep Hamilton back or keep up through the remainder of the race.
A late switch to a two-stop strategy left the German driver fighting back from P4 to take second at the checkered flag as Hamilton swept to his ninth win of the season.
“I think at the start it was looking good, obviously we got past Lewis but then fairly quickly we had to suddenly realize that we couldn’t keep up with his pace up today,” Vettel said.
“Then I think we were in a bit of no man’s land, not quite sure. It was close after the first stop again, but then again stuck, so towards the end we decided to pit again, take a fresh set of tires, which was a bit more exciting in the last couple of laps especially.
“But overall not the result we wanted.”
Hamilton’s victory saw his advantage in the drivers’ championship grow to 66 points, meaning a top-five finish in any of the last three races this season will be enough to give the Briton a fourth world title.
“Obviously looking back, the races where we went out didn’t help,” Vettel said when asked by NBCSN if his title hopes were over.
“I’m just not happy with today. I thought we could win, but we didn’t.”
Ferrari’s tough day was compounded by confirmation of its loss in the constructors’ championship to Mercedes, who wrapped up a fourth successive title with three races to spare.
The title was clinched despite Ferrari gaining a double podium finish, with Kimi Raikkonen being promoted to third after Max Verstappen’s post-race penalty.
“I was disappointed, I thought I finished fourth. There was some issue with Max,” Raikkonen said.
“My car was very good all the way. I just had to do fuel saving in the end, so it was not so easy.”