Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Sports | By Juana Wells

Max Verstappen: Sebastian Vettel 'drove into the side of my car'

Max Verstappen: Sebastian Vettel 'drove into the side of my car'

Vettel has always been known to handle pressure well, but the latest string of errors from the German proves otherwise.

Vettel's championship hopes hang on by a thread as the German driver made another crucial mistake that has affected the gap to championship leader Lewis Hamilton. Although Vettel can still match Hamilton's tally of nine race wins this year by winning the season's final four rounds (he now has five victories), the Mercedes driver would still have one more second place to his name (three to two).

Now 67 points ahead of closest rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth on Sunday after a collision with Max Verstappen's Red Bull, the Briton could wrap up the title at the next race in Austin, Texas.

Lewis Hamilton chose to soak in the winning feeling at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday rather than allow himself to get carried away by thoughts of securing what looks like an inevitable fifth title.

Raikkonen also felt Verstappen was fully to blame for their tangle, which happened when the Red Bull ran off the road at the chicane on the opening lap while third then banged wheels with the Ferrari as it rejoined. The safety auto was out in the race early on with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen picking up a puncture after being rear ended by Charles Leclerc of Sauber.

He spun, took some damage and ended up finishing at the back of the field.

But disaster struck just eight circuits into the Grand Prix when he attempted a gung-ho, and unrealistic move on Verstappen as he decelerated from 190mph at the Spoon curve.

When the safety auto went back to the pits, Vettel attacked Verstappen for third but ended up carrying too much speed and made light contact with the Red Bull. If Hamilton wins at the next round in the USA Vettel must finish second to ensure the fight even goes to Mexico City.

He was further helped by Verstappen's first incident with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

"Is it believable what this guy is doing?" he said over the radio.

"I think yesterday was the decisive moment", he acknowledged.

Vettel tumbled down the order to 19th and while both were investigated by race stewards for the collision, no action was taken. He said: "You can't overtake on that corner. I gave Sebastian space, but he under-steered into my auto".

Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff oversaw another flawless weekend for his team, as Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of a fifth world title.

Hamilton will now head to Texas searching for a fifth straight victory in the United States, and his sixth in seven years. Hamilton had been strong all weekend topping all three practice sessions before taking pole and in the race he exploited his advantage to maximum effect. "It is a great one-two for Mercedes".

"After the race start when I was second I kind of knew how the race was going to be", said the Finn after the finish.

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