Vettel title hopes suffer major blow after Suzuka DNF
Sebastian Vettel's world championship hopes suffered another blow in the Japanese Grand Prix when he was forced to retire early on following a spark plug failure.
The German had qualified on the front row alongside title rival Lewis Hamilton, but there was panic on the grid when Ferrari rushed to check a problem with a spark plug.
Although Vettel was able to take the start and ran second early on, it was clear that his car was not working properly as he slipped back from early leader Hamilton.
Max Verstappen overtook Vettel for second at the hairpin on lap 1, while at the start of lap 2 – shortly before a safety car period was called – Vettel lost places to Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas.
Shortly after the safety car was called in, Vettel dropped further back and, at the end of lap four, he was asked to come into the pits to retire the car.
Ferrari later confirmed that a spark plug failure was the cause of his retirement.
In the wake of Vettel's startline crash at the Singapore Grand Prix, and the engine problems that left him at the back of the grid in Malaysia, the Japanese GP failure has left his title hopes in tatters.
He is currently 34 points behind Hamilton, who led the Suzuka race early on, and could find himself facing a near-impossible gap to close with four races remaining if his Mercedes rivals goes on to deliver a good result in Japan.
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