Vettel accepts slim title hopes as Ferrari blame quality again

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Sebastian Vettel has acknowledged his chances of adding a fifth world title in 2017 are now highly unlikely after falling 59 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton following his retirement at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Another engine issue was responsible for the German completing just four laps in Sunday's race at Suzuka while the Briton claimed an eighth victory of the season in his Mercedes.

The retirement was just another setback in a number over the past few weeks after a crash in Singapore and engine problems in qualifying at Sepang all of which have led to a situation where Hamilton could become champion at the Circuit of the Americas should he win again and Vettel is lower than fifth.

“Of course, I don’t need to be a genius or a mathematician," Vettel, who has never lost a championship in F1 that he has led at some stage, said, accepting it will be tough to maintain that record.

Asked if Suzuka could be the decisive moment in the championship, however, the 30-year-old maintained the stance he has had since the summer break.

“I don’t know. You get the calculator out and count the points at the end of the year to see how many you have then you look back,” he said. "But for sure not finishing the race doesn’t help."

What has been more frustrating for Ferrari is the type of engine problems that have impacted with an air inlet on the turbo the cause of Malaysia's failure and a 59 Euro spark plug the issue in Japan.

“It was a technical nonsense that had an impact on a car that costs millions of Euros,” Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne said speaking with Italy’s Class CNBC television channel.

"We must renew our commitment regarding the quality of the components coming to F1. It's a problem we've probably ignored over time because it was never of much importance but now we've had at least three occasions where we've really seen the devastating impact on performance. We'll fix it.”

Concerns over quality were also raised after Sepang, but the Italian-Canadian insists it's better if the team stay positive, claiming Ferrari has the speed and there's still time to score more wins.

"Without being arrogant, I think it [the car] is at the same level if not better than Mercedes today," he stated. "I'm sure if we'd not had any problems like in the last three races, we would be having a different discussion."

"The season is not lost, there's still all to do," he added. "I won't talk of bad luck, I don't believe in it. The important thing is to not lose the confidence that has brought us so far. I'm delighted with what the team has done and I have tremendous confidence that in the next four races we will be able to close most of the Mercedes gap."