By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Sebastian Vettel saw his chances at a fifth Formula One championship dealt its biggest blow yet with an early retirement from Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
It was the third consecutive weekend that Scuderia Ferrari have dealt with problems at the start of the race in some form or another. The 30-year-old German was leading the championship up to the Italian Grand Prix, but with just four rounds left in 2017 he now sits second behind Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton – who stretched his margin out to 59 points after capturing the win at Suzuka.
On the grid prior to the race, the Italian squad had to change out a spark plug on Vettel’s SF70H, but it didn’t keep the problem at bay as shortly after the start he reported a lack of power before his second retirement in the last three races.
It is entirely possible that the championship could be wrapped up in the next round at the United States Grand Prix if Hamilton were to score a win with Vettel finishing sixth or worse. Since Circuit of the Americas debuted in 2012, Hamilton has captured four of five possible victories, with Vettel the lone exception in 2013.