Vettel vows to 'protect' Ferrari after Japan woe

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Sebastian Vettel believes it is his duty to "protect" Ferrari from inevitable criticism after more reliability issues at the Japanese Grand Prix dealt a potentially fatal blow to his Formula One title chances.

Both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen suffered engine problems in Malaysia last time out and another mechanical issue for the German led to an early retirement at Suzuka, leaving him 59 points adrift of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

It means the championship will be sewn up next time out at the United States Grand Prix if Hamilton wins and Vettel places lower than fifth.

But Vettel was in no mood to point the finger of blame at anyone in the team.

"It's normal you're critical, especially if things go wrong, so it's part of our job," he told Sky Sports.

"I think I need to protect them. We've done an incredible job so far. It is obviously a pity the last two races with the reliability issues, but you know, it's like that sometimes.

"Of course it hurts, and we're all disappointed. But now we need to get back, get some rest and then go flat out for the last four races and see what happens."

Despite the increasingly daunting challenge he faces in chasing down Hamilton, Vettel is refusing to give up hope of a fifth F1 world title.

"We still have a chance but obviously it's not as much in our control as we'd like," he added.

"But overall the team is in a good way and we are improving race by race.

"I think we've gone a lot further than people thought. So there's also some positives but, for sure, now you don't look at the positives because it's not the day to look at positives."