Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he feels sympathetic towards former driver Sebastian Vettel and Formula 1 fans having seen the Ferrari driver’s title challenge take a critical blow in Japan which he fears will dampen the title climax.

After seeing Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo profit from Vettel’s engine problem to secure Red Bull’s second consecutive double podium, Horner feels the title fight could be over with Lewis Hamilton winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton now holds a 59-point lead in the F1 drivers’ championship over Vettel and can mathematically wrap-up the 2017 title next time out in the United States Grand Prix if he wins and Vettel finishes sixth or lower.

Having seen the British driver storm to four wins out of five races since the summer break, only missing out to Red Bull’s Verstappen in Malaysia, it has overseen a huge points swing over Vettel who had led by 14 points after the Hungarian Grand Prix but has conceded a whopping 73 points to his title rival in that period.

The majority of Vettel’s dropped points have been down to mechanical heartache when an engine issue in qualifying in Malaysia forced him to start the race from last before Japan’s retirement which Horner fears has robbed the German driver and F1 fans of a title battle in the final races of 2017.

“I feel especially sorry for Sebastian because that is a killer blow for his championship, and really for the fans as well,” Horner said. “It looks like we are not going to have the exciting run in to the end of the year that going into the summer break it looked like it would be.

“It is very difficult to judge from the outside. F1 is a technical sport, these cars are very complex, things go wrong. We’ve seen that very much with our own power unit this year.

“Different teams deal with it in different ways. It is not for me to judge how Ferrari will react. They have had some bad luck.”


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