Sebastian Vettel insists all is not lost in his hopes of claiming the 2018 Formula 1 world championship, despite losing further ground to Lewis Hamilton in the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s eighth victory of the season in Sochi – aided by Mercedes’ controversial use of team orders – enabled the Briton to pull 50 points clear of Vettel in the drivers’ championship, after the Ferrari driver finished third.

The win effectively provides Hamilton with a two-race buffer over chief rival Vettel with 125 points left available from the remaining five rounds of the campaign. While Vettel’s task of beating Hamilton to a fifth world title is no longer in his hands, he is not conceding defeat just yet.

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“To be honest, I go race by race,” Vettel explained. “Obviously I’m clever enough – I wasn’t a genius in maths – but I was clever enough to pay attention to make it up myself but it’s not getting easier if we lose points.

“I still believe in our chances; yes, obviously it’s not getting bigger, as I said, if you finish behind but who knows, it takes one DNF – ideally two! - and then all of a sudden things look different.

“I’m not wishing that [DNFs] on Lewis but you never know what happens, so we need to stay on top of our game which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend: make sure that from where we are now we focus on winning the last races.”

Mercedes appears to have taken a step forward in performance compared to rivals Ferrari in recent races, with Hamilton claiming back-to-back wins in Italy and Singapore before the German manufacturer comfortably locked out the front row in Sochi, a circuit that was expected to favour the Scuderia’s 2018 car.

But Vettel was encouraged by Ferrari’s improved performance on Sunday - as he shadowed the Mercedes duo for the entirety of the race – and has called on his team to keep up the pressure to ensure it is ready to capitalise on any mistakes.

“It’s not entirely in our hands, we need a little bit of something to happen but we need to make sure that we are always there,” he added. “If it’s a third we can get, or a win, you need to get those places to make sure that we do everything.

“The rest, unfortunately, is not anymore entirely in our hands but I still think that if we win the next few races we can put a lot of pressure on them and make something to happen. It’s not easy but I believe we still have a fair chance.”

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