Even Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise would baulk at the challenge faced by Ferrari`s Sebastian Vettel after Sunday`s Japanese Grand Prix.
The German`s hopes of winning a fifth Formula One title this season moved from slim to almost non-existent at Suzuka following a dismal performance. Lewis Hamilton`s pole-to-flag victory, the Briton`s sixth win in seven races and ninth of the season, delivered another hammer blow to a rival whose challenge has swiftly self-destructed.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 7, 2018
Vettel is now 67 points behind his Mercedes rival with four races- worth a maximum 100 points- to go. The battle between the two four-time champions looks effectively over, despite some fighting talk from Ferrari team boss Maurizio Maranello.
"I know that the situation looks impossible," Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said on Sunday. "But our job sometimes is to challenge the impossible."
"This is what we are going to attempt in the upcoming four races."
In fact, it could all be over in two weeks` time at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, where a win with Vettel finishing lower than second is all Hamilton needs to seal the deal.
"You say nearly (done), so obviously there is still a chance," said Vettel, cutting a resigned figure as he spoke to reporters."At the last couple of races, we made it a bit too easy for them but also credit to them as they executed well, which is the name of the game."
"We need to look after ourselves and do our bit in the next couple of races and then we see."
Ferrari`s campaign has unravelled spectacularly with what appeared to be a titanic battle between two four-time champions instead turning into a one-horse race. Mistakes from both Vettel as well as strategy blunders by Ferrari such as a failed tyre gamble during qualifications at Suzuka, have cost them dear.
They no longer have the fastest car as well with Mercedes dominating proceedings. Hamilton is also in the form of his life and has to be a favourite again in Austin, where he has won every race bar one.
Vettel`s highest finish since his win in Belgium at the end of August has been third and he will need to win at least the next two, with Hamilton failing to score, for any miracle to look remotely possible. Still, neither Mercedes nor Hamilton are taking anything for granted.
"A non-finish and consequent bad result suddenly wipes off a large chunk of your points," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. "I know from the probability standpoint it doesn`t look likely, but this is motor racing."
"I`ve seen many black swans swimming across the pond in my life... that`s why I`d rather wait until it`s really done."