Despite admitting his early retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix "hurt", Sebastian Vettel was keen to deflect criticism of Ferrari despite the ramifications it had on his championship chances.
Vettel retired after just four laps after an engine issue, which appeared to have been detected ahead of the race. The German made the start but soon dropped back, complaining of a lack of power.
His retirement coincided with another win for championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who now leads by 59 points with four races left. Despite the pain of the retirement -- the second consecutive race Ferrari has encountered engine issues -- Vettel refused to point fingers.
"It's normal you're critical, especially if things go wrong, so it's part of our job," Vettel said. "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."
Though the retirement makes it incredibly likely Hamilton will win the championship, and probably do so before the end of the season, but Vettel thinks it is wrong to have such a negative outlook.
"I don't know, we still have a chance this year. Obviously it depends what happens today and in the next races... obviously it's not as much in our control as we'd like, but overall I think the team is on a good way.
"I think we are improving race by race, we've got a lot further than people thought. There's also some positives but for sure now we don't look at positives because it is not a day to look at positives."