Lewis Hamilton says he sympathises with Formula One rival Sebastian Vettel after the Ferrari driver suffered another setback to his title hopes at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton opened up a 59-point lead in the championship after claiming his eighth win of the season at Suzuka, as chief title rival Vettel was forced into retirement early in the race after encountering a terminal engine glitch just moments before lights out.
Japan marked the latest in a string of setbacks for the German, who had been leading the championship just six weeks ago but now sees his championship hopes hanging by a thread. Vettel's bid has imploded ever since he was wiped out in a first-lap collision at the Singapore Grand Prix -- a race he looked certain to win after storming to pole position.
Ferrari once again had the fastest car in Malaysia, but an engine problem in qualifying consigned Vettel to start at the very back of the grid, enabling Hamilton to move clear by 34 points following a win and a second place finish at the aforementioned rounds.
"It's kind of unbelievable really to think that we are where we are," Hamilton said. "I was excited actually to have a good race with Sebastian here but he's been incredibly unfortunate through no fault of his own."
"In the world of Formula One today, it is a lot about the reliability, it's about the team's whole performance, not just the speed on the track and the team [Mercedes] have shown for years now that we have a very solid platform, the guys do a phenomenal job in terms of how they build the car and also reliability so Mercedes are real leaders in that."
Hamilton is now on the verge of winning his fourth world championship and could wrap up the title at the next race in Austin, providing he outscores Vettel by 16 points. However, Hamilton says he is taking nothing for granted heading into the final five races.
"I really want to thank everyone back at the factory for providing me with a car that I can really utilise my abilities in and so big thank you to everyone back at the factory. And it's still a long way to go -- still 100 points.
"That's a lot of points and anything can happen in life, so I'm just going to try and keep my head down and hopefully continue to perform like this but I feel very, very fortunate and we've got to enjoy the experience."