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Lewis Hamilton has said Sebastian Vettel deserves more respect after moving to defend his championship rival.
Vettel attracted criticism for his collision with Max Verstappen at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix which leaves Hamilton on the brink of winning his fifth world title.
The Ferrari driver's coming together with Verstappen was his seventh significant error of the campaign, and his 10th in two seasons fighting Hamilton for the championship.
But Hamilton, who will secure the title if he wins in Austin, Texas next Sunday and Vettel fails to finish second, insists the German is owed greater credit.
"I feel the media need to show a little more respect for Sebastian," he wrote in a message posted to his Instagram story on Tuesday.
"You simply cannot imagine how hard it is to do what we do at our level, for any athlete at the top of their game that is.
"It is to be expected that being humans we will make mistakes but it is how we get through them that counts."
While a dominant Hamilton, who will visit the Mercedes factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire on Wednesday, has secured six victories in seven rounds of remarkable racing, Vettel and Ferrari's championship challenge has fallen dramatically off the rails.
Lewis Hamilton has one hand, three fingers and a thumb on the world championship after romping to victory in Japan as his rival Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly sixth following a calamitous collision.
Hamilton's fourth win in succession, and sixth in seven rounds, never appeared in doubt as he raced away from pole and cruised to the line ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Max Verstappen completed the podium as Vettel endured yet another miserable afternoon following his crash with the Red Bull driver in the early stages of Sunday's Suzuka race.
Hamilton, 67 points clear of the Ferrari driver with just 100 left on the table, will secure his fifth title at the United States Grand Prix in a fortnight's time if he wins and his rival is third or lower.
Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as another Ferrari blunder left Sebastian Vettel only ninth.
Hamilton, who headed into qualifying after topping every practice session, delivered again at the Suzuka circuit to finish ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes locked out the front row for a second consecutive race.
Vettel, 50 championship points behind Hamilton, will start way down the order after his team selected the wrong tyre in the changeable conditions.
Despite a smattering of rain drops ahead of the shootout for pole, Mercedes elected to send Hamilton out on slick rubber, and it proved to be the right call.
In contrast, Vettel, and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, were both on track on the intermediate tyre, and they had to stop for slicks.
By the time Vettel was ready to post a fast lap, a rain shower left the German exposed, and after he made a mistake by running off the track in damp conditions at the Spoon Curve, he finished more than four seconds adrift of Hamilton in ninth.
Raikkonen managed to qualify fourth.
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