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 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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Lewis Hamilton insists he does not have one hand on the Formula One championship despite striking a major psychological blow to Sebastian Vettel in the title race.
Hamilton will head into the sport's month-long summer break 24 points ahead of the Ferrari driver following his flawless win in Hungary on Sunday.
Vettel recovered from fourth to second, but following Hamilton's fifth win of the campaign - and the Briton traditionally at his peerless best in the second half of the year - he could be excused for feeling he has at least one finger on his fourth title in five years. The season resumes in Belgium on August 26.
"Absolutely not, and it is far too early to think about that when you consider the ups and downs we have had this year," Hamilton said when asked if he was closing in on the title.
"I don't believe there is ever a time when you think you have got your hand on the championship. We still have a long way to go.
"A lot can happen moving forward, but what is important is that we continue to keep the pressure on, and work as we have done until now."
The twisty Hungaroring circuit, situated on the outskirts of Budapest, should have been the venue for a slam-dunk Vettel victory, given the track is not suited to Hamilton's Mercedes machinery.
But Hamilton laid the foundations for his triumph by blowing away the opposition to secure pole with a masterclass in the wet on Saturday and, in normal conditions for the race, his victory was never in doubt. He crossed the line 17 seconds clear.
It marked Hamilton's second win in just eight days following his remarkable triumph in the rain at Hockenheim, and another blow to Vettel who has lost 32 points to his rival in just two races.
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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has laid down the title gauntlet to Lewis Hamilton after beating his rival to pole position in Azerbaijan.
Vettel, nine points clear of Hamilton in the standings, finished 0.179 seconds clear of the Mercedes driver to secure his third pole in as many races.
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Sebastian Vettel raised the bar on the penultimate morning of Formula One's pre-season testing by setting an unofficial track record at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
The four-time champion smashed Daniel Ricciardo's lap time from Wednesday by nearly a whole second as Ferrari showed their impressive hand with just one full day of practice remaining.
Vettel, 30, became the first driver over the two weeks of testing to dip beneath the one minute 18 mark with an effort of 1:17.182. The German also recorded 84 laps, with Valtteri Bottas the only driver to have managed more miles.