Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari has made a habit of making recent races “a bit too easy” for Mercedes after losing more ground in the championship race.

Since yielding to Vettel at Spa, Lewis Hamilton has won four consecutive races to open up a significant gap in the drivers’ championship, putting him on the verge of a fifth crown.

The German’s difficult weekend in Japan after a collision with Max Verstappen paved way for Hamilton to extend his lead to 67 points, with a chance to clinch the title in Austin should he win and Vettel finish third or lower.

“Obviously there is still a chance, the last couple of races we made it a bit too easy for them,” Vettel said as quoted by Motorsport.com.

“But also credit to them, they executed well. That is the name of the game.

“We need to look after ourselves and do our bit for the next couple of races, and then we see.

“Surely it didn’t help when we finished sixth and they won the race.”

Ferrari’s engine advantage mid-season has seemingly disappeared as performances have dipped at recent events. Vettel could not provide an answer as to why the team has struggled.

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“It has always been very close,” he said.

“I think the last races we were not as strong and I think the fact that we were better in the race was also due to the fact that they didn’t have to push, so you will never get the full picture.”

Amidst recent criticism for his on-track errors, Lewis Hamilton jumped to defend Vettel’s mistakes by calling for more respect from the media.

“I feel the media need to show a little more respect for Sebastian,” Hamilton posted on his Instagram account.

“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.”