Former Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone believes Ferrari “weakened” Sebastian Vettel’s championship aspirations this season with a lack of support for its star driver.

Vettel’s 2018 campaign began promisingly with victory in the opening two rounds of the season, there onwards regularly battling Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for the lead in the drivers’ standings up to the mid-way point in the year.

However, a crash while leading the German Grand Prix in July unraveled a dramatic decline in form for the four-time world champion, as a series of errors from Vettel and Ferrari forged a path for Hamilton to romp to title glory.

Vettel admitted post-Abu Dhabi he hadn’t been “at the top of his game” over the course of the year as he conceded defeat to Hamilton.

In an interview with German publication Auto Bild, Ecclestone pinpointed what he felt cost the German the drivers’ title.

“Lewis Hamilton is a deserved 2018 Formula 1 champion and Vettel an undeserved second in the championship,” Ecclestone said.

“Lewis was outstanding this year but he also had the full support of the team. You can’t say that for Sebastian.

“After [Sergio] Marchionne’s death, a strong hand was missing and there was more chaos than structure. From the outside, you had the impression that Ferrari did more for Kimi than for Sebastian.

“Sebastian is a victim not the culprit. If Vettel had the same support like Lewis, Vettel would have also become champion this year.

“A team needs to strengthen their star driver not weaken him.”