Vettel claimed his third win of the year at an eventful staging of the night race which saw a spectator wander onto the track and Hamilton forced to retire. It propelled the German to within 49 points of the reigning champion and gave Vettel renewed belief that, with six grands prix remaining, Hamilton can still be eclipsed.
“If we have more weekends like this, yes we can catch Mercedes,” said the four-time title winner. “Massive attack. Maybe we can make the impossible possible. We will definitely go for it.”
Hamilton succumbed to his first retirement since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix on lap 33 after a loss of power saw his Mercedes drop from fourth to the back of the field.
“I was feeling super optimistic,” said the Englishman, whose team-mate and closest title rival Nico Rosberg missed the podium, finishing fourth behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. “Then I was overtaken by two Manors so I knew l was last. When they started to pull away, I knew it was over.”
The safety car emerged for the second time moments after Hamilton’s retirement, when a spectator managed to bypass security and amble onto the street circuit.