Sebastian Vettel believes he can make the “impossible possible” as he bids to stop Lewis Hamilton from winning a third Formula One world championship.
Vettel’s victory in Singapore, which was marred by a fanatical spectator who invaded the track, edges him closer to Hamilton in the title race after the British driver sustained his first retirement of the season.
Hamilton remains 49 points ahead of Vettel, but Mercedes, who have dominated for two seasons, were mysteriously off the pace all weekend.
Mercedes are confident their lacklustre displays here are a blip and expect normal service to resume in Japan in a week’s time.
But that has not stopped Vettel from dreaming up an unlikely fifth title after he claimed the 42nd victory of his grand prix career to move above Ayrton Senna into third in the all-time list.
“If we have more weekends like this, then yes,” said 28-year-old German Vettel when asked if Ferrari can take the fight to Mercedes in the remaining six races.
“All we have to do is look after ourselves, maximum attack and then what they do is not in our hands.
“We have a small chance, maybe we can make the impossible possible, and we will definitely go for it.”
After storming to pole position, Vettel led from start to finish despite two different safety car periods and a fan storming the circuit.
The track invasion will be of deep embarrassment to Singapore officials and Formula One’s hierarchy.
Earlier this season a man invaded the track during practice in China before entering the pits. He said he wanted to drive one of the cars.
On this occasion the spectator was casually wandering along as Vettel approached him at speeds close to 180mph.
“I had to look again because I wasn’t sure whether I had a problem with my eyesight or I saw somebody crossing the track,” said Vettel, who finished ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in third.
“I went on the radio and said, ‘Some guy’s running across the track’. I think I saw him taking a picture. I don’t know. I hope it was a good one at least. I hope it was in focus.
“We approach that corner at around 280-290 klicks (km/h) so, I don’t know, I wouldn’t cross the track if I was him. It was crazy.”
The bizarre scene was reminiscent of Irishman Neil Horan, who, wearing a kilt, ran along Silverstone’s Hanger Straight in 2003 dodging cars that were moving at 200mph.
Horan was tackled by a marshal before being bundled off the circuit. Here, there was no sign of any security and the spectator left the track on his own accord, leaping over the barrier.
Local police later announced a 27-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the incident and was assisting them with their investigations.
When the racing resumed, Jenson Button collided with the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado as the pair diced for 10th place.
“I should have known he was mental,” Button, the 2009 world champion, said over the team radio after losing part of his front wing in the incident with the error-prone Lotus driver.
Button was later forced to retire and, after Fernando Alonso parked his McLaren earlier in the race, it meant the British team, who had been hopeful of a strong weekend, racked up yet another double retirement - their fourth of a dire campaign.
Elsewhere, Max Verstappen turned in a brilliant drive to fight back from last - after he stalled his Toro Rosso on the grid - to finish eighth. He even ignored a team order to make way for team-mate Carlos Sainz in the closing stages.
Nico Rosberg, now 41 points behind Hamilton in the championship, finished fourth, Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Williams, Daniil Kvyat sixth, the Force India of Sergio Perez seventh ahead of Verstappen, with Sainz and the Sauber of Felipe Nasr completing the points places.