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Hamilton unlikely to catch Rosberg: Lauda

Press AssociationPress Association 10/10/2016 Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton will not be able to stop Nico Rosberg from winning the Formula One championship unless the German hits trouble in the remaining four races of the season, according to Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda.

Hamilton is 33 points adrift of Rosberg, with just 100 left to race for, after he finished only third in Japan on Sunday, while his title rival sauntered to a ninth victory of the year.

World champion Hamilton walked out of his press conference with the written media on Saturday evening in response to what he deemed to be disrespectful coverage of his antics on Snapchat earlier in the week.

He then botched his start on Sunday - falling six places to eighth - before ending a bizarre weekend by calling on Mercedes to withdraw their post-race protest against Max Verstappen which could have promoted Hamilton to second.

"Nico is doing everything right at the moment," Lauda said. "If everything is going normal, the championship could be decided in the next few races, and Lewis won't be able to catch Nico any more. This is perfectly clear to me.

"It is only lost and won when the points are gathered, but if nothing happens to either car, I don't think Lewis will be able to turn it around again."

Hamilton, 31, hinted at sabotage from his own Mercedes team following his engine failure in Malaysia before taking aim at the press in Suzuka, but there was no-one to blame for what happened at the start of Sunday's race.

"I made a mistake, and then just working my way up from there was tricky," said Hamilton, who continued his written media blackout afterwards but spoke - albeit briefly - in the official press conference for the top three drivers, an obligation which is mandatory for drivers under the sport's regulations.

Later, Mercedes lodged a protest against Verstappen after the Dutch driver blocked a move by Hamilton on the penultimate lap.

But while on Lauda's private jet, and accompanied by team boss Toto Wolff, Hamilton claimed in two confusing tweets that he told Mercedes to withdraw the complaint.

"There is no protest from either myself of Mercedes,'' Hamilton tweeted from 40,000 feet, despite both the team and the FIA confirming an appeal had been put forward. "One idiot said we have but it's not true. Max drove well, end of. We move on.''

Hamilton's initial tweet was swiftly deleted, and it is unclear who the "one idiot'' is that the Briton was referring to. Moments later, the FIA confirmed Mercedes had withdrawn their protest.

"There is no protest from myself,'' Hamilton then tweeted. "Just heard the team had but I told them it is not what we do. We are champions, we move on. End of!''

A successful hearing could have seen Verstappen handed an elapsed timed penalty, thus bumping Hamilton up to second place. Mercedes, however, said it was the team's decision to withdraw their appeal.

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