A failure to handle the "stress" of the title fight has cost Sebastian Vettel against Lewis Hamilton in 2018, according to former Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore. Hamilton could be crowned for a fifth time next time out in Austin, after victory in Suzuka was combined with a ruinous race for Vettel.
Displaced on the grid by Ferrari's failed tyre gamble in qualifying, Vettel made progress to fourth off the line, but a risky overtake on Max Verstappen resulted in contact and a spin to the back of the field.
The German recovered to sixth, but Hamilton needs to outscore him by eight points across the final four races of the season to secure back-to-back titles.
As Hamilton has surged to success, winning six of the last seven races, Briatore says Vettel will be left to count the cost of failing to handle the pressure piled on by Mercedes.
"Vettel is not winning the championship, he's winning races and it doesn't work like that," Briatore said on Nico Rosberg's 'Beyond Victory' podcast.
"If you lose out in three or four opportunities like that, it's 25 points thrown away every time and it's becoming very difficult after that mentally.
"I believe the stress you have as a driver is enormous and if you're in the position to handle the stress and do the job and not go out [in races], you're winning. Because when you go out, it's the worst possible scenario – we know that.
"You need to explain to him that the race is 53 laps, and not one lap. I remember we had the same experience with Fernando [Alonso].
"When you want to win the championship finishing third place is already bingo. It's important to stay on the track.
"His [Vettel's] accident in Monza made no sense, honestly. You know the car is better, you just brake and stay behind, finito. You have 50 more laps to recover it.
"If you go out, you have zero laps to recover. Sure, with the car he has he could finish fourth because the car is better than the rest of the competition. But when you want to win the championship you have to be a master at that and do well and finish second and third also.
"The target is to just get the points. You don't need to win every race to win the championship. It's not about the race wins, it's about the points.
"If you have a competitive car, you overtake somebody. If you are going to have an accident with the guy who has more points than you, the advantage goes to your competitor."
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.