Sebastian Vettel has hit back at those questioning whether Nico Rosberg deserved to win this year’s drivers’ title, saying “you don’t win the championship by luck”.

Rosberg secured the title courtesy of four consecutive second places as team-mate Lewis Hamilton won the final four races of the season. Hamilton ended the year with ten wins to Rosberg’s nine, but retired from the lead of the Malaysian Grand Prix when set to take a comfortable victory.

While Toto Wolff admits Malaysia cost Hamilton the championship, Vettel believes focusing on Hamilton’s reliability issues overlooks the job done by Rosberg throughout 2016.

“I think, in my point of view, you don’t win the Championship by luck,” Vettel said following Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “Nico won the Championship. He’s a deserved champion.

“You collect a lot of points throughout the season, sometimes you might have, yeah, fortunate situations, unfortunate situations with your car but I think there’s been other situations in the past with other drivers, that’s the way it goes.

“Sometimes you have better years in this regard, sometimes worse years but I think today is Nico’s day and it’s a sign of respect and greatness to give him that. I think we owe it to him, he’s a deserved champion.”

Vettel also suggested he had been wary of making a risky move on Rosberg when trying to pass the two Mercedes drivers to take victory, because he was unsure of Hamilton’s tactics.

“My interest as soon as I passed Max was to win the race – but bearing in mind obviously that they are fighting for the Championship and… I mean we could all feel and see what was going on. Lewis was trying to back Nico up into the rest of the pack…”

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