Sebastian Vettel has insisted Formula 1 is much more competitive than in the Michael Schumacher-dominated era of the early-2000s, following criticism from rival Lewis Hamilton that the sport was becoming boring.
According to Sky Sports' Pete Gill, Vettel dismissed the suggestion of similarities with the past dominance of his countryman, which, Hamilton fears, could lead to fans turning away from the sport.
Vettel told reporters ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix:
It's very different. There was one race in Singapore which was an exception, but if you take Korea the gap was between three and ten seconds for the whole race. If you look at ten years ago, the gap was thirty seconds—which is a big difference.
Hamilton has sought to make amends for some of the headlines he created, tweeting on Tuesday:
However, his initial comments will have rung true with many F1 observers after Vettel earned a fifth win in six races last weekend.
Per the Mirror's Byron Young, Hamilton said following Sunday's race:
I feel for the fans because I remember watching when Michael Schumacher was winning.
I remember watching the start, going to sleep, then waking up when it ended because I already knew what would happen. I am pretty sure a lot of people were doing that today. At least in my family there were!
Amongst fans of the sport, Vettel's dominance has provoked some unrest and, indeed, he was recently booed on the podium at consecutive Grands Prix in Italy and Singapore, per the Daily Mail's Jonathan McEvoy.
While Hamilton, among others, came out to defend the championship leader against the hecklers, it is worrying for the FIA that its leading motorsport once more looks to have become a forgone conclusion.
As much as the governing body has tried to implement rule changes in recent seasons, Red Bull and Vettel still appear to be clear of the field over the course of a season.
Indeed, should he win and Fernando Alonso finish lower than eighth this weekend, the German will have won the title with four races to spare this campaign.
Hamilton has backtracked over what were comments born out of frustration at the end of another race where Vettel had sauntered to a comfortable win.
He was, though, not a million miles from the truth.