Sebastian Vettel responds to retirement rumours

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MONTREAL, Canada -- Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel has played down suggestions he will quit Formula One at the end of the 2019 season.

After a disappointing start to the year, in which Mercedes has beaten Ferrari at every round so far, the four-time champion is facing the prospect of fifth consecutive season at the Italian team without a title. Reports after the Monaco Grand Prix suggested he would quit F1 at the end of the year to spend more time with his family.

"I never said anything like that so I don't know where it has come from," Vettel said. "I think I can stop whenever I want and the team can probably kick me out whenever they want, but I am very happy with the team and I hope the team is happy with myself.

"I am very hungry and I have a mission here to win - that is the only thing that really matters to me, to win with Ferrari and that is what I am working for. Currently we are not winnings, so you can make the maths and we still have something to do."

Asked if he found such rumours frustrating, Vettel added: "I don't know who, ultimately, made it up. I don't think I ever said anything that would lead to that conclusion. I am not really bothered.

"I understand that some part of your [journalist's] job is to try and, not make things up, but try and come up with something interesting. But it doesn't bother me. Do what you want and I will do what I want."

After six rounds in 2019, Vettel is 55 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings and has only scored three podiums. His championship chances already look bleak, but he believes Ferrari can turn its season around if it starts to outperform Mercedes at the upcoming races.

"I think the next races will be really crucial for us to try and get back to the front and give a hard time to Mercedes," he said. "Once we can establish that I think we have plenty of reason to look forward. Like I said, it will be crucial to do it sooner rather than later, butI am not going to say this is the date that it has to happen by. We will see how it goes.

"Clearly we are behind, clearly there is quite a big gap between Mercedes and the rest, so Mercedes and ourselves, we have to close that gap and get ahead otherwise it will be difficult to turn it around."