If Hamilton wins the next race in the United States he will be champion with three races to spare in case Vettel finishes lower than second.
Kiwi Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley has been finished 13th at the Japanese Grand Prix won by Lewis Hamilton, after qualifying sixth.
"Working very closely with the management and senior technical staff, Michael knew how to help get the most out of the Ferrari team, and it looks like Vettel has lost some faith in the team to provide him with the necessary support".
Verstappen took a different view of the collision, though.
Magnussen takes no prisoners: Kevin Magnussen's reputation for hard racing is growing by the race and his move on Charles Leclerc was the ideal example of why.
Vettel was trying to pass the Red Bull driver for third place at the fast left-handed sweep into Spoon corner when the two cars collided, with Vettel spinning around.
He was then fourth after Verstappen ran off the road at the chicane, and in rejoining the track, bumped Raikkonen on to the grass. "But the gap was there - I had more speed, I would have made the corner".
Max Verstappen managed to get on the podium despite a time penalty for contact with Kimi Raikkonen, and then the incident with Vettel - both of which caused him very little concern.
The German, who began from eighth in qualifying, survived the scrape but found himself back in 19th and could only finish sixth, dealing a hammer blow to his slim title hopes.
After the first of the double-header races in Russia, Sebastian Vettel admitted that he was surprised by the team's loss of pace as he qualified more than half a second off the pole position occupied by the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
After a virtual safety vehicle, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres.
"Keep him [Bottas] under pressure, keep it clean".
In a good result for Racing Point Force India, Sergio Perez finished seventh behind Vettel backed by a strategy to pit earlier than the rivals.
Driver of the day Tricky one, this. Verstappen was hugely impressive - but loses marks for his incident with Raikkonen and the attitude he showed by saying on the radio the Finn "could have waited for me".
From sublime Suzuka, to awesome Austin. Up until the Singapore Grand Prix in September, Ferrari appeared to have the quicker vehicle and Hamilton took victories against the odds at Hockenheim, the Hungaroring and Monza. And Hamilton has pretty much ruled it since its debut on the calendar in 2012.
Although Hamilton has held a championship lead of over 25 points since the German Grand Prix in July, Ferrari's performances around the summer break suggested the title fight was far from over.