Lewis Hamilton says arch rival Sebastian Vettel deserves "more respect" instead of the criticism he has received for his faltering F1 championship bid over the last few weeks.
Hamilton's fourth straight victory at last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix left Ferrari's Vettel 67 points adrift in the drivers' standings.
Vettel's sixth-place finish at Suzuka, after fighting back from an early collision with Max Verstappen, led some observers to suggest he had "gift-wrapped" the title for Hamilton.
But Mercedes' Hamilton wrote on Instagram: "I feel the media need to show a little more respect for Sebastian.
"You simply cannot imagine how hard it is to do what we do at our level ... It is to be expected that being humans we will make mistakes but it is how we come through them that counts."
While the gap between Hamilton and Vettel was as close as 17 points at the Belgian Grand Prix in August, Hamilton's hot streak, coupled with a disappointing set of results for his Ferrari rival, mean the Briton can wrap up his fifth championship title in the U.S. in two weeks' time.
Victory for Hamilton in Austin would mean Vettel would have to finish second to keep the title race alive.
Where has it got wrong for Vettel?
Four-time champion Vettel began the season well but conceded his lead at the top of the standings at the French Grand Prix in June, where he served a five-second penalty after clipping Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.
In Germany, Vettel crashed out after locking up while leading the race, handing victory to Hamilton.
Then in Italy, the pair collided on the first lap as Hamilton passed the Ferrari, forcing Vettel to work his way through the field to finish fourth.
The relationship between the two drivers has historically been fraught.
Last year, as the pair locked horns at the top of the championship, Hamilton labeled Vettel's conduct '"disgusting'"and '"disgraceful'"after a collision at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix before the Briton went on to secure his fourth world title.