By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel has hailed Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene as the right man for the job amid speculation about the future leadership of Formula One's most successful and glamorous team.
The four times world champion made a robust defense of the Italian at the Mexico Grand Prix on Thursday, crediting the former Philip Morris marketing executive with a key role in transforming the team.
Media reports have suggested Arrivabene could be replaced at the helm by technical head Mattia Binotto after recent technical failures saw Ferrari's constructors' championship challenge fizzle out.
Asked whether he wanted Arrivabene to stay, Vettel replied: "Absolutely.
"Look at the results. Look at where Ferrari was after 2014, how competitive Ferrari was in 2014 and how -- sorry to say --what miserable shape it was," said the German.
"The spirit was down so I think he's the key person responsible for bringing most of that back and to make the team grow, to open things up, to change things that have been set like that for 20 years.
"I think he has a very innovative and creative way of thinking. So I think he's the right man, he's a very strong leader, I think he's well respected ... so absolutely I'm a fan," he added.
Ferrari failed to win a race last year but came back this season with a bang, Vettel winning the opener in Australia and leading the championship until last month.
In 2014 they were only fourth in the championship, also without a win.
Events have gone against Vettel since Singapore, where he and team mate Kimi Raikkonen collided at the start, with an engine problem in Malaysia sending him to the back of the grid and a broken spark plug in Japan leaving him empty-handed.
The German is now 66 points behind Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton with three races to go. Hamilton needs to finish only fifth on Sunday to secure his fourth championship, but Vettel refused to abandon hope.
"We want to win the last three races and I think we can. So that's our goal. And then we see what happens," he said.
"Overall, I think the team has done incredibly to be where we are now. Which, again, nobody expected. We've proven probably everybody wrong."
Vettel said Ferrari were still growing as a team with increasingly high expectations.
"The most important thing is that if you look at the result, it's coming," he said.
"I think where we've gone, 2015 to 2016, especially through '16 and then for '17, things are going and heading the right way and he (Arrivabene) is a key person in that."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)