Title outsider Sebastian Vettel has been handed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Pirelli United States Grand Prix after failing to ‘reduce pace sufficiently’ under red flag conditions.
The German driver goes into the weekend knowing that he must keep up with championship leader Lewis Hamilton should he wish to see his title challenge continue for at least another week.
Hamilton needs to outscore his German challenger by just nine points to secure his fifth drivers title, equalling Juan Manual Fangio and putting him just two championships behind Michael Schumacher.
The penalty comes just two weeks on from Esteban Ocon receiving the same punishment in Japan after he too failed to slow under red flag conditions, while Daniel Ricciardo had the same penalty for doing likewise in Australia at the beginning of the year.
“I saw the red flag, I slowed down, I had a look around to see where the car was to see if it was potentially stuck in the wall or if there was around Turn 9 and 10,” Vettel said ahead of the announcement from the race stewards. “Then I slowed down significantly to comply with the rules.
“They found it took too long. I think it’s pretty straightforward. Obviously I was aware. I slowed down and I had a good look around at what was going on.
“I think there should be some common sense with the rules that we have. I think it’s the first time we had this in the wet and in the wet the target is a lot slower so you literally have to stop to 30 or 40kph to bring down the delta – which probably I should do next time.
“In my opinion, slowing down so dramatically is not the right thing to do if there is a car right behind you. They may run into you. Yet, it is more important that you don’t get the penalty.”
Vettel has also been awarded a further two penalty points on his licence.