F1: Sebastian Vettel penalized three-grid spots in controversial call at COTA

Raikkonen

Raikkonen

Sebastian Vettel may suffer a serious set-back if the US Grand Prix stewards decide to hit the Ferrari driver with a grid drop penalty following a red-flag offence in FP1.

Friday's first session was halted when Vettel's 2019 Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc threw gravel onto the track after running wide between turns eight and nine at the Circuit of the Americas.

"I think I saw the red flag, I slowed down, had a look around (to see) where was the auto potentially stuck in the wall", said Vettel.

Vettel was subsequently summoned by the stewards who believed the Ferrari driver had not slowed sufficiently.

Esteban Ocon of Force India and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull were given three-place penalties for speeding under red flags at the Japanese and Australian Grands Prix respectively. While the bad weather that hit Austin during Friday practice means we had no chance to evaluate the relative performance of Mercedes and Ferrari on the day, the previous three weekends have proved emphatically that the silvers cars are the faster by some margin. "I think I saw the red flag, I slowed down, had a look around where a vehicle was potentially stuck in a wall if there was one around turns nine or ten then slowed down significantly to comply with the rules".

It means Vettel will start no higher than fourth this weekend on a weekend Mercedes is expected to have the advantage in terms of raw pace.

Following the sodden second practice, Vettel told reporters he did slow down for the red flags.

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His penalty followed two similar examples. "Lining out 27.7 seconds precisely, as not complying with the rules, I think is wrong". I think on top there might have been an issue with the timing, with the system, I don't know.

"As I say, personally I think it's a rubbish regulation".

"Sir Stirling would say you'd want to fall out if the car's going to crash: you hope that you get thrown out the auto".

After topping the timesheets in P1, the Brit was a full second quicker than anybody else in P2 with the next fastest driver the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, who finished ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"I think there should be common sense with the rules that we have, " Vettel added.

"The intermediate tyres provided pretty good grip for the wet conditions, but I don't think they will last very long", he added.

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