A controversial grid penalty for Sebastian Vettel has dealt the Ferrari star a huge blow and sparked fierce debate between formula one fans.
Vettel’s hopes of turning around the world championship have taken a big hit after he was given a three-place grid penalty for the United States Grand Prix.
Vettel will start his Ferrari three spots down from his qualifying position in Sunday’s race for “not slowing sufficiently during a red flag period” in first practice.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, Vettel’s teammate from next season, had caused the stoppage by spraying gravel over the track and stewards deemed the German had not eased up enough.
It leaves him with an uphill task in the battle with standings leader Lewis Hamilton, who has a 67-point lead with just four races left.
The innocuous incident left race fans divided on social media.
Three-place grid penalty for Vettel for not slowing for a red flag in first practice. Whoops…
— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) October 19, 2018
Just this year,Danny Ric in Australia and Ocon in Japan… rule is for safety concerns that’s why they are strict about the penalty… applauding their consistency though.
— Vincent Dikole (@dvince_19) October 19, 2018
I agree on the consistency, but it needs modifying for 2019.
— Porky Pine (@BSAA77) October 19, 2018
Alonso was laughing that they red flagged it for gravel and he’s right. If gravel is such a danger then should gravel traps be banned? Formula 1 is becoming a bit of a joke these days.
— Sean (@sozmarra) October 19, 2018
Doesn’t matter the cause. A red flag is a red flag. Not up for debate.
— DAVE (@DaveMurgy) October 19, 2018
I’d rather see a red flag than an ambulance.
— Tasha Burgess -Tash44 (@NatashaBurges10) October 19, 2018
Well done F1. Shot yourself in the foot again by spoiling any chance of a decent race. 🙄
— DC19 (@DC1992681793) October 19, 2018
It’s not a silly rule. Two drivers slid off in exactly the same position when @Jules_Bianchi died. If you don’t penalise drivers they will only slow down as much as they want to. You have to respect the safety of the marshals and fellow drivers.
— Shantanu Sinha (@Sinha_Shan) October 19, 2018
Hamilton will seal his fifth career title if he can gain eight points more than Vettel on Sunday.
And the Briton made the perfect start to the weekend by topping practice twice on a soaking Friday.
A wet track made early running slow but when Hamilton eventually emerged in his Mercedes he posted an unmatchable one minute and 47.502 seconds on a drying 5.5km Circuit of the Americas in the first session.
The second session was not a complete washout but steady, heavy rain meant there was little action.
Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso looked set for the honour before Hamilton pipped him late on with 1:48.716 as some, though not all, cars took the track in the dying minutes.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was second in the first outing but a huge 1.3 seconds down while the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo were ahead of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.
Vettel has seen ambitions for his own fifth title fade in recent weeks with a series of mistakes coming at the same time as Hamilton hitting form.
And with Hamilton having won five of six previous races at the venue in Austin, Texas, the championship now seems to be within touching distance.