Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 world championship ambitions could suffer another critical setback after a bizarre post-race incident on the slowing down lap at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver, now 34 points behind Mercedes’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton with five races remaining, was in a collision with Lance Stroll’s Williams on the slowing-down lap.
The impact destroyed the rear left of the Ferrari with potential damage to the gearbox, which would incur a five-place penalty if it needs to be replaced for Japan next weekend.
The four times world champion forced to abandoned his ‘three wheeler’ and a hitch a ride on Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber back to the pits.
Asked if he was expecting to have to change the gearbox in the aftermath of the collision and suffer a grid penalty at Suzuka, Vettel replied, “I hope not because, as I said, it was completely unnecessary.”
Vettel had started in last place after a power unit problem in qualifying but worked his way up to fourth in a performance that emphasised the car’s pace and what might have been otherwise. Hamilton was second.
It could have been even worse for the German, however, with Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen failing to start after a loss of power on the way to the grid.
“It all added up to our hardest race of the year, as we had to confront problems that we will now analyse in depth,” commented team principal Maurizio Arrivabene.
Vettel suggested 18-year-old Stroll had not been looking where he was going but the Canadian sounded baffled by that. The stewards decided to take no further action.