Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Hamilton’s title chances enhanced by Vettel’s grid penalty

Hamilton’s title chances enhanced by Vettel’s grid penalty

The Mercedes driver would join an exclusive F1 hall of fame, with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher now the only drivers to have reached five championships.

As for Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel's fading title hopes, another unforced error may doom his chances once and for all.

Sebastian Vettel has been dealt what could be the knock-out blow to his fading Formula One championship hopes after incurring a three-place grid penalty for the U.S. Grand Prix.

Hamilton topped the times for Mercedes in the rain-abbreviated second practice at the Circuit of the Americas which only burst into life for the final 40 minutes as the track dried.

But Vettel was adamant that he slowed sufficiently and reckons the wet conditions in the session means the regulations require a re-think. When he drove back on, the rear tires spun and dragged gravel onto the track.

This historic achievement not only comes down to the masterful ability of Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel, but the Mercedes engineers, mechanics and executives who have built by far the most reliable, fast and competitive auto Formula 1 has ever seen.

It means that Vettel, who was only 10th fastest in the second session, can not start Sunday's race any higher than fourth on the grid.

"If a driver commits a crime like that, speeding under a red flag, the biggest thing that will hurt the driver is fining him". Consistent with similar scenarios for Daniel Ricciardo in Australia and Esteban Ocon in Japan, Vettel was handed a three-place grid penalty, which he criticized.

This time, it could decide the season championship.


Vettel met with the stewards before the penalty was assessed and was allowed to explain what he thought happened.

"I think he's a great guy and we talk a lot, much more than I expected", he said. "It is insane to think that I am embarking on a similar number of championships that he had". From the inside of the auto, I slowed down enough.

"In my opinion it's not the right thing because if there's a vehicle behind you, it might run into you, but more important that you don't get a penalty".

Hamilton has a 67-point lead and will be champion for the fourth time in five years if he scores eight points more than Vettel, who can not now start higher than fourth. Hamilton won that year to clinch his third career championship.

The British driver is the emperor of Austin, unbeaten on USA soil since 2013.

Hamilton has been in unstoppable form since the summer break, winning six of the last seven races, to establish a 67-point lead over a mistake-ridden Vettel with only 100 remaining. Hamilton has won the Texas race four years in a row and has started no lower than second in that stretch.

"It was a pretty boring day, just waiting for the rain to go away", said the Finn.

"The weather was miserable this morning; it looked like it was going to dry up going into (practice two) but then all of a sudden the heavens opened again", Hamilton said.

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