Lewis Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in wet U.S. first practice

Ruben Hill
October 20, 2018

And with Hamilton already looking in fine form, having topped both of Friday's rain-affected sessions, a three-place penalty for Vettel might just have rendered the unlikely... impossible.

The latest incident occurred in the opening 90-minute practice session after Vettel's future teammate Charles Leclerc, who is moving to Ferrari in 2019, dragged gravel onto the circuit with his Sauber auto.

In the wake of an incident which saw Charles Leclerc spin off into the gravel, the session was red flagged in order that gravel dumped on the track by the Monegasque driver could be cleared.

He was 10th in the second session, but that meant little as only a handful of drivers put in a serious effort to clock competitive laps in the conditions, partly due to a shortage of suitable full wet and intermediate tyres available at the Circuit of the Americas.

Vettel and Ferrari had hoped the stewards, who spent several hours investigating his speeding offence in the morning, might take a more relaxed and "common-sense" approach to his misdemeanor. "To be consistent with previous decisions on similar incidents this year, the Stewards assessed the penalty specified above".

When a red flag is shown, all drivers are required to drive to a reduced pace and return to the pits.

The penalty follows recent precedent: Force India's Esteban Ocon was given an identical punishment for failing to slow sufficiently for red flags at the Japanese Gand Prix earlier this month.

Vettel is now 67 points behind Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship with just 100 remaining from the final three races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. I think it's pretty straightforward. "Lining out 27.7 seconds precisely, as not complying with the rules, I think is wrong. I think there might have been an issue with the timing with the system, I don't know, so obviously I was aware, I slowed down, not much more to say".

"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 vehicle".

"It is insane to think that I'm embarking on a similar number of championships that he had".

He was more than a second faster than anyone else in the second session as well, with Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly making the most of the treacherous conditions to take second place on the timesheets.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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