Sebastian Vettel said Formula 1’s red flag regulations are “wrong” after he was given a grid penalty for not slowing down enough in FP1 at the United States Grand Prix.
The stewards found Vettel was traveling too quickly between two marshal sectors when the red flag was brought out to clear gravel from the track in the first practice session. 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.
“They were very specific, saying that I took 27.7 seconds to slow down,” Vettel said. “I saw the red flag, I slowed down, had a look around to see where the car was potentially stuck in the wall or if there was one around Turn 9 or 10 and then slowed down significantly to comply with the rules.
“They found it took too long and I think it’s pretty straightforward. I think on top there might have been an issue with the timing, with the system, I don’t know. I was aware I slowed down and not much more to say.
“I think there should be common sense with the rules that we have. Lining out 27.7 seconds precisely as an act of not complying with the rules I think is wrong. I think I slowed down, I had a good look around at what’s going on.
“I think the rules are clear as well so we know but I think this is the first time we had this in the wet and in the wet the target is a lot slower so you literally have to stop to 30kph (19mph) or 40/50kph (25-30mph) to bring down the delta, which probably I should do next time.
“But in my opinion it’s not the right thing because if there is a car behind you it might run into you but it’s more important that you don’t get a penalty.”
Speaking before Vettel’s penalty was confirmed, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff sympathized with the Ferrari driver, having felt Ocon’s similar penalty at Suzuka was unfair.
“It’s difficult because there was a decision that I thought was a bit harsh against Esteban last weekend, and it sets a precedent,” Wolff said. “For the championship, obviously it’s not good if Sebastian would get a penalty. We’d rather have him there and put on a great show.
“I think we need to talk about it because safety of the [marshals] and the car that’s in the barrier is super important. But we need to look at the regulations. We want to get rid of the penalties, so merging those two is not a trivial thing.”