Sebastian Vettel has called on Formula 1 to adopt more common sense following the three-place grid penalty he received on Friday afternoon in Austin. The German was deemed guilty of not slowing sufficiently when a red flag was deployed during FP1.
The red flag was deployed after Charles Leclerc spread stones on the exit of Turn 10 following a trip into the gravel trap. The three-place grid penalty has put a major dent in Vettel's title hopes, as rival Lewis Hamilton could seal his fifth championship on Sunday.
Despite being awarded a three-place grid demotion and two penalty points, the Ferrari driver is adamant that he slowed down enough to keep in line with the minimum delta time set by the FIA.
"They [stewards] were very specific, saying I took 27.7s to slow down,” said Vettel. “I saw the red flag and slowed down, had a look around to see if there was a car 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 was aware I slowed down and not much more to say."
He continued: "I think there should be common sense with the rules that we have. Lining out 27.7s precisely as an act of not complying with the rules… I think it’s wrong, I think I slowed down, I had a good look around.
“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 or 40kph 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.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner defended Vettel, adding that he believes the red flag rule is "rubbish". He suggested that the ruling should be something less severe - such as a fine - as to not disrupt the competitive nature of the field come race day.
"It is a rubbish rule but they have got to have consistency because otherwise it makes a little bit of a farce of all the regulations if you have a penalty for one race but not at another,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “But it is not a good regulation. If a driver commits a crime like that, speeding under a red flag, the biggest thing that will hurt the driver is fining him.
“Give him a penalty, a wrap on the knuckles, a fine or something and give the money to charity. To give him a three-place penalty for – how much over the limit was he, not very much – similar to Daniel. It effects the race, effects qualifying and it is not a good penalty.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing