Mercedes AMG Petronas sealed the constructors’ championship at the recently concluded Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, with their driver Lewis Hamilton looking to defend his own drivers’ championship title. The driver is currently at 302 points, 66 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who became his closest competitor for the title after teammate Nico Rosberg had issues with a sticky throttle at the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi, and retired from the race; Vettel is currently at 236.
It has now been revealed that Scuderia Ferrari have brought an upgraded engine to the United States Grand Prix this weekend, available to both Vettel and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. With drivers allotted 4 power unit changes per season before they are penalised and this their fifth, both drivers will be hit by grid penalties at the race in Austin.
At a press conference at the track, Vettel told assembled reporters that it had been a planned decision by Ferrari to introduce the new engines at the US Grand Prix, saying it was “the plan in order for us to have the strongest engine available at every single point in the season.”
Vettel has been awared 10 grid penalties; this means that even if the 4-time World Champion qualifies on pole at the race, he cannot start any higher than 11th position. With 4 races including the United States Grand Prix remaining, he needs to finish at least second, winning a minimum of 18 points, in order to ensure that he is still in running for the drivers’ championship.
This will be an arduous task, especially at the quick, uphill Circuit of the Americas, where Hamilton is also the reigning champion.
Vettel is the only other driver on the grid to have won the race since the track was introduced to the F1 calendar in 2012.