Ferrari hopeful Sebastian Vettel can avoid Suzuka gearbox grid penalty

3 October 2017, 10:36

Ferrari are optimistic Sebastian Vettel's Malaysia GP gearbox can be used again and they can avoid a costly grid penalty at this weekend's Japanese GP.

Sky Sports in Italy understands initial investigations have proved positive and Ferrari will run the gearbox in Saturday's final practice session at Suzuka in order to assess its performance before making a final call for qualifying.

Martin Brundle on Vettel's attitude and aggro

Vettel admitted there "could be another bad surprise" for this weekend after the rear of his car sustained significant damage in his bizarre collision with Lance Stroll on the cool-down lap back to the pits after the race had finished.

Provided Vettel does not retire from any more races, the Sepang gearbox must complete the final five races if the Ferrari driver is to avoid a five-place grid drop.

Ferrari must therefore weigh up whether they continue with the unit to avoid a Suzuka penalty or change it to a fresh one in order to minimse any risk of suffering a more costly race retirement.

Vettel's championship hopes have taken repeated hits over the last month with the German dropping 34 points behind Lewis Hamilton with five races to go.

Likely victories in Singapore and Malaysia slipped through Ferrari's grasp with engine problems hampering both their drivers at Sepang last weekend.

Where has Mercedes' pace gone?

But with Mercedes experiencing a mini-slump in performance, Ferrari remain optimistic they can still make up ground over the final two months of the season as they strive to end their decade-long Drivers' Championship drought.

Up until Saturday in Malaysia, Ferrari had boasted one of the grid's best reliability records and Vettel is backing the team to get to the problem of the sudden problems.

"I think we have our technical issues under control but this weekend we didn't," he said.

"It's a shame both of us had compromised weekends. I don't know if it was the same issue but for sure it's not ideal if you retire one car on [Saturday] and one on [Sunday].

"There's something that we need to understand. So far we had a pretty good record this year for reliability, for sure you are always on the edge, so I'm not too worried but we need to get on top of the problems that we have."

Watch the Japanese GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. The race from Suzuka begins at 6am on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!

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