Scuderia Ferrari have revealed that they knew nothing about Sebastian Vettel’s engine problem until he left the pits for the grid – giving them less than 30 minutes to fix the issue. The German driver started the Japanese Grand Prix in second with F1 World Drivers’ Championship leader Lewis Hamilton on pole, but the four-time Formula One world champion was unable to overtake Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 and soon started going backwards as his under-powered Ferrari limped around Suzuka. After just four laps, he was forced to retire – and now Scuderia Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has confirmed that the engineers were in a race against time to deal with the eventually terminal engine problem.
“Once again, despite our car clearly having great potential, things did not go to plan. The problem that stopped Seb was down to a broken spark plug. We spotted that something was not right on the lap to the grid and we tried our best to fix the problem. Seb got a great start, but shortly afterwards we had to call him back to the garage prior to retiring the car.” – Maurizio Arrivabene explained, as reported by the Italian media at the end of the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel himself was quick to defend his team despite the fact he has now retired from two of the last three Grands Prix, leaving him 59 points behind Hamilton in the title race: “I don’t know if this situation has much to do with reliability. But we didn’t finish the race, so there is a problem. I think it was a small issue causing a big one. We didn’t have power already at the start and we tried to reset everything getting the power back, but something didn’t work.” – the German driver added.
Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was the one to suffer engine problems last time out: the Finn did not even make it off the start-line in Malaysia due to a broken manifold in the engine. A grid penalty and a tangle with Nico Hulkenberg left him fighting from well down the order but he was able to salvage 10 points for Ferrari at Suzuka: “Kimi’s race was compromised by his less than ideal start position, which came about because of the penalty he had to take for a change of gearbox following his accident in P3. From there, he was able to move up the order as far as fifth place. As I’ve said before, we know that the car, the drivers and the team are all on the pace. That is why we will tackle the coming races with great effort and even more determination. Right up to the last corner of the last Grand Prix.” – Maurizio Arrivabene concluded.