In Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel remained in his car during the Japanese national anthem. Ferrari’s mechanics worked at full speed to solve the spark plug issue that later put him out of the race. As a result, the Ferrari driver got his second reprimand of the 2017 Formula 1 season. The first one was after he’d crossed the pit exit line at Monaco earlier this year. The Suzuka reprimand means that the German is edging closer to a 10-place grid penalty. According to the FIA rulebook, if a driver receives three reprimands, he will get a grid drop. However, the German felt that the stewards could have been more sympathetic to his plight.
Vettel responded to questions on the incident on Thursday in Austin. He said “I didn’t understand it. Of course I was a bit late, but for half of the anthem I was there. I was surprised when I heard that I was reprimanded for it. The rule is clear, but well… Maybe I should have pushed aside the guy ahead of me and not wait until he was done on the toilet. A bit of a joke, but okay.”
With this reprimand, Vettel really is on tenterhooks now. He knows that he cannot afford to have a third little rap on the knuckle. A 10-place grid drop would seriously hurt his already waning championship bid. With 4 races left to go, including USA, Vettel seriously needs to get his head down.
However, a warning for missing the national anthem has been fairly common. A few races earlier, a number of drivers including Marcus Ericsson and Sergio Perez showed up late for the national anthem. The drivers were all given warnings. Sometimes, drivers can escape such reprimands if they are not caught or reported by the stewards. Esteban Ocon is a prime example of this. The Frenchman arrived late for the anthem but was not reported by the stewards.