By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Sebastian Vettel must be thanking his lucky stars. After going out on the opening lap in Singapore, and starting from the back in Malaysia, he won’t have a gearbox change penalty for Japan.
His bizarre cool down lap collision with Williams’ Lance Stroll tore the left rear wheel from his SF70H and the subsequent chassis damage indicated that the gearbox could be damaged as well.
Ferrari flew the gearbox back to its headquarters in Maranello in order to give it a detailed examination. Today it gave the unit the all clear for Suzuka, which means it should function normally and allow Vettel to actually start where he qualifies this coming weekend.
He will need all the luck and help he can get as Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead has increased to 34 points after Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix that saw Vettel recover to a strong fourth place, and Kimi Raikkonen fail to start a race he surely could have won if his car had not also succumbed to technical issues.
With four wins at Suzuka, it one of Vettel’s strongest circuits and it should suit the Ferrari well. What’s more is that Hamilton has yet to suffer a DNF this season, and it is very rare for any driver to make it through an entire season without at least one DNF due to mechanical failure or an incident on track. The gap between the front runners is bigger now than at any point this season, but with five races remaining this championship is far from over.