Sebastian Vettel at risk of grid penalty after Lance Stroll crash
Sebastian Vettel has admitted he is at risk of the "bad surprise" of a grid penalty at this week's Japanese GP due to his bizarre crash with Lance Stroll in Malaysia.
Title rival Lewis Hamilton has indicated he believes the incident was another example of Vettel making mistakes on track with 34 points now separating the pair in the world championship.
"Reliability is coming into play but also driving mistakes are coming into play as well," said Hamilton. "We have seen a couple from Sebastian. Today, for example, crashing into someone.
"Who knows whether that is his gearbox busted for the next race or not. We will see. All those things come into play. I am just trying to be smart with the decisions I make on track."
Vettel and Stroll collided after the chequered flag at Sepang with the world championship contender's car suffering severe damage.
Ferrari have already flown the gearbox from Vettel's car back to their Maranello base for inspection.
If it is deemed too badly damaged to be used this weekend a change of unit would trigger an automatic five-place grid penalty against Vettel at Suzuka.
F1's regulations state that a gearbox must complete six grands prix, with an automatic five-place grid demotion if they are changed out of sequence.
Vettel had received a new gearbox in Malaysia after Ferrari changed his previous one following his opening-lap retirement in Singapore.
"That could be another bad surprise this weekend," said Vettel. "I hope not because it was completely unnecessary."
The Sepang stewards investigated the clash between Vettel and Stroll but ruled that neither driver had been predominantly to blame.
The Ferrari driver's peculiar crash was in contrast to the circumspection shown by the title leader when challenged for the lead of Sunday's race by Max Verstappen.
"I had to really make a decision when Max was closing me down, to not fight him and risk him crashing into me, because he's going to give it everything - he's got nothing to lose, whereas I've got everything to lose," said Hamilton. "So I didn't make it very hard for him."