F1
Nate Saunders, F1 Associate Editor 17d

Sebastian Vettel set to avoid Suzuka gearbox penalty

Formula 1, AutoRacing

After significant setbacks to his championship hopes at the previous two races, Sebastian Vettel has had some good news ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Ferrari has confirmed the gearbox of the No. 5 Ferrari has escaped damage following Vettel's bizarre cool-down lap collision with Williams driver Lance Stroll moments after the chequered flag had fallen in Malaysia. Both men avoided punishment for the incident but there were concerns the gearbox in Vettel's car had been damaged -- which would have required a change and, as it had not lasted six consecutive events, prompted an automatic five-place grid penalty in Suzuka.

Ferrari conducted investigations into the gearbox and earlier this week various Italian media outlets reported the team was confident it would avoid any penalties. The news was made official on Wednesday with a tweet.

A gearbox penalty would have been another major blow to Vettel's hopes of winning the 2017 championship, especially with Mercedes expected to return to form at the high-speed Suzuka circuit. 

Just two races ago in Singapore the Ferrari driver looked set to re-establish a healthy lead in the championship having claimed pole as title rival Hamilton qualified fifth, only to be caught up in a race-ending collision with Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton duly capitalised to win and open up a 28-point lead. 

That gap has since extended to 34 points, with engine problems on both cars preventing Ferrari from capitalising on Mercedes' struggle to find pace at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel's issue occurred in qualifying, forcing him to start from the back of the grid. Despite fighting back to fourth, Hamilton gained points by finishing second, but the championship leader was helped by the fact Kimi Raikkonen failed to start from the front row of the grid when his Ferrari encountered a similar problem before the start of the race.

The double engine trouble in Malaysia was met with an immediate response from Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, who has made organisational changes to improve "the quality department" of the F1 team.

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