In a field already reduced to 18 cars, Sebastian Vettel has confirmed he is likely to “skip” qualifying for the United States GP.
The Red Bull racer has had a dismal season in terms of reliability while results have also not been forthcoming.
Dogged by engine issues, the German is set to take a sixth Renault engine at this weekend’s race in Austin and that brings with it a hefty penalty.
As such, Vettel says he may as well “skip” qualifying, save the miles on the new power unit and start the race, which he won last year, from the pit lane.
“We need to see, we need to confirm, but yes, we have to get an extra power unit at some stage this season, and it’s very likely it will be for this event,” stated the 27-year-old.
“We had quite a bad first half of the season in terms of reliability, things happening which put us in a bad position.
“In practice we’ll definitely run to try to maximise the track time.
“But the focus will be more on the race because maybe qualifying for us is not that important if we have to start from the pit lane due to the regulations.
“I didn’t make them, but equally everyone has to respect them, and they are pretty clear.
“Once you decide to pull the joker and take all the pieces (of the power unit, which comprises six components), you have to start from the pit lane, even if you qualify on pole.
“So instead of burning mileage in qualifying, which you would regret later on in Brazil or Abu Dhabi where you might not see the finish line, you skip it.”
The possibility of Vettel missing qualifying has been billed as “unfortunate” and “too bad” by Bobby Epstein, the co-founder of the Circuit of the Americas.
Pressed as to whether he was letting fans down by not competing in qualifying, Vettel said: “You can talk about obligations, but in the end we have to manage the situation with the engines. The rules are the same for everyone.
“Obviously it was our fault to be very greedy at the beginning of the season in terms of having issues and with reliability, not taking the engines to the end of their lives.
“Daniel did a better job, or was a bit luckier in some circumstances.
“The situation is what it is. I’d love to change it, to qualify in the normal way and use every practice session to the maximum.
“It doesn’t look that way, but I see the point and it would be a shame (not to take part in qualifying).”