Lewis Hamilton's hopes of wrapping up the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship title this weekend has been given a boost following the confirmation that Sebastian Vettel will take a ten-place grid penalty at Circuit of the Americas.
As anticipated, Ferrari will run a new engine in the United States this weekend, but the change means Vettel will be onto his fifth power unit, necessitating a drop of ten positions on the grid.
It means Hamilton has an even better chance of securing his third world title this weekend, with Vettel having emerged as his closest rival after Sochi in the wake of Nico Rosberg's failure to finish. As it stands, Hamilton leads Vettel by 66 points and simply needs to end the weekend with a 75 point cushion over the competition put the title out of their reach.
Despite this, Vettel insists the engine change is not a set-back, saying it was always the intention to roll-out the upgrade with four races of the season
“We will have the hit of ten places on the grid for the new engine, but it has always been the plan. It is not a big secret, it is not a surprise to us. To explain, this was the plan to have the strongest engine available at every single point in the season and I think the engine guys have done a massive job.
Indeed, Vettel is excited to sample the new engine, teasing that the team has made 'big steps' in performance.
“This shouldn't be understood as a downside, if anything this is a positive sign because we have been pushing hard and the guys managed to make big steps in terms of performance.”
Asked whether Ferrari had considered deviating from the planned engine change in order to give Vettel more of a fighting chance in the title fight, the four-time champion says there was never any consideration for that.
“If you look at this race isolated, it is not great news but you have to look at the whole project and season. It was always the plan to have a fresh engine here and the priority was to have maximum power at every race. We have to take the hit here but we should see the positives that we were able to make big steps.”