F1: Vettel grid penalty boosts Lewis Hamilton's fifth title bid

Vettel is now 67 points behind Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship with just 100 remaining from the final three races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

If Hamilton wins Sunday, Vettel must finish second to push the championship another week to Mexico City.

The latest incident occurred in the opening 90-minute practice session after Vettel's future teammate Charles Leclerc, who is moving to Ferrari in 2019, dragged gravel onto the circuit with his Sauber auto.

Vettel, whose season has been punctuated by mistakes, added another error to the list when he was found to have gone too fast when red warning flags were waved during the morning running.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel (5) of Germany during practice for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

As heavy rain fell in the afternoon, delaying the start of the second practice session, the stewards continued with their deliberations knowing that a penalty for Vettel would damage his hopes for the race.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was second in the first outing but a huge 1.3 seconds down while the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Australia's Daniel Ricciardo were ahead of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.

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"I think I slowed down", Vettel said.

"Sir Stirling would say you'd want to fall out if the car's going to crash: you hope that you get thrown out the auto. In FP1 I only did a few laps because we need the tires to last until FP3 and there's very little to learn in the rain". Fangio, a leading figure in the sport's formative seasons, won his five championships between 1951 and 1957 for four different constructors: Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, Ferrari and Maserati.

"So I mean Michael's stats are incredible and still quite a long way away, but I'm here for some time still, so I'm just going to keep working hard and keep trying to do what I do and what I love and enjoy it and we'll see where it takes us".

When asked whether there should be more common sense, he replied: "I think there should be common sense with the rules that we have". I think it's wrong, I think I slowed down, I had a good look around at what's going on.

"But the rules are clear as well".

"We sit together in the briefings, past year he came to tell me about the good job I did and now he's coming to talk to me about Woking and his time at McLaren. If there is a auto behind you it might run into you, but it is more important you don't get a penalty".

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