Vettel edges closer to race ban after Italian GP incident

Vettel’s Ferrari fastest at Italian GP ahead of qualifying

"Congratulations to Ferrari and Charles". It was Leclerc - 11 years younger than Vettel and in only his second season in Formula One - who ended the drought.

Sebastian Vettel is a four-time world champion, victor of 52 grands prix and one of the greatest drivers of his era, if not all time.

The back-to-back victories have been the flawless response to critics who said he was too young to drive for Ferrari. "I think the teams have a bit to play in everything". "I was the one first in Q3 to give a tow, and the one second to receive a tow, but obviously we waited too long, so in the end there was no margin".

Valtteri Bottas was second for Mercedes with five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton a distant third after tire wear took its toll in a thrilling battle with the 21-year-old Monegasque.

He leads Vettel 4-1 in pole positions, and 7-0 in qualifying over the past seven races.

For his part, Leclerc argued that his defence was a outcome of what happened in Austria, when Max Verstappen forced him wide as they battled for the lead, the Dutchman escaping punishment and going on to take the win.

Running fourth at the time in his Ferrari, Vettel made a mistake and spun at the Ascari chicane. As Vettel returned to the track, he came into contact with Racing Point's Lance Stroll.

While Leclerc led from pole position, the four-times champion spun off, plunged to last place and served a 10 second stop/go penalty for a unsafe return to the track.

He now has nine penalty points on his licence and drivers are given an automatic one-race ban if they reach 12 points during a 12-month period.

"I struggled a couple of times to get the auto going and get the vehicle going in the right direction so I didn't see (Stroll) ... So it was impossible to see the cars on the left, and I think I was also stuck on the curb a little bit, which didn't help". It all went wrong when Vettel came back on the track very aggressively and hit me. Stroll also suffered a spin from the contact with Vettel, and he too almost hit Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly when rejoining the track, which saw him receive the same penalty as Vettel.

Verstappen is the closest non-Mercedes challenger to Hamilton in the championship but he looks set to lose further ground to the Briton.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was sixth fastest, .301 behind Vettel.

A crash would likely have ruined both drivers' races, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claimed that Hamilton "was instrumental in not making it an incident".

Brawn believes it's now crucial for the Scuderia to put its full support behind the four-time world champion. "The difference between the great ones and the good ones is that the great ones are able to get up again and I have no doubt that he can do that".

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