Vettel says he was given permission to use scooter

Sebastian Vettel - Aston Martin - stopped in FP1 - Melbourne - Albert Park - Australian GP
© Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel said that he had been given permission by a track marshal to use a moped to return to pit lane after his Aston Martin suffered a terminal power unit issue during FP1 in Melbourne, but the Australian Grand Prix stewards didn't give the German a free pass.

The car came to a smoky stop with less than 20 minutes remaining in Friday's first practice session at Albert Park ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix. Vettel immediately climbed out and went into classic 'Fireman Seb' mode to help the marshals.

With the session having been stopped by a red flag, Vettel then used a scooter to make his return to pit lane, waving to the crowd along the way. This didn't go down well with the race stewards however, who have summoned him to explain his actions as a possible breach of the rules.

But speaking to the media after the end of Friday's track activity, the four-time world champion insisted that his use of the scooter had been sanctioned by a marshal at the scene.

“Obviously we had a problem and there was a bit of smoke, and I lost power,” he said. “We had to stop the car on the track and I did the best I could to limit the damage and get it off the track as soon as possible.

“I tried to make sure the car doesn't get any further damaged," he continued. "The marshal was very helpful. He had a Leatherman [multi-tool]. I asked for an Allen key, then we took part of the bodywork off so I could get underneath and cool the car so it was a bit of a job.

"I asked ‘Can I get back?’ as soon as I knew the car was safe in terms of not catching fire again," he added. "They said 'Yes, as soon as the session is over' and then the guy came with a scooter and said ‘You can jump on the back.’

“I said ‘Can I drive it?’ because I prefer to drive myself, and he handed me the scooter so I said ‘Okay’ and he said ‘Off you go’, and I went.

Sebastian Vettel - Aston Martin - stopped in FP1 - Melbourne - Albert Park - Australian GP

© Formula 1

It was initially thought that Vettel had not infringed the rule stating that no one can take to the track within five minutes of the end of a session, because an exception is allowed for "drivers when driving or on foot, having first received permission to do so from a marshal".

But the stewards did not see the action in such light, and stated after deliberation that the German had driven "on the track to his pit, instead of the designated route", and had therefore breached Article 26.7 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations.

Vettel was therefore fined 5,000 euros for the misdemeanor by the FIA.

Aston Martin subsequently confirmed that the car had suffered a power unit issue, and there wasn't enough time to install a replacement for Vettel to get out during FP2.

“It stopped our running, which was painful. Unfortunately it also cost us the whole session in the afternoon, which is not ideal," Vettel acknowledged. "It will be fine tomorrow but it would have been nice to get more laps."

Having been sidelined by a positive COVID test for the first two races of the season in Bahrain and Jeddah, Vettel was able to complete just 18 laps on his first day back before the power unit issue.

"Today was an important day for me in terms of getting back up to speed with the car and learning a new layout," he said. "The positives are that I felt I was able to get comfortable quite quickly and that we had a good balance in the car."

Vettel was 13th at the end of his curtailed run, while team mate Lance Stroll was 16th after FP1 and only slightly better in 14th at the end of FP2, but the Canadian was confident they had made a "good start" to the weekend.

"The car is in a decent starting place, although we always want to find and extract more pace from it," he said. "We will work hard tonight to see if we can find more gains.

"It has been really fun to take on the challenge of a revised Albert Park Circuit. It is much faster and more exciting, and the four DRS zones should help cars get closer and improve overtaking."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter