SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Ferrari’s title contender Sebastian Vettel moved up a place to eighth on the Japanese Grand Prix grid on Saturday after Force India’s Esteban Ocon was handed a three-place drop.
Vettel is battling to stay in contention in the championship battle, 50 points adrift of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with four races left after Japan. Hamilton starts on pole position at Suzuka.
Stewards said in a statement that Ocon had also been given two penalty points for failing to slow sufficiently during a red flag period in final practice.
“He acknowledged the infringement and attributed it to the confusion caused by the beeps and the system currently being used by the team in such situations,” the statement said.
“In the end, given the importance of observance of the speed restrictions while red flags are being shown and recognising the limited extent of the breach, we decided to impose the above penalty.”
Ocon had qualified eighth, one place ahead of Vettel. Force India’s Mexican Sergio Perez moved up to ninth with Charles Leclerc starting 10th for Sauber.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar