Schu handed grid penalty
Stewards impose 10-place drop on veteran for Suzuka in wake of second similar offence of the season
Last Updated: 25/09/12 5:12pm
Michael Schumacher has been handed a ten-place grid penalty for the Japanese GP after crashing into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne in the Singapore GP.
At the restart following the first safety car deployment, Schumacher was closely following the battling duo of Vergne and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi when, after locking both his left-front and then the front-right wheel, the veteran inexplicably ploughed straight into the back of the Toro Rosso - the heavy shunt taking both drivers down the escape road and out of the race.
The race stewards promptly put the incident under investigation and, more than two hours after the chequered flag had fallen, Schumacher was judged guilty and will drop down ten places on the grid from where he qualifies at Suzuka in two weeks' time.
"The driver admitted the collision was his error due to the failure to anticipate the braking performance of the car with lower tyre grip following a safety car period," the official stewards' verdict read.
"The penalty takes into account that this is the second similar offence by the driver this season."
Speaking prior to announcement of the verdict to Sky Sports F1, Schumacher had indicated that he suspected something may have gone wrong with his car given he felt he had braked earlier for the corner than usual.
"I braked earlier than I would normally I would do for that corner, and I need work out why I couldn't stop," Schumacher told Natalie Pinkham.
"The braking point certainly wasn't later - it was rather early - but the car wouldn't decelerate. Maybe [with] the Safety Car, there was low pressures, it was touching on the ground or something unusual I didn't include. Maybe some other factor. I need to investigate that.
"I apologised [to Vergne] for this one. It was clearly on my side, he had nothing to do with that, but nevertheless I would like to know why and what happened."
Whether or not a mechanical problem is later established, the incident resembled one back at the Spanish GP in May when Schumacher crashed into the back of Bruno Senna under braking - an error which earned the 43-year-old a five-place grid penalty for the following race.
Schumacher also crashed out last year at Marina Bay after spectacularly running into the back of a driver - Sauber's Sergio Perez, albeit in different circumstances as it came during an attempted overtaking move.
Asked whether the latest issue might raise suggestions over the veteran seven-times champion's place in F1, Sky Sports F1's Anthony Davidson said: "It can easily happen to anyone, but it's happened to him again.
"It happened to him with Bruno Senna in Barcelona, I know he blamed Senna at the time.
"People are definitely going to ask these questions, is age a factor? It is at some point in someone's life obviously. You don't live all of your life with the same reactions, whether that happens in your 40s, your 50s or your 60s that sort of degradation of reactions, who knows.
"It's something I think that's worth looking into."