Spielberg, Austria - The starting grid for the Austrian Grand Prix continues to change as the race nears. Fernando Alonso will start from the pit lane after repairs and alterations to his car and Brendon Hartley will start from the back of the grid following an engine change, but the most interest surrounds Sebastien Vettel's demotion by stewards.
Vettel, who is 14 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, received a three-place grid penalty late on Saturday for blocking Renault driver Carlos Sainz driver during Q2, and dropped from third to sixth on the grid. Finn Valtteri Bottas is on pole ahead of Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.
Former Ferrari driver American Mario Andretti, who won the Drivers' title with Lotus in 1978, said on Twitter that a penalty that may affect a championship should not be imposed, unless for a flagrant breach of the rules. That intervention sparked an opinionated debate. In a statement on Saturday, the race stewards said "the penalty...is consistent with all other similar incidents." Vettel said he did not see Sainz in his mirrors.
Alonso qualified 13th despite breaking his front wing at the end of Q2 and McLaren has changed the Spaniard's front wing. The car will also be fitted with the latest upgraded Renault engine for the race, a power unit he did not use in practice or qualifying. Hartley will start from the back of the grid after Toro Rosso decided to change his Honda engine.