FERRARI’S Sebastian Vettel has entered the danger zone for a race ban after falling foul of Formula 1 stewards on a nightmare Italian Grand Prix Sunday. 

The four-times world champion was handed three penalty points for dangerous driving in his team’s home race, taking his tally to nine.

Any driver who amasses 12 points in a 12 month period is banned for one race automatically, and Vettel has three more grands prix to go before he starts to shed any of those accrued to date.

Three points is the maximum the stewards can hand out, with that penalty reserved for the most serious incidents.

There was little doubt Vettel’s misdemeanour was of that magnitude, with the German spinning off at Ascari corner before compounding his unforced error by returning to the track clumsily and without making sure the road was clear.

Canadian Lance Stroll, in the Racing Point, was unable to avoid a glancing contact and went spinning off, returning in an equally alarming fashion and almost colliding with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

Vettel was also handed a 10 second stop/go penalty, dropping him to the back of the field.

To rub salt in the wounds, he was then lapped by race winning teammate Charles Leclerc and finished 13th — his second blank in five races.

“I made a mistake and lost the car,” he told reporters. 

“After that, the race was a bit different.

“Coming back (on track), I knew there would be a gap but I struggled a little bit to get out . . . I think I was stuck on the grass and lost a bit of momentum there and that took a little bit longer. I couldn’t see anything.

“Obviously on my side I’m not happy. 

“I can’t be happy with my day today.”

A worry for Ferrari is that Vettel has not won a race for more than a year, his last being at the Belgian Grand Prix in August 2018.

He also spun at Monza last year after starting on the front row and then colliding with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap. 

He fought back from 18th to fourth on that occasion.

His temperament has been increasingly questioned, however, over the past year with some pundits accusing him of cracking under pressure and making mistakes unworthy of a multiple champion.

Asked by Sky Sports TV whether he was falling out of love with the sport, the 32-year-old replied: “No, not really, I haven’t.

“Of course I still love what I do, but surely when you’re not doing well what you know you can do well, you can’t be happy.” 

Many observers feel he is being outperformed by new teammate Leclerc, just as he was by Daniel Ricciardo in their days at Red Bull.

There are still seven grands prix to go this season, and Vettel can’t afford more penalties through his mounting number of misdemeanours.

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Canadian Lance Stroll, in the Racing Point, was unable to avoid a glancing contact with Vettel.

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.