Ferrari confirms Vettel engine change, edges closer to penalty

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Sebastian Vettel has moved onto his final permitted Formula 1 engine of the 2017 season after being forced into an early change due to an issue in final practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Drivers are allowed to use four power units through the entire 20-race season, with grid penalties being handed out to those exceeding this limit.

Ferrari had planned to introduce Vettel’s fourth and final power unit at a later date, but was forced to fit it to his SF70H car ahead of qualifying in Malaysia after an issue emerged during final practice.

Vettel slowed while heading down the back straight, nursing his car back to the pits and not returning back out on-track. He ended the session second-fastest behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Ferrari confirmed after the session it had been forced to change the engine on Vettel’s car, taking his fourth power unit in order to avoid triggering a penalty.

“Towards the end of the session, there was an electronic malfunction on Seb’s car and the engineers decided to change the internal combustion engine on his car as a precaution,” Ferrari added.

While this change is penalty-free, Vettel’s final power unit will now have to last longer than originally planned, putting him at risk of a grid drop amid his battle for the title with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 5am ET on Saturday.