RBR boss Christian Horner has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel will take part in Q1 in Austin, but it will be only a token appearance to ensure that the German fulfils the 107% rule.
Vettel is due to start from the pitlane thanks to taking a complete sixth power unit.
“I think it’s a silly rule, isn’t it?,” Horner told Sky TV. “To have to eliminate a car totally from qualifying, it doesn’t really make sense. People are here to come and see the guys qualify and do the best they can. It’s a crazy situation that we’ve got a four-time World Champion effectively not taking part tomorrow. We will take part in the first part of qualifying, but we’re going to be limiting mileage to an absolute minimum.
“The problem is that the rules dictate that wherever he qualifies, he’s in the pitlane. This power unit has now got to do three races. We know they’re fragile so we’ve got to save as many kilometres as we can. Theoretically he’s only go to do one or two laps.
“I think it’s right that he takes part in the event. It’s important that he registers a lap, he’s within 107%, there’s no debate as to whether he’ll be racing or not on Sunday.”
Horner denied that there had been any pressure from Bernie Ecclestone: “I haven’t had that conversation with Bernie. He hasn’t said, ‘You’ve got to send your cars out,’ or anything like that. We need to abide by the rules. It’s only right that Sebastian does go out and do a lap in qualy. People are coming here to see the drivers in action, it would be silly to have him in the pit wall.”
Vettel was last in FP2 as he missed track time and had no need to run in qualifying trim: “It’s been a busy day. We had a gearbox change between P1 and P2 with Sebastian, and then a rear wing change that took a long time during the session just because we’re trying different set-ups. We managed to get the data we wanted out of the session, now it’s a matter of crunching the numbers tonight and working out what’s the best thing to do for the race.
“He’s obviously only been focussed on long runs because there’s no point looking at the short runs.”