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SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel will drop three places in next week’s Japanese Grand Prix as punishment for tipping championship leader Nico Rosberg into a spin at the start of Sunday’s Formula One race in Malaysia.
The German, winner at the 5.5-km Sepang circuit last year for Ferrari, barely made it past the opening couple of corners before retiring with a broken suspension from his collision with the Mercedes.
“It's a big shame,” the four-times champion told television reporters before leaving the circuit early.
“I think there's two things that are wrong. First, that Nico without any blame gets turned around and second that I'm standing here and the race is still going on.”
Vettel, starting fifth, was jostling for position with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull on the run down to the first corner, both of them chasing Rosberg, when the incident happened.
Television footage showed Verstappen apparently shutting the door on Vettel before suddenly jinking away.
However, onboard footage from Vettel’s car indicated that he carried too much speed into the corner with the front of his car sliding wide into the side of Rosberg’s Mercedes.
“Well, racing him is moving around,” said Vettel referring to Verstappen. “I was squeezed to the inside, I tried to avoid as much as I can but then I couldn't avoid the contact.”
Verstappen, who finished second on Sunday, clashed with Vettel and his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen after they criticised his aggressive driving at the Belgian Grand Prix in August, where the trio collided at the first corner.
On Sunday, the Dutchman blamed Vettel for the incident which also cost him a few places.
“I braked late but I was still behind Nico and then Sebastian just dived up the inside, just went really deep,” said the 19-year-old.
“There was definitely no space for that and he T-boned Nico, so I had to avoid all the debris and the two cars.”
Rosberg, who fell to the very back of the field and had to fight his way through to third, was a lot more succinct in his own reaction.
“Oh, I just got T-boned by a four-time world champion,” he said. “Out of control.”
Editing by Clare Fallon