Brazil GP: 6 things you need to know from qualifying after Vettel meltdown
The drivers’ championship may be all done and dusted, but we still have two races to go this season – and the constructors’ title to tie up.
Here’s how they finished today’s qualifying session at Interlagos, and everything you need to know ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix…
1. Vettel faces nervous wait after weigh bridge meltdown
Sebastian Vettel set the second fastest time in qualifying, but faces a nervous wait to see if he will keep second place on the grid after he had a bizarre meltdown during Q2.
With the weather conditions changing quickly, the Ferrari ace was called in by the FIA for his car to be weighed, which happens during every session at random.
It was a shocking time for it to happen, given how the weather was changing, and Vettel was clearly incensed as he thought he might miss out on the chance to get back out and set a quick lap.
He knocked over a cone and waved his hands about as he pleaded with the officials to get a move on – and even startled one of them and forced him to jump out of the way when he drove onto the scales before being instructed to.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer said Vettel then refused to turn off his engine, which Bauer said "makes it difficult to get a stable result".
Then he drove off, which, according to Bauer, “destroyed” the scales completely.
Vettel was reported to the stewards for the incident and was sent before them 45 minutes after qualifying ended. As yet, there is no word on what his punishment will be, if anything, but he could be facing anything from a slap on the wrist or a fine, to a grid penalty, or even exclusion from qualifying itself, which could mean he has to start the race from the pit lane.
We will update the story once we hear from the stewards…
*** UPDATE ***
The news is just in... and Vettel is a lucky man, as the stewards have decided *not* to punish him with a grid penalty, and instead he has been reprimanded and handed a $25,000 fine (is that how much it will cost to replace the broken weigh bridge?!).
So he keeps his second place on the grid for Sunday's race, but has he been let off too lightly? Or have the stewards acted sensibly and in a way that means we still have the best chance of a great race? Let us know what you think in the comments below...
2. Hamilton isn’t easing off
Lewis Hamilton has won five world championship titles. But after winning each one, he has never won a race or secured a pole position that season.
One of those stats was blown today when he mastered the changeable conditions to pop his car in top spot – his 82nd pole at the home track of his idol, Ayrton Senna.
But it wasn’t completely straightforward – the Mercedes man blocked Kimi Raikkonen in Q1, and almost caused a terrible crash when, while trying to avoid a fast Sergey Sirotkin, he accidentally veered into the path of the Williams.
As yet the stewards have not called Hamilton in for a chat about it, so it looks like he’ll be able to keep his place at the very front of the grid.
That makes it ten poles in 20 races for the Brit this year. If he keeps up that pace, he’ll hit 100 before the end of the 2020 season.
3. But have Ferrari got an ace up their sleeve?
In Q2 we saw something slightly unusual: Ferrari outfoxing Mercedes with what looked like an inspired strategy call.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel set their quickest times on the soft tyre, meaning that will be the one they start the race on – unlike Mercedes who will be on the super soft.
And that means that despite Hamilton taking pole, it’s Ferrari who could have the advantage at the start. It's all to play for in the early laps tomorrow, folks...
4. Yet more penalties for Ricciardo
Poor old Dan Ricciardo really is having a tough time right now. After eight DNFs already this season, he now has a five place grid penalty for Sunday’s race – and the reason for it is almost unbelievable.
After his car broke down during the Mexican Grand Prix two weeks ago, the marshals used a fire extinguisher on his stricken Red Bull.
That caused damage, which forced the team to replace his turbo charger, thus incurring the penalty. That guy cannot catch a break right now.
The Bulls are also down on power at this track, and are losing some 18kph to the Ferraris around Interlagos, so a repeat of Max Verstappen’s superb win in Mexico looks unlikely.
5. It is I, Leclerc
In the last few minutes of Q2, the rain was coming down and the track seemed to have slowed. And it looked like Charles Leclerc had been caught out, by failing to record a quick lap when he had the chance.
With just a few seconds left on the clock, his engineer told him to come back into the garage, but he overruled that and insisted it was worth another try to sneak into the top ten.
His chances looked bleak, but somehow he pulled out a belter of a lap to pop up into eighth and sneak through into Q3.
“I can’t wait to see this kid in a Ferrari next year,” said Sky’s Martin Brundle. Us neither, Martin. Us neither.
It’s also worth giving a shoutout to his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson who actually beat Leclerc in Q3 to line up seventh, giving the Swiss team the 'best of the rest' badge for this session.
Marcus is off to IndyCar next year, but is showing he’s got plenty of speed still in his last few F1 races.
6. A McLaren anniversary – and an exciting announcement
This weekend marks a staggering SIX years since McLaren last won a Grand Prix, when Jenson Button took victory in Brazil back in 2012.
It’s been six painful years since then, and it got no better today, with Fernando Alonso 18th and Stoffel Vandoorne dead last in qualifying.
Let’s hope they can start making some progress again next year – F1 is always better when McLaren are fighting at the front.
*** UPDATE ***
After qualifying McLaren announced that the team would be returning to race in the Indy 500 in 2019, with Alonso once again at the wheel.
There's no word yet on which team or engine supplier McLaren might partner with, but Alonso's quest to win the triple crown continues.
"I've made clear for some time my desire to achieve the triple crown," Alonso said. "I had an incredible experience at Indianapolis in 2017 and I knew in my heart of hearts I had to go back if the opportunity was there. I'm especially glad to be returning with McLaren.
"This was always my first choice if the team decided to do it, so I'm delighted they've decided to go ahead. It's a tough race and we'll be up against the best, so it will be a huge challenge. But we're racers and that's why we race. One of the things I'm looking forward to most is seeing the fans again, who are absolutely fantastic."
McLaren boss Zak Brown said: "We are relishing our return to the Brickyard and this incredible race. McLaren has a long and fond relationship with the Indianapolis 500 and it's a case of unfinished business for us with Fernando.
"No Indy 500 is a cakewalk, it's a massive challenge. We have the utmost respect for the race and our competitors. So, we are under no illusions. But McLaren are racers first and foremost, as is Fernando. We're going for it."
Race start: Sunday, 5.10pm UK time
Don't forget to join us over in the Home of F1 live chat channel for the race. See you there!