Morning After: Vettel versus Everybody

Despite ceding pole to Lewis Hamilton, all eyes were on Sebastian Vettel after a controversial Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying session at Interlagos.

God bless Sebastian Vettel – he really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As it has been for so much of 2018, it was again on Saturday afternoon in Sao Paulo, with Lewis Hamilton delivering the result, and Vettel making the headlines.

Hamilton’s tenth pole of the season, what we should be talking about is this being his first such P1 after winning a world championship, but also the prospect of his duel with Vettel being reignited after the German finished just 0.093s behind. Instead, it’s all about Vettel and the weighbridge.

Was it unfortunate timing that Vettel was called in just as the weather was starting to change? Yes. Was it on purpose? No (and it’s ironic to see some fans accuse the FIA of being “Mercedes Assistance” or MAFIA when for years the same organization was supposedly “Ferrari International Assistance”). Could the officials have shown a little more urgency? Maybe. Was Vettel in the wrong? Definitely.

Here’s the thing: as natural as it is to be impatient under such circumstances, it’s nevertheless expected that Vettel, or any other driver, maintain their composure. Procedure is there for obvious safety reasons, which Vettel ignored, and realistically, he’s lucky to get away with just a reprimand and €25,000 fine.

Of course, this isn’t even remotely an isolated incident for Vettel, and therein lies the real problem. We all remember his “road rage” incident with Hamilton in Baku last year, but you could even argue the way he handles blue flags, and indeed his own on-track errors this year are similar in that at any given time, his composure is likely to unravel. Saturday just adds one more red flag for the list, no pun intended.

That said, it hasn’t really cost him anything here, and maybe tomorrow we’ll see Vettel back at his race-winning best – it certainly looks like he has the car for it, he’ll just have to find a way past Hamilton first.

Quick Hits

It would be remiss of me not to mention Hamilton’s own incident, blocking Sergey Sirotkin as the Williams driver came around the last corner of his out-lap. There’s no denying the Brit left his move to get off the racing line very late, but it’s hard to penalise when Sirotkin should’ve been on-line if he wanted to pass, and Hamilton was on an out-lap also.

It’s official: Fernando Alonso is heading back to Indy! Unfortunately, it’s in a McLaren, so his odds of finishing the race are at best, 50-50.

Suffice to say I’m not the biggest fan of his as a driver, but credit where credit is due: Marcus Ericsson was fantastic on Saturday, taking P7 to finish best-of-the-rest. With Charles Leclerc starting right behind him, Sauber look a good bet to build on the three-point lead over Toro Rosso they created in Mexico.

Race Tyre Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli

With the amount of tyre degradation expected for a dry race, the theoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows: 

If conditions are warmer for the race, as expected:

THE QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on soft for 32-36 laps + 1 stint on medium to the flag

VERY CLOSE ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on supersoft for 25-30 laps + 1 stint on medium to the flag

SLOWER TWO-STOPPER: 2 stints on supersoft for 20-22 laps each + 1 stint on soft to the flag.

If conditions are cooler, similar to Friday:

THE QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on supersoft for 27-33 laps + 1 stint on soft to the flag or ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on supersoft for 25-30 laps + 1 stint on medium to the flag