Sky F1’s Martin Brundle reflects on the Brazilian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari and the 2018 Formula One championship, ahead of the last race of the season:
“Once again Interlagos served up a great race along with a fair dose of controversy and surprise. The scene was largely set in Saturday qualifying with occasional light rain, and Ferrari choosing a different approach to the other frontrunners by committing to soft rather than supersoft tyres for the start of the race. After qualifying I felt there was a good chance the front row of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel would change. Lewis had mildly got in the way of a Kimi Raikkonen fast lap on the exit of Turn Three, but in Turn 10 failed to notice a fast approaching Sergey Sirotkin in his mirrors and swerved late and left just as Sirotkin had elected to take the obvious route down the left-hand side.
Sirotkin was on an ‘out lap’ like Hamilton too but with under-temperature used tyres he needed to heat them up before starting his lap. With cat-like reactions he avoided smashing both cars to pieces and took to the grass. Lewis should have thanked him, especially as he would go on to take pole and win the race, but instead he called Sirotkin disrespectful. Anyone is entitled to drive their out lap just as fast as they need to.
I can’t help but think that if the likes of Sirotkin, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen had shoved Hamilton on the grass with a high-speed near miss they would have taken a penalty. Indeed Sirotkin did ironically receive a reprimand for driving too slowly on an in-lap, but I can’t see what difference it makes whether you’re heading out of the pits or into it.
Meanwhile, Vettel had been randomly selected at the weigh-bridge after he’d quickly worked out that the track was indeed still dry enough to attempt to get into final qualifying using the slower but more durable soft tyres, which would then give them more scope on race day. Or at least we all thought it would.
With very light rain still falling Seb wasn’t much interested in this mandatory procedure which endeavours to ensure cars can’t do one quick run underweight and then ballast the car up (which was a major scam in decades past). I accept there did appear to be a lack of urgency around the weigh-bridge but he decided to push a cone and nearly an FIA man out of the way with the front of his car, steam up onto the lightweight temporary weighing plates (which prevent cars having to be nosed into the FIA scrutineering bay and so saving a lot of time), and then drive off scattering the pads and not waiting for the normal push off and engine restart.
On the dummy grid before the formation lap Vettel was already struggling with a gremlin in the system and would go on to make an ordinary start. The Mercedes boys drove a neat team play so that Bottas slotted into second behind Hamilton. Both Ferraris were struggling for initial pace on the soft tyres.
Two-stopping Bottas and Vettel would end up in a lonely fifth and sixth spot respectively, Kimi was impressively on the podium yet again, and his Ferrari replacement Charles Leclerc had another great weekend in seventh for Sauber with the Haas boys in eighth and ninth going well and underlining just how strong the Ferrari motor was. Perez stole the last point for Force India and otherwise it was largely a race to forget for Renault, Toro Rosso, and particularly McLaren and Williams.
And that road now takes us to Abu Dhabi for the end of yet another season.”