Sebastian Vettel's temper and all you need to know about the Brazilian GP

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Interlagos
Sebastian Vettel
The Brazilian GP is live from 17:00 GMT on 5 live sports extra, the BBC Sport website and mobile app

Sebastian Vettel got away with his latest red-mist moment, but the controversy over his behaviour at the weighbridge in qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix revived memories of other incidents in which his temper has cost him dearly.

On Saturday, the trigger was that the Ferrari driver was called by the FIA's random selection process for his car to be weighed as he came into the pits early in second qualifying.

The issue for Vettel was that rain was in the air, and Ferrari had just taken a huge strategy gamble, to come back in for a different type of tyre, and having his car weighed could have meant that he suffered very badly.

It takes time to weigh a car and with threatening clouds over Interlagos it was very possible that it could have rained before Vettel had set a lap time.

Vettel let his impatience and frustration get the better of him.

As the stewards report said: "The driver did not stop the engine at the time he was directed by the official at the scales, knocked over the cone placed to stop the driver from driving onto the scales, which he then did.

"At the time he was being shown a sign to have his "brakes on" by an official who was standing in front of the car, and while not hitting the official did force him out of the way while driving onto the scales. He then turned off the engine.

"Once the weight was taken, he then did not wait for the officials to push the car off the scales, and while the stewards accept that he may have misunderstood the indication from the official, he then re-fired the car and drove off the scales, which is not the procedure because it can damage the scales, which in this case he did.

"While no-one was hurt by the scales being thrown out from behind the car, and while the stewards accept that the driver did not drive off the scales in a reckless manner, the procedure is established exactly to prevent damage to the scales or a potentially dangerous situation, which is exactly what was caused."

In the end, the stewards decided to issue only a reprimand and a €25,000 fine - not a major problem for a man earning something in the region of €30m.

F1 Breakdown: 'Hamilton just has the best car, doesn't he?'

Contrary to the FIA's initial communication, Vettel did stop the engine when on the scales, and they were able to properly weigh the car.

This is probably what stopped Vettel receiving a further punishment. If a driver ignores a request for his car to be weighed, the normal penalty is to be sent to the back of the grid - ensuring a racing car is the correct weight is one of the fundamentals of motorsport, as weight has a significant effect on lap time.

It was not hard to see why Vettel was annoyed, but at the same time, rules are rules. It's not up to the competitors to decide whether they comply with them. As Fernando Alonso put it: "It's not ideal because the weather can affect things. Maybe the rule is not the best. But it is the way it is."

It was the latest example of situations in which Vettel has let his emotions get the better of him, or made misjudgements in the heat of battle.

He has shouted and sworn at the team over the radio at least twice this year in high-pressure moments. There was the notorious incident in Baku in 2017, when he deliberately drove into Lewis Hamilton because he erroneously believed the Mercedes driver had 'brake-tested' him.

And then there is the series of mistakes he has made in the heat of battle this season that have had a potentially decisive effect on the championship.

Vettel has seemed a little frayed and worn down by the intensity of the battle this season and by what looks like a feeling that he needs to guide the team more than should be necessary at times. He has already admitted he needs to have a think over the winter about how to have a cleaner season in 2019.

While he's at it, he could do worse than work out a way to stop his emotional responses being triggered into over-reaction so easily when in the car.

vettel and hamilton
Hamilton is on pole, but Ferrari have seemingly established a better strategy

Ferrari 'favourites' for the race

The weighbridge incident happened because Ferrari decided to call Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in after doing just one exploratory lap to fit the 'soft' tyres rather than the 'super-softs' everyone else was using.

Why were they so keen to do this? The super-softs are faster over a lap, but more fragile in the race, and Ferrari wanted to start the race on the softs, and decided to take the risk that the rain would hold off long enough to let them get a lap in later than everyone else.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said: "Ferrari took a big gamble in qualifying, switching tyres when the rain was imminent, and it paid off.

"They are on the more robust tyre for the race and they have a disadvantage at the start but a big advantage over the first 10 or 15 laps, which in our models show them as the favourite [for the win].

"We did not take that risk because we thought it was disproportionate. But we understand that Ferrari where they are now and their only way of staying in the fight for the constructors' championship is to do things differently and take risks and today it paid off."

Having lost the drivers' title to Hamilton, at least partly because of their own and their driver's errors, Ferrari still have a chance of the constructors' championship. But they are 55 points behind and need to score at least 12 more points than Mercedes in Sunday's race to keep the fight alive to the final race in Abu Dhabi in two weeks' time.

This, they felt, was their best chance of doing so. "Maybe it can make a difference," Vettel said.

Another exercise in tyre management

Ferrari made their tyre decision because they believe the 'soft' will be much more effective in the expected hotter conditions in the race.

Vettel already experienced blistering in Friday practice and Wolff said avoiding this phenomenon - where the surface overheats and bubbles up - will be key in the race.

"The biggest struggle is going to be keeping those tyres alive, not making them blister," he said. "With the disadvantage of the super-soft versus the soft, we are on the back foot a little bit. It is about carefully managing this tyre to the end of the race. That is the story of the motor race tomorrow."

This has become a recurring theme this year, and it has meant drivers lapping as much as six or seven seconds off the pace in races just to make their tyres last the required distance.

Should this be the case, Wolff was asked? "No, it shouldn't," he replied.

The drivers have tired of this, and have started to up the pressure on tyre supplier Pirelli to do something about it - as they did over the winter of 2015/16. It succeeded with new tyres for 2017, when drivers were able to push more, but this year has seen a step backwards after Pirelli was asked to produce softer tyres in an unsuccessful attempt to provoke more pit stops.

Wolff said: "Pirelli had a good meeting with the drivers yesterday. We have expressed our support for Pirelli because we know it is a difficult task to manage.

"But in the past years we have simply asked the wrong things from them, by making the compounds softer and softer and softer, trying to trigger degradation and therefore more pit stops, the strategists have come up that the fastest race time is about managing those tyres and trying to achieve a one-stop or a two-stop.

"Completely the wrong direction. We need robust tyres, which Pirelli is perfectly able to produce. They just need to be given the right objectives and then the drivers can push the tyre harder, they can stay in the wake of the car in front, and we will not see blistering or deg that causes these seven seconds you've mentioned."

That is music to the ears of anyone who thinks F1 should be about drivers pushing to the limit at all times, and that Pirelli's thermally sensitive tyres have harmed the spectacle of the sport.

Fernando Alonso
Alonso has set his sights on winning motorsport's informal 'triple crown'

Another Indy tilt for Alonso

Fernando Alonso's Formula 1 career is fizzling out in a most unsatisfactory way, because of the abject performance of his McLaren car.

On Saturday, the McLaren was the slowest car in Interlagos, and he was 18th, his only satisfaction that he had beaten his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne - for the 20th time in 20 races this year - and the Williams of Lance Stroll.

He expects a similar struggle at his final race in Abu Dhabi. "We will put in a lot of emotions and a lot of effort and we will be out in Q1 because there are no miracles from one race to another," he said.

But on Saturday came confirmation of a reason for Alonso to look forward to the future with optimism when it was confirmed by McLaren that he will be racing again at the Indy 500 next year.

McLaren say they will run the car and that it will not be a satellite operation of another team, as it was when Alonso made his first attempt on Indy in 2017 with a McLaren-branded car from Andretti Autosport.

Beyond that, McLaren refused to reveal any further details, although it can be taken as read that Alonso's car will have a Chevrolet engine, as Honda, the other supplier, are refusing to supply him, following the fractious nature of their relationship in F1 from 2015-17.

There was a twinkle in Alonso's eye at the news conference after the announcement.

"Indy is very special," he said. "It's completely unpredictable until the last 20 laps and the whole game is the first 180 laps to be in position in the last 20 laps to compete for the win. It does not compare with any other race in motorsport."

That makes just four races Alonso is officially down for next year so far - Indy and the final three world endurance championship races in the 2018-19 'super-season'.

That's not a lot for a man who has admitted he would be happy to race every weekend. Isn't there a danger he will be bored?

"I will do many more but you will know step-by-step," he said. "Today is the first one. Apart from the races, three races of WEC, there are four tests for those so if you add the three race weekends of racing and four weeks of testing it is already seven until June plus the test of IndyCar and two weeks of the Indy 500.

"If you see the calendar until June there are maybe two weeks off so even if it seems not too many races there are a lot of preparations for those races. I am looking forward and it is good to be back at Indy."

Top Stories

Explore the BBC

Featured