Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson has romped to his highest ever qualifying position while close, leading rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel each avoided grid penalties during Saturday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The departing Swede worked his way through the three qualifying sessions where rain lingered around the Autódromo José Carlos Pace to claim best of the rest honours behind front-runners, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
His vantage point from the lights further improved after Daniel Ricciardo fell down the order for a power element penalty he has to serve for a faulty turbo damaged during last round’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The 28-year old could almost have started the race as high as fourth position as world champion Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel became left in the spotlight of the stewards for separate incidents out on track and in the pitlane respectively.
Even though the Briton grasped pole position, the now five-time champion endured a hard day in the office yielding for faster cars behind on the short São Paulo circuit having a near-miss moment with Sergey Sirotken in the Williams outfit.
The pair both were preparing for their flying lap at the final braking zone of Junção when Sirotken – at pace behind – attempted to pass Hamilton off the racing line. Concurrently, Hamilton also committed to the left forcing the Russian to take evasive action almost planting himself into the grass on the inside. The incident was not referred to stewards post-qualifying.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel landed himself into a spot of bother after rushing stewards during mandatory weight check mid-session.
With rain in the air potentially ruining the weekend for any driver a day late and a dollar short, the German hurried the FIA stewards in desperate fashion waving and clapping his arms in the air.
Standard practice means that drivers must turn off their car while being weighed in order to gain a stable weight, however, Vettel chose not to do so even while being asked to by the chief steward standing at the end of the scales.
In addition, the 31-year old drove off the scales under his own power destroying the unit completely, earning himself a meeting with the stewards 45 minutes after qualifying concluded.
The Ferrari main-man escaped a grid penalty receiving a hefty €25,000 fine for his immature actions. The outcome came as a surprise to many with Article 29.2 of the Sporting Regulations stating “In the event of any breach of [weighing] provisions … the stewards may drop the driver such number of grid positions as they consider appropriate or disqualify him from [the session].
As for the rest of Qualifying, McLaren continued their countdown to next season with both of their drivers in Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne again eliminated in Q1. The rain intensified across all three qualifying sessions however the light downpour struggled to dampen the surface thanks to high track temperatures in the tropical climate of São Paulo.
Force India had a fight on their hands struggling around the 4.309-kilometre circuit only able to manage twelfth and thirteenth at the end of Q2 while Sauber claimed top honours as the best midfield team. Their duo of Ericsson and Charles LeClerc qualified in sixth and seventh position for Sunday’s penultimate race of the 2018 Formula One World Championship.
Images via Sauber F1 Team, Mercedes AMG F1 and Scuderia Ferrari.