Sebastian Vettel’s bank account will be 25,000 Euros worse off on Saturday evening, after the German was handed a hefty fine for an unusual incident at the weighbridge during qualifying in Brazil.
The Ferrari star qualified on the front row behind the man who beat him to the 2018 drivers’ title, Lewis Hamilton, during a rain-hit session at Interlagos, but was subsequently called to the stewards to explain himself after being accused of ‘destroying’ the scales the FIA use to weigh cars during the session.
The incident in question occurred during Q2 when, with rain in the air, Vettel rushed back to the pits for a tyre change before setting a lap time. Upon entering the pit lane, the German was called to the weighbridge for a random check – and was left clearly frustrated at being delayed by officials.
During the episode, FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer, who referred the matter to the stewards, said Vettel had "refused to turn off the engine" as is required making it “difficult to get a stable result".
Having been relatively tight-lipped after stepping out of the car, save for saying he thought it “unfair" to be called for a weight check amid changing conditions, Vettel was then required to give his side of the incident to the panel of stewards. And it was after hearing his explanation, and reviewing telemetry and video evidence, that they decided to hand the four-time world champion a 25,000 Euro fine, as well as a first reprimand of the season for “failing to follow the instructions of the relevant officials for the safe and orderly conduct of the event".
“The Stewards observed that 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," the official ruling read.
“At the time he was being shown a sign to have his “Brakes On" by an official that 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 mis-understood 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."
So Vettel keeps his second place on the grid – and now has the chance to battle Hamilton into Turn 1, the Ferrari driver on more durable soft tyres, the Mercedes man on supersofts.
“Maybe that can make a difference," mused Vettel. “I have quite good memories from starting P2 here so we will see…"