By then, Vettel was on top, but he was outpaced by the Englishman and Raikkonen before he regained the momentum with his fastest lap with 19 minutes remaining.
Vettel, though, faces an investigation after failing to follow stewards' instructions at the weighbridge.
"I was making sure I had the gap but then all of a sudden I saw a auto coming at high speed and was like 'oh my God, is that someone coming on a lap?' So I went left, but he was going left".
"They shouldn't call us when the conditions are changing like that", Vettel said.
"It's not something I've asked Valtteri if he wants but I don't think he's going to want that".
Ricciardo's sanction means Marcus Ericsson will start at least sixth, just ahead of Sauber teammate Charles Leclerc. I think 18 was probably the best back in the day. "We didn't really know what to expect", the 33-year-old said while still on the track. "I think it's unfair if somebody is pulled in".
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"The stewards reviewed the video evidence from the on-board camera and pit lane CCTV, viewed team engine telemetry and heard from the driver of vehicle 5 (Sebastian Vettel) and team representative", a statement said.
One advantage Ferrari might have at Interlagos is the fact that both drivers managed to make it through Q2 on the harder, soft tyre, meaning they'll start the Grand Prix knowing they can go deeper into the race than their rivals.
While Vettel's incident was the main talking point from Q2, Lewis Hamilton was also involved in a noteworthy incident. Hamilton had moved off the racing line as Sirotkin approached, but as he did so Sirotkin moved to the left as well, forcing the Russian into evasive action across the grass to avoid contact. Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth.
Fernando Alonso's F1 career continues to fade out with a fizzle, McLaren having the slowest auto in Brazil and the Spaniard able to put it only 18th.
Because he turned the engine off, Vettel did not actually break the wording of the sporting regulations surrounding the weighbridge and, therefore, did not receive a sporting penalty. Obviously Ferrari are incredibly quick this weekend. I was like, "Okay, that was a good start".