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What is a brake test in F1 after Max Verstappen Saudi Arabia penalty?

Jake Nichol December 6, 2021
F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was slapped with a penalty for brake testing Lewis Hamilton in their Saudi Arabian Grand Prix collision, but what actually is a brake test in F1?

Lap 37 of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go down as one of the laps of the season in F1 2021.

At Turn 1, Hamilton tried to go around the outside of Verstappen, who maintained position by cutting the corner and gaining an advantage.

The FIA instructed Red Bull to tell Verstappen to give the place up to Hamilton “strategically,” – which he tried to do on the run to Turn 27 – the final corner.

Verstappen slowed dramatically on the run to Turn 27, staying in the middle of the track, as Hamilton also slowed, unaware of what was going on.

The two made contact with Hamilton sustaining front wing damage.

Verstappen was later found guilty of brake-testing Hamilton and handed a penalty for it. But what is the meaning of brake test in F1 and has anyone else ever done it?

Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Brake test meaning in F1

To brake test someone in F1 means to suddenly slam on the brakes when a rival is close behind.

The driver behind will be caught off-guard and have to take avoiding action to avert a collision between the two.

Owing to the inherent danger in motorsport, it is something that is frowned upon and is not something seen on a regular basis.

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After placing Verstappen under investigation for the action on Lap 37, the #33 Red Bull was hit with a 10s time penalty and two penalty points by the stewards.

It does not change his finishing position, and both Verstappen and Hamilton head to Abu Dhabi tied on 369.5 points.

Why was Verstappen given a brake test penalty?

The stewards investigation was under Article 2 Chapter IV Appendix L of the Sporting Code.

This deals with a driver’s conduct while out on track.

The stewards found that Verstappen put 69 bar of pressure into the brake pedal and a deacceleration force of 2.4g was measured.

It was a clear brake test of Hamilton, who fortunately realised the situation and did not go ploughing into the rear of the Red Bull at high speed.

Verstappen tried to follow his team’s advice to give the place back “strategically” by allowing Hamilton to pass so the Red Bull could get DRS on the pit-straight and re-pass the Mercedes.

This was acknowledged by the stewards, but they still handed Verstappen the 10s penalty for brake testing Hamilton.

Has it happened before?

Such is the rarity of a brake test in F1, there is only one other example in recent years.

It came at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, although it was not adjudged to have been a brake test by the stewards.

Hamilton was leading under a safety car, as the race prepared to resume.

The Briton slowed up, as was his right on the exit of Turn 15 to prepare the process of the restart.

Sebastian Vettel was caught unawares and rear-ended the Mercedes.

He then drove his Ferrari alongside and hit Hamilton in protest.

Hamilton did not brake test Vettel – who was given a 10s stop and go penalty for dangerous driving for hitting the side of the #44.

EXPLANIED: What is the red light at the rear of F1 cars?

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.