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What is a flat-spot in F1 after Max Verstappen Abu Dhabi qualifying drama?

Jake Nichol December 11, 2021
Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

Max Verstappen will be at both an advantage and disadvantage in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after suffering a flat spot in qualifying, forcing him to start the race on different tyres to Lewis Hamilton, but what actually is a flat spot in F1?

The crucial moment for Red Bull’s Verstappen came in the second segment of qualifying at Yas Marina.

Traditionally, faster cars such as the Red Bull or Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes will try to get through to the pole position shootout on the medium tyres.

This opens up more strategy opportunities for a team, as opposed to starting on the soft tyres – which wear out much quicker, but give a better launch from the line.

But Verstappen suffered a flat spot in Q2 on his medium tyres, forcing a rethink from Red Bull.

What actually is a flat spot in F1, and how will the Abu Dhabi race start be affected because of Verstappen suffering one in qualifying?

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Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

Flat spot in F1 explained

Drivers suffer a flat spot on their tyres after they have locked up their brakes.

They have either braked too hard or too late in trying to make a corner, and the wheel and tyre under-rotate.

This gives the puff of smoke from the front tyre affected by the lock-up that can sometimes be seen.

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F1 2021 | October Free Content Updates Trailer

The result of this is a flat spot on the tyre.

It is essentially a heavily worn area of the tyre.

Because the surface of the tyre has now become damaged, it causes severe vibrations.

Depending on the size of the lock-up and flat-spot, drivers sometimes pit immediately for a fresh set of tyres after suffering a flat spot.

It was a lock-up which sent Verstappen into the barrier at the end of qualifying in Jeddah after his storming final lap.

He suffered a brief lock-up on the entry to the final corner, and ended up clouting the barrier with the rear of the car.

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Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

How does it affect the Abu Dhabi GP?

Verstappen was going for a second push lap on his set of medium compound Pirelli tyres, when he heavily locked up at Turn 1.

Red Bull then elected to send him back out again, but on a set of soft compound tyres, topping the segment.

It will give Verstappen a faster launch off the grid, thanks to the softer compound of rubber, but the tyre will wear out faster than Hamilton’s mediums.

Verstappen stuck the Red Bull on pole, and Hamilton will ride shotgun on the front row for the winner-takes-all showdown between the two.

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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, 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.