Explained: The Controversies Behind Brake-Testing in Formula 1.
Max Verstappen got a 10-second penalty after he was found guilty of the “erratic” braking on lap 37 in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton called him out for brake-testing on him which resulted in a collision between the two championship protagonists.
The concept is frowned upon in Formula 1, and we’ve seen similar instances in the past as well. During the Jeddah GP, the Mercedes driver tried to gain an advantage on Verstappen by going around the outside. However, the Dutchman retained his position by cutting across the corner.
So he was instructed by the race director to give up the spot to Hamilton strategically. However, his sudden slamming of the brakes caught Hamilton off guard and the two cars collided. This caused damage to Hamilton’s front wing, but he still managed to win the race leaving the Red Bull behind.
Formula 1 is an expeditious sport, and a minacious one as well. Although speed drives the sport, it can cause as much harm if the driver is caught off guard. Brake-testing sort of works this way. The leader dictates the pace in F1 but if any driver slams the brakes without reasonable justification, it gets difficult for the driver behind, who needs to take evasive actions to avoid any contact.
However, in most cases of brake testing, the driver close behind is caught off guard, and a collision becomes a rule rather than an exception. Owing to the inherent danger of brake-testing, it is a rare sight in the sport.
Beyond its consequences and threatening nature, there still have been a few instances of brake testing in the sport. The latest one is during the Jeddah GP where Max Verstappen allegedly hit the brakes too hard and Hamilton collided with him amidst the “confusion.”
“Well, I didn’t get the information so I didn’t really understand what was going on. It was very, very confusing,” said Hamilton about the incident as reported by PlanetF1.
A similar incident happened at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix involving Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Vettel accused him of Brake testing while exiting on turn 15 under the safety car and the two cars made contact. Things got ugly, and the German hit him on the side with his Ferrari as a retaliation. Vettel was given a penalty by the FIA for dangerous driving.
If we go further back in the day, Michael Schumacher accused British driver David Coulthard of brake-testing him in Spa 1998. The German got furious when he ran into Coulthard during a heavy spray screaming, “Are you to f****** kill me?”. Later, the stewards gave a clean chit to Coulthard. He accepted that crash was his fault because he lifted to let him pass in a heavy spray.
Brake-testing is condemned in the motorsports world for all the right reasons and must be avoided by the drivers in any scenario for not just the safety of their own car, but for other drivers as well.