Max Verstappen was given a 10-second time penalty in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following the latest in a series of clashes between himself and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
Did the stewards take the correct decision over this unusual and controversial incident, in which Hamilton accused Verstappen of ‘brake-testing’ him?
Verstappen received the instruction to change positions when he was around turn 22. He lessened his acceleration on the run to turn 27 to begin with, allowing Hamilton to close. The Mercedes driver also slowed, and Verstappen decelerated further. Hamilton swerved to avoid the Red Bull but hit the rear-left tyre with the right-hand side of his front wing.
According to the stewards, Verstappen “braked suddenly (69 bar) and significantly, resulting in 2.4G deceleration.”
How it happened
What they said
In the cars
Following the contact Verstappen was again told: “Give it back”. Lambiase continued: “I don’t know what’s going on here, Max. We tried to let him past. He’s not going past.”
“Yeah, check my tyre,” Verstappen replied, referring to the contact.
Hamilton was told “they’re asking Max to swap positions” as the pair made contact.
“He just brake-tested me, I don’t know what’s going on,” Hamilton reported back on the radio. “It’s just dangerous driving, dude.”
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After the race
Verstappen blamed a “miscommunication” for the collision:
At one point they told me I had to give the position back. That was I think just before 22. So after 22-23, I went to drive to the right side and I slowed down and I was braking and downshifting and he just stayed super-close behind me and I don’t really understand why. I was just trying to let him by.
“I’m just going slower and slower, pulling the downshift. We had, I don’t know, a miscommunication or whatever and he ran into the back of me and that was it.
Hamilton said he hesitated to pass Verstappen because he did not want to be the first of the two to reach the DRS detection line, as it would allow his rival to easily re-pass him:
There’s two scenarios: There’s one, that it wasn’t clear; two, I didn’t get the information [that he was letting me past].
Then it became apparent that he was trying to let me pass, which was what he, I guess, had been asked to do, but before the DRS zone. And so then that maybe would mean he would just DRS back past me coming through the last corner, following me in and then DRS’ing me into turn one. So that was a tactic.
But I think really the worst part was just the steep, heavy braking that then happened at one point, that’s that’s why we collided. That was the dangerous part.
The incident in pictures
The official verdict
The stewards’ interpretation of the collision was they believed Verstappen was trying to let Hamilton pass him before the DRS detection line ahead of turn 27. However Hamilton was reluctant to pass him there, as doing so would have allowed Verstappen to use DRS to re-pass him.
“It was obvious that neither driver wanted to take the lead prior to DRS detection line three,” the stewards observed.
“Whilst accepting that the driver of car 44 [Hamilton] could have overtaken car 33 [Verstappen] when that car first slowed, we understand why he (and the driver of car 33) did not wish to be the first to cross the DRS,” they added.
However the stewards felt Verstappen went too far with his final attempt to provoke Hamilton to pass him. “In deciding to penalise the driver of car 33, the key point for the stewards was that the driver of car 33 then braked suddenly (69 bar) and significantly, resulting in 2.4G deceleration.”
“The sudden braking by the driver of car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic and hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident, is imposed,” they added.
The stewards ruled Verstappen “braked in a manner which caused a collision” with Hamilton and broke article 2(e) of chapter four, appendix L of the International Sporting Code which states: “It is not permitted to drive any car unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time.”
He was given a 10-second time penalty – which did not alter his original finishing position of second place – and two penalty points on his licence.
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Was Verstappen's penalty for the collision with Hamilton harsh, lenient or correct?
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