Formula 1

What Alonso was really doing with Hamilton 'brake test'

by Jack Benyon, Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Fernando Alonso's and Lewis Hamilton's late-race Abu Dhabi Grand Prix flashpoint had Hamilton accusing Alonso of "brake testing" him - but the Aston Martin driver's motivation was almost certainly a different one.

After emerging from a pitstop, Alonso looked to his right, moved to the right of the track and then slowed down significantly on the approach to the hairpin at Turn 5.

Those actions were analysed by Sky Sports F1’s Anthony Davidson, who was able to zoom in on Alonso’s steering wheel which showed a drop in speed despite Alonso being on the straight where his car should have been accelerating.

As the drop in speed coincided with the DRS detection line, it's likely that Alonso was trying to allow Hamilton by before that line so that he would have the advantage of attacking Hamilton on the straight after Turn 5 with the addition of DRS.

Hamilton would not be drawn into expanding on his in-race radio accusations of brake testing after the race.

“Well, we’re 300m or 400m before the corner, doing 180mph and all of a sudden, [he] slows down drastically,” is all he could muster.

Speaking about the incident after the race, Alonso referred to DRS, and a similar incident in 2012 in the Canadian GP.

It’s likely he actually meant 2013, when he drew alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes but then slowed his Ferrari before the DRS detection point exiting Turn 9, to give himself the DRS to blast by Hamilton on the following straight.

“In both cases, I won, so it’s OK,” said Alonso.

Asked for what he had to say in response to Hamilton’s brake-testing accusations, Alonso replied: “Nothing.

“Obviously Lewis is very clever, understands the sport really good and has a lot of experience. But I have more.”

While it’s likely Alonso was being typically mischievous and said this with an undercurrent of humour, ultimately he wasn’t making use of greater experience because his attempt to slow and let Hamilton by failed, with Hamilton taking the position at Turn 6 before Alonso repassed Hamilton at the same corner the following lap.

The stewards elected not to penalise Alonso for the incident, but it does beg the question as to how safe or not the practice is. After all, Alonso still slowed unexpectedly with Hamilton approaching at speed from behind.

At least in the 2013 incident, Alonso was alongside and then slowed to drop behind Hamilton, whereas this instance was closer to the infamous 2021 Saudi Arabia spat between Hamilton and Max Verstappen where, initially, Verstappen all but stopped in front of Hamilton and was penalised 10 seconds for his trouble.

Alonso was at least still moving at significant speed in Sunday’s race. And given his laid-back and even humorous approach to answering questions on the topic, Alonso doesn’t appear to have worries about the safety element of this incident.

Alonso was able to scarper up the road to take seventh, passing Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda after Hamilton, despite also drawing attention to himself by complaining that he had the slowest car on the straights.

That earned him fourth in the drivers' championship on countback by virtue of having scored more third-place finishes than Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton meanwhile tried a last-lap lunge on Tsunoda at Turn 9 that did not come off, as Hamilton got a huge snap of oversteer he had to correct.

After a difficult weekend in Vegas and then ending up over three-tenths adrift of George Russell and out of Q2 on Saturday with the same set-up as his team-mate, Hamilton was in no mood to give in-depth answers after the race.

A combination of his own struggles with the W14 and watching Max Verstappen drive off into the distance, combined with Alonso’s antics, did nothing to appease the seven-time champion.

“I just finished ninth, two really bad races [in a row], Red Bull won by 17 seconds and they’ve not touched the car since August or July,” said Hamilton.

“So you can pretty much guess where they’re going to be next year.”

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