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Lando Norris and Sergio Perez clash over Fernando Alonso ‘brake test’

Alonso received a 20-second time penalty at the 2024 Australian GP for a last-lap incident with George Russell

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Lando Norris believes that Fernando Alonso’s “brake test” at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix was “odd”, but declares that it wasn’t a brake test compared to incidents such as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in 2021, although Sergio Perez completely disagrees.

Alonso produced an unusual approach to braking on the final lap of the race at the Albert Park Circuit as he aimed to defend his position from George Russell’s Mercedes, who was close behind and within the DRS detection zone.

He braked early for the corner and then braked again before taking the corner, in what he said was an attempt to maximise his exit speed in preparation to defend on the long back straight to protect sixth place with just a few corners to go.

But the result of it saw Russell close in too quickly and lose control of his car, swerving off into the barriers after trying to catch a snap of oversteer, bringing his race to an end as Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag to win for Ferrari.

The action split the paddock and fans worldwide as they argued over the legality and ethics of what the Spanish Aston Martin driver tried to do, with some considering it erratic whilst others asserted that Russell should have been more prepared, and Norris somewhat straddled both of these lines.

“What Fernando did was odd, like so extreme,” Norris said to media ahead of the 2024 Japanese GP. “But I don’t think it’s even close to being regarded as a brake test.

“Did he brake and downshift? I don’t know the exact details of it. Should it be a penalty in any way? No. George, in my opinion, should have seen it coming. I don’t want to comment too much on it, but George had time to see what was going on.”

Norris added: “That kind of thing shouldn’t have been a penalty. If it’s clear he’s in front, like Max and Hamilton [2021 Saudi Arabian GP], that’s a brake test. This was not a brake test. This was just trying to play very smart.

“This was Fernando being Fernando and being caught out by it. It was not aggressive, it was not like you’re in front of a car and you’re stopping, he was like a hundred metres ahead and slowed down and the approaching speed just caught George off [guard].”

Future implications scare Perez

Meanwhile, Red Bull‘s Checo Perez warned of the risk of this happening in the future as he declared that Alonso was over the limit in the realms of acceptability, and the Mexican felt it was an unnecessary manoeuvre.

The incident did, however, leave him feeling confused about the consistency of the FIA stewards as he worried that a repeat of the incident may happen in the future, without punishment, as he pointed to previous examples of the F1 rule-makers changing their minds.

George Russell's Mercedes after crash at 2024 Australian GP | F1
George Russell’s Mercedes after crash at 2024 Australian GP | F1

“My take is that he was definitely a bit too much over the limit,” Perez said to media on Thursday. “I’d say it’s a bit unnecessary to do so, but my biggest fear is we might see this incident again this weekend or next weekend and probably nothing would happen.

“That’s my biggest fear, because we’ve been struggling a lot to keep consistency within the penalties. For example, in Jeddah [Saudi Arabia], they blocked [Valtteri] Bottas in Q1 at 200/300kph, two cars. [Oliver] Bearman and [Alex] Albon, no penalty.

“I blocked [Nico] Hulkenberg, he lost half a tenth, he goes faster on the lap after and I get three-places [grid drop] so I think the biggest talking point should be consistency. If incidents like this are going to be penalised, they have to be penalised every single weekend. As a driver, it hurts if you work you’re a** off and you see this inconsistency.”

What did the stewards decide?

The stewards took over three hours to decide their thoughts on the matter, suggesting they felt it was a complicated situation and there was much deliberation on what happened and if there was any malicious or serious wrongdoing involved in a panel including an F1 race winner in Johnny Herbert.

But in the end, they issued the Spaniard with a drive-through penalty converted into a 20-second penalty citing a breach of Article 33.4 of the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, which discusses drivers going unnecessarily slowly.

After hearing from both drivers, reviewing marshalling data, video and telemetry data, the stewards accepted there was no contact between the cars but said that Alonso lifted 100m before the corner braked slightly and downshifted, something he didn’t do on any of the preceding 57 laps.

Fernando Alonso during 2024 Australian GP | Aston Martin F1 Team
Fernando Alonso during 2024 Australian GP | Aston Martin F1 Team

“Should Alonso have the right to try a different approach to the corner? – yes,” the FIA said in a decision document. “Should Alonso be responsible for dirty air, that ultimately caused the incident? – no.

“However, did he choose to do something, with whatever intent, that was extraordinary, ie lifting, braking, downshifting and all the other elements of the manoeuvre over 100m earlier than previously, and much greater than was needed to simply slow earlier for the corner?

“Yes. By his own account of the incident he did, and in the opinion of the stewards by doing these things, he drove in a manner that was at very least “potentially dangerous” given the very high speed nature of that point of the track.”

The FIA added: “In this case we consider that Alonso affirmatively choosing to perform an unusual manoeuvre at this point to be an aggravating circumstance, as opposed to a simple mistake.

“The stewards therefore order a drive through penalty, which will be converted to 20 seconds added to Car 14’s elapsed time, along with three penalty points.”

The decision dropped Alonso from sixth to eighth, promoting his Aston Martin teammate, Lance Stroll, to sixth and Yuki Tsunoda to seventh. The driver and team agreed they did not want to challenge the decision.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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