Mercedes says it plans to fix its ‘brake magic’ procedure that cost Lewis Hamilton a potential victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of the next race.
Following a late red flag period to clear debris from Max Verstappen’s tyre failure, Hamilton sat second on the grid as drivers took a second standing restart with two laps remaining.
The seven-time world champion got a great launch and momentarily gained the lead from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez going into Turn 1, before a lock-up saw him run straight on down the run-off area.
The mistake was a missed opportunity for Hamilton to regain the lead in the drivers’ championship and brought an end to his streak of scoring points in his last 54 races.
Mercedes has adopted a ‘brake magic’ button to help drivers generate temperature into the brakes, which Mercedes revealed Hamilton accidentally switched on when avoiding Perez’s change of direction to try and cover his position.
“At the beginning of the race we are not actually allowed to talk to the drivers,” Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott explained in the team’s post-race video debrief.
“We can’t talk them through the settings they need to change. As a result of that we try and simplify things as much as we possibly can. We try to produce tools the drivers can use, that reduces the workload they have to go through because there is a huge amount for them to do.
“One of the buttons we’ve got, it’s called ‘brake magic’, to be honest, I don’t know why we call it ‘brake magic’, is a button that the drivers can press and that allows them to get heat into the brakes.
“One of the big things it does is it moves the brake balance, so the proportion of the front brake energy to the rear brake energy all the way as far forward as we can get it and that allows us to put heat into the front brakes and therefore heat into the rims and into the tyres.
“Lewis had done all the right things, he got the car to the grid, he switched off the various buttons and settings he needed to switch off, switched on the ones he needed to switch on, it was all set to start the race properly.
“He made a fantastic start, he got himself up alongside Perez. As he and Perez were sort of shuffling position, Lewis swerved and in the process of swerving he just clipped the magic button and unfortunately he didn’t feel he had done it.
“He had completely no awareness he was going to have a problem. The point he then braked, which was the normal point for him to brake, he was in the position where he got all of the brake balance shifted forward, which put all of the load through the front tyres and as a consequence they locked and from that point there was nothing that he could do than go wide.”
Hamilton eventually finished 15th, marking the first time since Spain 2013 he’d finished a race outside the points.
He immediately apologised and took responsibility for the error, but Elliot admitted Mercedes must also take part of the blame and revealed it will look to improve its procedures in time for the French Grand Prix.
“I know speaking to Lewis yesterday that Lewis sort of feels a chunk of blame for that, but the reality is Lewis makes so few mistakes and that’s what really sets him apart from some of the other drivers,” Elliott said.
“It’s our duty to try and give him a car where it’s more difficult for him to make mistakes. We need to take our share of that, look at how we can improve that and that’s something we will put in place for the next race.”