Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

The changes that will help Mercedes avoid more 'magic button' trouble

Lewis Hamilton's magic button fumble in Baku may have been a rare mistake from the seven-time Formula 1 world champion, but Mercedes says it can do more to help him.

The changes that will help Mercedes avoid more 'magic button' trouble

The Briton had surged into the lead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the red flag restart, but he slid down the Turn 1 escape road after a triggering of his 'brake magic' system moved all the braking force to his front wheels.

While Hamilton immediately confessed to his error, Mercedes says it cannot shirk its own responsibilities in providing a car that is more foolproof.

Mercedes' technology director Mike Elliott admitted as much in the team's post race debrief video.

"Lewis makes so few mistakes and that's what really sets him apart from some of the other drivers" said Elliott.

"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."

The likely solution for this weekend's French GP may well be a simple one, such as a software change or a protective guard over the magic button, but Hamilton may also need to slightly revise the placing of his hands.

Hamilton's hand position during race starts has come under the spotlight, as the Briton regularly holds the upper left hand corner of the steering wheel as he operates the clutch paddle with his right hand.

Mercedes AMG F1 W12, steering wheel back of Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes AMG F1 W12, steering wheel back of Lewis Hamilton

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This means the 'brake magic' button, in the upper corner of the Mercedes wheel, is so agonisingly close to his hand during race starts – and it may explain how it was so easy to trigger during the ultra short blast to Turn 1 at Baku from the race start.

As Elliott explained: "He made a fantastic start. He got himself up alongside Perez and 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."

Although the Baku error was the first time that the brake magic was visibly accidentally deployed, the process of moving the brake balance in such a way is not a new thing.

Hamilton has had the same steering wheel configuration since 2019, with a single wishbone clutch paddle favoured over the twin paddle arrangement he had prior to that.

The new hand position on the upper corner of the wheel for race starts coincided with the new paddle arrangement, and is clearly something that helps with clutch feel and control given that the FIA eradicated bite point finders a few years prior.

Mercedes W12 steering wheel, rear view

Mercedes W12 steering wheel, rear view

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Valtteri Bottas has persevered with the shorter paddle arrangement, meaning he can operate the clutch with either of the paddles during a race start.

What is brake magic?

The brake magic function essentially toggles the brake bias forward in a much larger increment than the drivers would ordinarily select.

The drivers normally have their bias set anywhere between 50-60% forward, depending on the prevailing corner they are approaching.

They can adjust this in various ways and increments via the brake balance buttons and rotary switches on the steering wheel.

Meanwhile, software coordinates the amount of braking force completed at the rear of the car by the traditional brakes, based on how much energy is being recovered by the MGU-K.

Mercedes W12 steering wheel detail

Mercedes W12 steering wheel detail

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

When brake magic is deployed, the brake balance is shifted almost entirely to the front brakes and so Hamilton inadvertently selected around 90 percent forward brake bias, which caused the front brakes to lock and left him no alternative but to run wide in the first corner.

Brake magic is considered a preparation tool and provides the driver with a means of priming the front tyres, something that is even more critical this season given the change in construction and profile, which has led to a larger offset between the front and rear tyres.

Heat generated by the brakes is radiated through the brake drum into the wheel rim and increases the bulk tyre temperature as a consequence.

This is obviously complicated by the team's use of the brake assembly as an aerodynamic aid, with some of the airflow bypassing the brakes.

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 brake flow

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 brake flow

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

However, with brake magic enabled there's more than enough heat being generated to optimise the tyre's temperatures during a formation lap, which is what Hamilton had planned and why the brakes appeared to be smoking whilst he waited for the race to get underway.

The drivers have access to all sorts of information on their steering wheel display, with one of those options being a temperature readout for each tyre, which aids the driver in meeting their desired target temperature using various methods, including weaving, conventional braking or brake magic.

shares
comments

Related video

2021 Formula 1 French Grand Prix session timings and preview

Previous article

2021 Formula 1 French Grand Prix session timings and preview

Next article

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness
Load comments
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Prime

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall...

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Prime

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Prime

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed.

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Prime

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Prime

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Callum Ilott what Red Bull couldn't Prime

How Ferrari offered Callum Ilott what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says Oleg Karpov, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Prime

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says Mark Gallagher, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors.

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021