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 “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Prime

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Prime

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season Prime

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as Stuart Codling finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1 Prime

How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. Nigel Roebuck recalls a remarkable champion.

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022
How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam Prime

How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam

George Russell joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this year gives it arguably the best line-up in Formula 1 – if it can avoid too many fireworks. After serving his apprenticeship at Williams, Russell is the man that Mercedes team believes can lead it in the post-Hamilton era, but how will he fare against the seven-time champion? Motorsport.com heard from the man himself

Formula 1
Jan 6, 2022
How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications Prime

How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications

OPINION: The Formula 1 season just gone was the second to be completed under the dreaded shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in many ways it was much more ‘normal’ than 2020. Here’s the story of how the championship’s various organisers delivered a second challenging campaign, which offers a glimpse at what may be different next time around

Formula 1
Jan 5, 2022
The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future Prime

The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future

As attitudes towards the motor car and what powers it change, Formula 1 must adapt its offering. Mark Gallagher ponders the end of fossil fuels

Formula 1
Jan 3, 2022