It wasn’t immediately clear how Lewis Hamilton failed to make the first turn following the late race restart at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks ago, though we quickly learned the reason for the error after the race. Hamilton had triggered the “brake magic” function on his W12's steering wheel, which adjusted his brake bias entirely toward the car’s front wheels and caused the fateful lock up.
Brake magic, which sounds less like a setting on an F1 car and more like a brake fluid additive, is controlled with a tiny button located on the backside of the Mercedes’ steering wheel, in the upper-left corner. It’s thought that Hamilton accidentally nudged it while tightly gripping the wheel to dodge Sergio Perez’s Red Bull in the approach to Turn 1.
So how will Mercedes address this problem, to make sure the seven-time world champion doesn’t repeat that error? Block it off with some extra material.
“We haven’t moved it, we’ve just put a shroud around it just to make sure that you can’t — I can’t — accidentally touch it in future,” Hamilton said ahead of this weekend’s French Grand Prix, per Motorsport.com.
It was pretty amusing to watch Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff absolve his driver of all blame for the incident in the post-race interview with Sky Sports. “It can’t be called a mistake,” Wolff said, even though just about any rational person would agree accidentally pressing a button you don’t mean to press fits the simplest definition of a mistake. Wolff later had a different name for Hamilton’s not-mistake: “a finger problem.”
It’s a good thing Mercedes placed that shroud there, then, to protect against any totally intentional activations of the brake magic system in the future. Hamilton went on to say in his interview that the team may look to move that button somewhere else on the wheel for next year’s car. As for now, he and his teammate will simply have to be extra careful not to create any finger problems for the remainder of 2021.