Hamilton reveals he hit button by mistake in race-losing restart error

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton owned up to a steering wheel error at the restart of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which cost him a chance to win the race.

The Mercedes driver lined up for a two-lap restart at the end of the race in second place, with his brakes smoking heavily. He got off the line quicker than Sergio Perez, who started from pole position, and was trying to pass him on the inside of turn one when he locked up and ran wide.

Hamilton was heard on his radio discussing an error with his “brake magic” setting after the race. He revealed he had accidentally hit a crucial switch while drawing alongside Perez.

“Just on that restart, I think when Checo moved over towards me, I clipped a switch and it basically switches the brakes off, so I just went straight.”

He said he “had no idea that I’d even touched it” but it was confirmed to him by race engineer, Pete Bonnington, after the race. Bonnington told him “the magic was on.”

A surprised Hamilton said he’d switched the brake-warming setting off behind the Safety Car. Bonnington confirmed that he must have switched it back on accidentally.

“It’s very hard to take,” Hamilton admitted. “But mostly [I’m] just really sorry to the men and women in the team who have worked so hard for these points. But, we’ll regroup and come back stronger.”

“Naturally, it’s quite a humbling experience, to be honest,” he added. “We’ve worked so hard this weekend to come back. [We were] out of the top ten, and it was looking so good.

“You know, I put everything on the line and I fought as hard as I could today.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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90 comments on “Hamilton reveals he hit button by mistake in race-losing restart error”

  1. Thanks for making me cry Lewis when I saw you went off. It’s nice to have that feeling after a long time. This season will go down to the wire and who makes the less mistakes.

    1. Probably, but the one that is making mistakes is lewis.
      For Toto: Its a stretch to call the crossing of a white line a mistake and forget the increasing serious mistakes lewis makes.

      Until today lady Luck camped on Lewis shoulders but it seems even she likes other venues.

      1. In few races time we can see a mercedes driver parachuting towards the pitwall from the sky.

        toto” what happened we can not see u on the track”
        hamilton” I clipped a switch and it basically switches the seat ejection system”

        1. Ahah, that would be fun!

      2. @erikje
        That’s why Lewis is on the Verge if His 8th World Title πŸ˜€

      3. “Luck camped on Lewis shoulders but it seems even she likes other venues.”

        If I remember correctly in 2016 Hamilton had a electronic problem in Baku. I believe the issue was his engine map was not programmed as he expected. He spent over half the race with reduced power then corrected the problem and was the fastest on track.

        One could argue that mistake alone might have cost him the championship. Time will tell if the same thing has happened again.

        1. The same problem was on Rosbergs car. He found the error within 1 lap…

          1. “Nico had made a change during the race that caused the issue,” said a Mercedes spokesperson. “So when told it was an issue with the mode, as permitted by FIA, he switched back out of it.

            “Lewis had the setting from start of race and it was not obvious that this setting was causing the problem. The fundamental problem is on our heads as it was a configuration not working properly, not the driver’s fault.
            But the radio rules complicated things drastically: without this, it would have been solved immediately.”
            https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/36571236

          2. @cdfemke Same problem, but Rosberg caused the issue himself by selecting that setting so he could simply undo what he did. Hamilton was given the car with the incorrect setting so he didn’t know what it was.

    2. Yep. It’s been so status quo it’s catching everybody off guard. Oops pushed the wrong button and many more ‘pressure’ mistakes to come. Congrats to Perez. His workman style is panning out. Great race.

      1. My question is it really a mistake? Or was it done on purpose? Lewis all races had been asking about the crashes and how the drivers were doing. Seeing his biggest rival in a very long time lose points that way would of probably discouraged that great fight they had been having. So lewis might of pushed the button by mistake. To keep the challenge and competition going a bit longer.

        Reply moderated
  2. Hamilton may look back at this race in December as the moment he lost the championship. Good on him to admit the mistake as it would have been easy to blame the car.

    1. @f1frog Or Max. Either one of them could look at this race as such in December.

      1. Tommy Scragend
        6th June 2021, 17:18

        The difference being that Hamilton’s mistake was his and his alone. Verstappen’s tyre failure was not of his own doing.

    2. If u rewatch the 2nd start u can easily see how perez tricked hamilton for late brake that makes hamilton to take a smoking travel towards out of the pist.

      1. “Tricked”? He almost rammed him.
        Very soon Zak Brown will witness the crash he foresaw

  3. What does a button do which ‘turns off the brakes’?

    1. It’s a setting that moves the bias aggressively forward @hahostolze
      It is used on preparation laps in practice and qualifying and on formation laps or behind the safety car in the race to generate tyre temperature.

      1. @paulguitar Thanks for the explanation. The question that remains for me is whether it’s so easy to activate with one (accidental) touch, and if so, why? There should be at least a ‘confirm’ option to avoid the described situation, surely?

        1. @david-br
          I have no idea on this particular one but there some other settings that requires some pre-conditions to be activated. This can be extremely dangerous to lose your brakes at ~300 Kph. Maybe Hamilton was already into the correct realms to accidentally activate the ‘brake magic’ setting. For example Start/restart engine mode or something similar.

          1. That’s what I imagined @tifoso1989 sounds like one of those unfortunate sequences of events and errors

          2. It’s all rubbish again …. We can see where this is going to …. Hamilton can’t be seen to have made a rookie error , so we blame a button …. Not the driver ……. And Toto will come out and say that they need to investigate how that button came in by itself …. What should also be asked by the FIA is why they have a driver aid to assist in warming the brakes and tyres when driver AIDS are not allowed ?!

          3. @tifoso1989 They use it on restarts from SCs apparently as well so it needs to be something that can be turned on without too much difficulty.

          4. Craig white,
            I was just discussing the technicalities with the folks. I’m far from being a Hamilton fan :)

          5. @craigwhite – maybe they should do away with steering wheels and pedals too? Driver aids, no? Moving brake bias and utilising different regen settings are absolutely allowed.

          6. @randommallard
            Indeed, then they must be on Safety Car/restarts engine settings.

      2. @paulguitar thanks! That’s very insightful.

      3. @paulguitar @david-br @hahostolze
        He (Bottas too) has two ways of altering brake balance. Tailormade black BB+ and BB- buttons on the bottom and a rotary switch on the right-hand side between the dash and handle. Whichever he accidentally hit, he threw up a chance of re-taking the championship lead, LOL.

        1. @jerejj Definitely a costly mistake. I mean I’ve spammed the wrong button and blown myself up plenty of times on the X-box controller, but there’s that and real life…

          1. Yeah, it seems likely that button will be moved after today!

          2. @david-br
            A small movement to a sidestick controller of a passenger aircraft caused it to stall and fall out of sky killing all 228 passengers and crew (AF 447).

  4. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    6th June 2021, 17:19

    Not that F1 steering wheels have a lot of area on them, it is surprising they have this switch, capable of sending you into the barriers, in a place where it is possible to flick it on accidentally. Surely they’ll reconsider the positioning for future races.

    1. Yeah I was surprised that this is a possibility too. I presume it is very unlikely since it has never happened before as far as I’m aware, but maybe something to do with the positioning of the hands during a race start? It was brought up recently that Lewis’ left hand rests on top of the steering wheel in order to feed the clutch in on race starts so I wonder if this is related to knocking the ‘magic l’ switch.

      1. @keithedin Is that why Lewis keeps his left hand hanging above the steering wheel on race starts? I haven’t heard or read about this, but have wondered ever since I first noticed him doing so, although he’s only done this since around Monza 2019. Definitely not throughout his F1 career as otherwise, I would’ve noticed earlier. No one else does this, only him.

        1. @jerejj I believe so but I’m not sure I can find where I heard about this. I have a feeling it came from Nico Rosberg mentioning it, which could have been on Sky or maybe his Youtube channel. Maybe someone else will remember if I can’t find it easily.

          1. @jerejj If I’m allowed to put this link here – this thread might have some info in there (unreliable as reddit can be). Seems he might have started doing this hand positioning at starts for the 2019 season.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/F1Technical/comments/dzmydo/did_anyone_notice_lewis_hand_position_during_the/

    2. I bet it’s an on/off button and Lewis did the classic double-tap.
      I might have done the same thing turning my TV on that morning, I think I also lost 8 seconds.

  5. It would be ironic if this turned out to be the error that cost Hamilton the championship, as it would be the second title he lost by pushing a steering wheel button in error.

    But, there is a long way to go and it’s honours even as far as the championship is concerned. More likely this error will be an irrelevant footnote in the course of the championship.

    1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      6th June 2021, 17:23

      Which was the first?

    2. @red-andy His China pit entry error was due to extremely worn tyres rather than accidentally pressing a wrong button, although the following race he inadvertently (allegedly at least) activated pit limiter, so I assume this is your reference.

      1. @jerejj Yes, I was thinking of Brazil that year.

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    6th June 2021, 17:26

    It happens! It just shows you how difficult it is to be perfect in this sport. One wrong touch and you lose the race…

    1. Do you really believe there is switch which is turning off the break system in a race car and if there is they placed it such a silly place that u can hit it by mistake. It really looks more like a conspiracy theory.

      A wonder if there is a destroy the car switch against the agents taking over the car?

      1. I’m sure you already know this but the ‘Brake Magic’ that Mercedes have has been on the car since the introduction of the brake by wire (BBW) systems at the rear of the cars, and is a setting they use that effectively switches off the rear brakeing system to put as much energy as possible into the front brakes. It is used solely in preparation for launches / restarts to prepare the front brakes and tyres.

        So yes, toggling this system on at racing speeds is the racing equivalent of switching the brakes off.

        Reply moderated
      2. Conspiracy isn’t the word you’re looking for. Please try again.

      3. It would hardly be the first time steering wheel settings destroyed races. It’s not that rare of an event.

        Good for my lad Seb either way, too bad Perez’s car held out.

      4. No it is exactly the right word just try to reread and understand.

      5. Yes, you are right. Its a conspiracy. Obviously involving Scarbs putting up a doctored shot on Twitter from inside an older Mercedes with the safety car/standing start set up instructions pasted in the car. Davidson saying on Sky during commentary what likely happened once the words magic was mentioned. And a brilliant bit of obviously previously scripted team radio between Bono and Ham during the hot end of the race that spoke about the switch being off at the start and being switched on by Hams upshift movement. It is clearly a conspiracy between Mercedes, Sky, an independent technical journalist and others. No more than 100 people tops. And I wonder how many times they had all practiced this over the last 8 years to get the story straight and broadcast it within minutes of it happening? (On the odd occasion it might happen sometime in Hamilton’s Mercedes career.)
        Like a few others on here I’m sure you and they will ignore the facts, logic and common sense to carry on spouting complete twaddle on the matter.

      6. well here’s a video showing how the brake magic button being operated in action… so yes I really believe it was Hamilton’s error hitting that button…

        Reply moderated
  7. That’s a very costly mistake, but somehow it makes it look somewhat better than if he had simply misjudged the corner.
    It happened, it’s done. They’re close and their car is good to keep up in the title fight.

    Time to move on.

    1. I agree it’s better than if he’d just misjudged the corner, like through old age, but it’s an error in design that shouldn’t have happened if the team had a human factors engineer. And same with Bottas’ wheel gun alignment – the operator should never have allowed his right hand to get underneath the gun, which would always tend to lift the back end of the gun and pull it out of horizontal. It’s quite a surprise if they don’t have one.

  8. This headline must have meant something else totally in 2016..

    Reply moderated
  9. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    6th June 2021, 17:59

    He’s usually benefitting from near spooky levels of good luck, and for a moment there in this race alone he looked like he was going to yet again – so to have a rare, very rare moment of things not going well is probably strange for him.

    1. Luck balances out over a career. It’s far more to do with being brilliant than being ‘lucky’.

      1. Really, Imola this year.. was on purpose then?
        Silverstone on three wheels… planned.
        etc
        etc

        But it only shows he is human and as such makes mistakes all by himself
        (something fans and even lewis often seems to ignore)

      2. You’d think. But check Hamiltons career. Luckiest ever in the best cars ever. No one else has the amount of luck this guy has

        1. Agree with the luck thing, especially the car but also reliability wise.

        2. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes is the unbeliavable stuff he gets away with (and nobody else would). Stuff like the German crane, or the Mexican cross-country

      3. Luck balances out over a career

        That’s a perfectly well known fallacy (check “drunkard’s walk” in any decent math/stats textbook, or even the Wikipedia). Totally untrue. As silly as believing that a series of reds at the roulette increases the possibility that the next one will be black

    2. @rocketpanda How is Hamilton lucky? He lost two championships due to un-luck and plenty races. Hamilton gets a flat tyre and once he’s lucky that he can still finish and that his opponent decided not to go for the win, but for fastest lap instead (especially the latter already negates it as luck, but as a choice). Plus Hamilton has had several where he was out of the race too though.

      1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
        7th June 2021, 10:43

        How is Hamilton lucky? You really need a list? Just in this race alone he went from falling further behind in the championship to pulling out a points lead larger than that he’d have lost and he did nothing to achieve it. I’d say that’s pretty lucky. Granted he threw that away himself but that’s not the point here – the point is events went his way whether he tried or not.

        Imola, skates off into the gravel but manages to escape, albeit a lap down and then a crash happens that brings him right back into contention again. This happens with him all the time, some race-ending failure or misfortune occurs and yet somehow, things just seem to magically go his way.

        Granted – not all the time, he’s had a few howlers like binning the 07 championship in the gravel and losing a win or podium or two that may or may not have been justified, but the guy survives more race-ending or race-ruining disasters than most drivers. Whenever things go ‘wrong’ they rarely seem to go as wrong for him as they go for others.

        That’s NOT taking away from the fact he’s obviously a very talented driver, but he’s had a significant share of luck throughout his career that pretty much nobody else on the grid seems to have. Bottas certainly has zero luck in comparison.

        1. @rocketpanda I don’t need a list, but you need a reality check. Verstappen is a lot more lucky than Hamilton is.

          1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
            7th June 2021, 13:58

            Tell that to his left rear tyre yesterday.

  10. I wanted to say that this is a painful moment since 2016, but we’re not in late September yet…

  11. The mistake was probably not switching it off. Not accidentally switching it on for the first time ever. Although the whole thing seems a bit of a coincidence with the smoking brakes..

    1. @balue Pete Bonnington said on the radio that he had definitely turned it off, then flicked it on again. The garage problem gets telemetry that could back that up.

  12. @randommallard Bonnigton said it was bumped on with the upshift.

    Which is quite a coincidence to do for the first time ever, and that after just having used it, and with brakes smoking. Sounds like a nice cover story to me.

    1. Like Pirelli will call out debris as cause for Lance and Max. In both cases it could be true, or not.

    2. Yeah I agree. As always it’s not Lewis fault

    3. @balue It was a response to Lewis asking if he had flicked the magic button himself, immediately after the end of the race. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a cover story.

      https://youtu.be/jieNm1tnDhk

      1. I’ll add that I don’t think it is 100% Lewis’ fault. But the issue seems very reminiscent of what would happen with your brake bias all the way at the front, which is what this ‘magic’ button is supposed to do. One of Brundle’s common sayings is that there is only 1 person in a single seater, and if something goes wrong then you have to look at yourself first. Lewis has already admitted to the mistake and taken responsibility for it. For him it is very much ‘onto the next race’ mode from now on.

    4. “Cover story?” For what? He clearly had no brakes while going at a relatively low speed. If he had simply outbraked himself, he would have just gone a few meters wide, not all the way down the runoff. If the brakes had failed mechanically, then he wouldn’t have brought the car back to the pits like he did. The magic brake button is the only thing that actually makes sense. Think about it.

      Reply moderated
      1. No, you should think how he managed 2 laps with ‘no brakes’

        1. @balue Maybe you should try to understand F1before making these dumb remarks?

          Try this one for starters. What does “brake magic”, used behind the SC, do?

          1. @f1osaurus You mean the thing you had idea about until 18 hours ago? lol

          2. no idea

          3. Breaks magic has been mentioned many times over radio communications over the years so it’s not something the mildly observant do not know about. What it actually did, is another matter.
            Lewis’ error. I know it. You know it. Lewis knows it AND admits it. Not sure what the problem is? Was a bad error. End of. Title No8 still on πŸ‘πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†

          4. “BRAKE magic”

          5. @balue I did know, but that’s besides the point.

            The problem that, as usual, you did NOT know and your cluelessness did not stop you from making all kinds of dumb accusations and remarks.

          6. The obvious trouble with the story is that if he had a critical setting on which makes the car not brake properly and causes him not to make corners, it’s 100% sure he would have known, and 100% sure the team would have informed him as soon as possible.

            It’s not like one can race some laps and then after the race, oh btw, I think this switch is on, and the team yeah we saw it immediately when it happened some laps ago, but decided not to tell you about it.

  13. Max’ unfortune meant a 29 point sweep (from 26 to 0, while Lewis went from 15 to provisional 18).

    Lewis mistake cost him 18, possibly 25.

    Lewis made more (potentially) costly mistakes this year; imola should have costed 18 points, but fortune was on his side again.

    time to get your best game up, champ!

    1. In a way, I feel Lewis’ mistake today undoes the lady luck he got in Imola. His Imola mistake went completely unpunished due to the the subsequent red flag and he was able to finish 2nd. At Baku, he made a mistake right after a red flag and hence went from 2nd to last. Had he made the same mistake on a normal racing lap, he would have lost no more than 1 position which would have been 3 points for him today. But he lost 9 positions and 18 points because of the timing of the mistake.

      Now lets hope Max gets back his 26 points somehow to make this championship fair.

  14. It was easy last few years for Lewis to be reliable. But now with a contested championships, we can see cracks in his perfection.

    Also great for the championship this.

    As long as both contenders get similar reliability we can enjoy some great show.

    1. It seems hamilton cracking under pressure from max. max really drove an excellent race and deserved to win the race. Tyre failure was completely out of his control, unlike hamilton’s driving error.

    2. Yes, the problem is when it comes to reliability I don’t think red bull is up to merc level, on average it should only be verstappen losing out judging by the last few years.

    3. Errrrr… we had a very similar situation at this point in the season in 17,18 & 19. Look how that turned out. I would not start counting any chickens just yet.
      And “CRACKING under pressure” 🀣 behave yourself!!! 🀣

  15. Problem is, Ham was on the inside of the corner. Therefore his speed through it, even with a very late apex would have been below Perez’ exit speed, considering their trajectories, which means that on the exit, Checo would have sailed past him, if he had made the corner at all.

    Perez was brilliant in that he kept Lewis on the inside of the bend where the trajectory would harm lewis.
    Even if Lewis had been able to brake, and make the corner, he would have been a sitting duck at the exit of corner 1.

    In my opinion, Lewis was a victim of his desire to win. Coming out even in fifth suited him well enough. So why not concede the victory to Perez, and be second?

    1. Hamilton said before the start that wasn’t going to take the risk, but Perez was so slow off the line that he found himself well ahead. Then what?

      And yes Hamilton might have yielded and given the place back if he hadn’t switched “off” his brakes. or he could have come out ahead anyway.

  16. Sorry, should have been a very early apex

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