Mercedes to revise ‘brake magic’ system behind Hamilton’s restart error

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton held himself responsible for his restart error in Baku – but Mercedes’ technical director Mike Elliott said the team share some of the blame and will make changes to their system for the next race.

Hamilton went off shortly after the race was restarted with two laps to go, as he made to pass Sergio Perez for the lead. After the race, he revealed he had accidentally turned on a brake-warming mode which reduced the performance of his brakes. The system, which Mercedes call ‘brake magic’, is normally only used during Safety Car periods.

“Lewis had done all the right things,” said Elliott. “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 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.

“So he had completely no awareness he was going to have a problem.”

Although Hamilton took the blame for the error, Elliott said the team would review its practices to make it harder to replicate in future.

“I know, speaking to Lewis, that Lewis sort of feels a chunk of blame for that,” Elliot said. “But the reality is Lewis makes so few mistakes and that’s what really sets him apart from some of the other drivers.

“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.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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85 comments on “Mercedes to revise ‘brake magic’ system behind Hamilton’s restart error”

  1. Hamilton does not make errors.

    1. Everyone makes mistakes.

        1. the glove made a mistake

          1. It takes a man to admit it tho. Covering up like this isnt going to help

          2. A man … yes. Some just change their mind.
            I too once made a mistake, but then it turned out I only thought I was wrong.

          3. @cdfemke Which Hamilton did. Where’s the “cover up”?

          4. Untrustable lies…

    2. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 10:23

      Every driver makes mistakes it’s how you come back from them that counts.

  2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    9th June 2021, 20:43

    This is why Mercedes has dominated the sport over the past few years.

    1. Exactly @freelittlebirds. A mistake is made somewhere, or something just goes wrong. They react quickly by looking into how to prevent it happening again, and changing what is needed.

      1. Unlike other teams @bascb?

        1. Well, certainly not all teams have been as consistent and quick (and without a blame game) about it @balue

    2. A bit of pressure and 2 serious errors so far this season…

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        10th June 2021, 10:39

        Imola was a mistake yes but Baku? That is not something that happens because of pressure. No amount of pressure could recreate that scenario. Selecting the wrong setting like Rosberg did at Spain 2016 would be a mistake under pressure. This wasn’t a driver input switch change. He knocked it. It should not be able to be activated like that and they are going to revise it so it can’t do in future.

        1. He has never knocked a switch before though. If he did it before in a practice session for instance, they’d change the position before. He didn’t, so they didn’t. It is most definitely a mistake, aided by external circumstances maybe (arguably sub-optimal location of the button.. arguably since it hasn’t happened before with neither driver) but a mistake nonetheless.

          Now some claim the mistake is due to pressure. Nobody can prove that though. But while nobody can prove that as a fact, neither can you disprove it as a fact either. It works both ways :-)

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            10th June 2021, 14:25

            You dont know that. He might have felt it on other occasions and corrected the issue

        2. F1MadFan1970 (@)
          10th June 2021, 17:10

          Quite agree I keep hearing this pressure quote but we all know Hamilton is amazing at dealing with pressure as 2007 proves also 2016 2017 and 2018 with Rosberg and Vettel

      2. F1MadFan1970 (@)
        10th June 2021, 17:01

        It’s not pressure Bottas is under pressure

    3. why does such a button so close to the upshift not have a failsafe for unintended bumps?

      And the blow by blow description doesnt take into account everything happened in 1-2 seconds, not even Lewis could notice and switch off that before the corner whilst avoiding a collision.

      And lastly, why were Lewis’ brakes the only ones smoking on restart?

      1. Lastly, because of brake magic! :) Does what it says on the tin!
        I assume they just drag the pads or something like that when system is engaged, and correspondingly reduce the pressure available when you hit the stop pedal.

        1. @nanotech F1 Tech Tuesday column says it puts the brake balance nearly all the way forward so that the front brakes can generate lots of heat during safety car periods, to put that heat into the front tyres (the rear tyres can keep heat via power from the engine).

        2. It doesnt drag, it just sets brake bias to 75 front. Where as in race trim a driver will vary it between 52 and 57 typicly

      2. ian dearing
        9th June 2021, 22:47

        So were a couple of others smoking, including Vettel

      3. so it is on the right side, I saw no movement there on the onboard, maybe it is on the backside. merc can easily change that.

        1. upper right side, for the driver left side. Black round button (bit hard to see) is brake magic. Lewis initially told the team on the radio that he had put his hand on top of the wheel to rest it there, and thats when he hit the button “on” again. His hands arent supposed to be there but it isnt prevented in any way either

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            10th June 2021, 10:32

            @cdfemke His hand position over the top of the steering wheel is how he drops the clutch at starts. Has done it that way for years. He didn’t activate the button at the start, it was off, but midway down the straight to the first corner when Perez moved left to squeeze him he knocked it on shifting gears. That is what he said after the race. His team confirmed this on team radio as he finished the race. It was off for the start and he knocked it on on an upshift as he approached the corner. Dunno where you got your info but I’d start looking eleswhere!

          2. ian dearing
            10th June 2021, 10:39

            When did he say he put his hand there to rest it? Surely its common knowledge that he puts it there as a guide to clutch bite point. So I’m not sure what you mean by its not supposed to be there.

          3. ian dearing
            10th June 2021, 11:03

            The pic is of the Bottas wheel and that button is not Bottas’s Brake Magic. Bottas has his on the front of his wheel, its red and marked BW (brake warming).

          4. @cdfemke Hamilton uses that left hand over the wheel technique for clutch control at all his standing starts. I believe he finds it gives him a better “feel” than the more normal hand position. He changed after having a run of bad starts a few years ago. His starts have been pretty consistent since he changed.

            Hamilton’s BM button is behind the steering wheel while Bottas has a red BW (brake warming) button on the front of his.

  3. Bobby Taylor
    9th June 2021, 20:53

    Yet Bottas gets hit for the 36 hours pit stop. No wonder he’s not happy.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      10th June 2021, 14:26

      Hamilton also got berated once for not parking his car in the exact required spot for a pitstop. Many other drivers did. Why not Bottas?

      Not positioning the car right is driver error.

    2. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 17:05

      I keep hearing this an nowhere will you find Toto blaming Bottas he was just asked for a possible explanation I also beleive the guy who takes the wheel off knocked the wheel gun man as well

  4. Yeah, Mercedes will not only be looking into correct the mistak, but also why no one predicted this could happen, or saw the worst case senario.

    Its just as well this happened early on and not at the end of that 200mph stright with no run off area.
    This could have been quite scary.

    1. Or I was thinking – what if Lewis was in the middle of the pack rather than the front row? He could have run into the back of a bunch of cars Grosjean 2012 style.

    2. Didnt seem to bother them before. Is the switch in a new location this year?

    3. At least the other Mercedes powered team benefited. This race would have done wonders for the promotion machine which is Aston Martin.

  5. Coventry Climax
    9th June 2021, 23:58

    And changing the position of the ‘brake wand’ does not come out of the budget intended for something else?
    Last time round, with their second driver, mr. Wolf was very worried about this.

  6. About time Mercedes fixed this. Those cars have been crashing dozens of times now as a result of this design error.

    1. That something did not happen before does not mean you don’t want it to happen again..

      1. Of course, and it seems they want to have a solution by next race. I don’t think many teams are that thorough, so good on them. But I do feel that Mercedes is trying to say that Lewis didn’t make a mistake and it’s all on the design and the team, whereas Lewis himself thought he made a mistake (and he did, so why go out of your way to change that narrative?). compare that to the comments on Bottas (“he put the car in the wrong place for the pit stop”).

        1. Button solutions off the top of my head:
          1. Remap the function to another button, or possibly as a menu option (does it really need to be accessed instantly?)
          2. Put a plastic (or more likely carbon fibre ;-) rim around the button to make it harder to press.
          I’m sure Mercedes will be able to work something out within their budget.

    2. ian dearing
      10th June 2021, 9:58

      Only twice, Baku and Sahkir.

  7. But the reality is Lewis makes so few mistakes and that’s what really sets him apart from some of the other drivers.

    Mercedes repeating that narrative over and over again is getting boring. It’s easy to seldom make mistakes when you are racing Bottas and have 1 second a lap advantage over the competition. Lewis’s career tells a different story when he is racing a capable driver or not driving the fastest car. Let’s see this season who will crack first when the pressure mounts.

    1. NeverElectric
      10th June 2021, 2:01

      Lewis’s career tells a different story when he is racing a capable driver

      Like…Alonso? LOL
      Get off it.

      1. NeverElectric,

        Like…Alonso? LOL

        Kind of, by throwing the championship in the last 2 rounds in 2007 but I would say like Button or Rosberg or Alonso himself when he was fighting for championship in that truck of a Ferrari.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          10th June 2021, 11:04

          @tifoso1989 So in China, the team leaving him out until his rear tires were down to the canvas because they were waiting for rain was his fault, or the shifting problem he had in Brazil that dropped him down the field was his fault? He didn’t throw that championship, McLaren did in China with a dumb strategy. Dunno if you’ve tried but you can’t corner in the wet with bald rear tires. The rear will slide, as it did with Hamilton on the wet pit entry in China.
          Brazil 2008 would be a better example of your point. He ALMOST cracked under pressure, but didn’t! That’s about as close as I’ve seen him come.

          1. @davewillisporter
            In China 2007, the team left him with the wrong tyres. However, Hamilton was running in 2nd place and needed a 6th place finish in two races to become a world champion. In that particular lap, Hamilton went wide in turn 1 and 2 and but kept fighting with Trulli who was unlapping himself. He could have been extra cautious but he was distracted by fighting with Trulli till the pit lane entry.
            In Brazil 2007, he lost his 2nd place to Raikkonen and Alonso after the start and then engaged with a useless fight with Alonso and run wide. He was running in 8th place after the first lap. He was unfortunate though with the gearbox issue when he was in 6th place.

        2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          14th June 2021, 19:45

          @tifoso1989 That’s a weird take then! Hamilton loses the championship as a rough rookie because he was distracted going into the pits on tyres down to the canvas due to team strategy and slid off the track, retiring from a championship winning position then got mechanical issues the next race?????????????

          No-one is saying he was perfect that year, what rookie is? He lost the championship because of McLaren strategy in China and McLaren reliability in Brazil. He did not throw it! 2007 was a better year than 2008 when he won. If you’re going to criticize him I’d focus on 2008 and his time with Jenson where he learned he had to adapt his driving style to the Pirelli tyres which Button found came naturally. A quote from Jenson’s book “If he ever figures out how to work with his engineers we might as well all go home” referring to Lewis’s sheer raw talent behind the wheel versus his ability to drive to a pace, fuel and tyre save. Jenson had a similar problem at Benneton and learned he had to work on things rather than rely on talent. Lewis had the same and mid 2012 the penny dropped. Since then he’s been a genuinely top driver.

    2. Yeah, partly agree. There is no reason to make mistakes when you have the most reliable car and the overall best car that enables you to start at the front. So, whatever we have seen from Lewis the past 6 years does not resemble him to the full extent as a racing driver. So far, this season, the slightest pressure already have led to two major mistakes (Imola, Baku). So I am not convinced this is a strength of Lewis at all. Looking at his behavior off track it also shows areas of insecurity/inconsistency as he seems to need the mental game to get ahead where others just drive. Sportsmen who need mental games vs their opponent are always on the back-foot since you know their behavior comes from a lack of believing in oneself. If you believe you can do something there is absolutely no need to play mind games.

      1. So I am not convinced this is a strength of Lewis at all

        Thankfully, Lewis doesn’t need you to be convinced for him to perform.

      2. ian dearing
        10th June 2021, 16:21

        So you are saying drivers like Schumacher, Graham Hill, Piquet, Prost, Senna never believed in themselves, that’s why they played ‘mind games’? Or rather your version of mind games.
        And saying I would be faster than him in any car is what, if its not mindgames?

  8. One logical option would be some sort of dashboard indicator lamp that comes on when the Brake Magic is enabled. I don’t know if that would have helped or not.
    Another logical option would be to have some sort of software controlled enable or disable depending on the mode the car is being driven in. Say, for example, there was a “Safety Car” mode, so then you’d want the driver to have the option of using Brake Magic, on the other hand if the car was being driven in one of the racing modes you would want the button that activates Brake Magic to be disabled. However I don’t know if you are allowed to do this in F1 because of that penalty Renault were given a while back regarding an automatic brake bias adjustment system.

    1. FIA rules stipulate … “The driver must drive the car, unaided.”
      Any automated, pit controlled or software activated system would be illegal.
      A warning light might work, but then it could get lost with other warning systems.

    2. @drycrust if it was up to me, I’d just change the behaviour of the button so it has to be pressed for a couple of seconds to activate brake magic. Not sure if that would be allowed by the fine print in the rules, but it would make much harder an accidental activation.

  9. I wish every person or company would adopt that philosophy about mistakes. Just brilliant! An unusual or unexpected event happens. They investigate the why. And how. They come to their conclusions. They make the necessary changes to minimize the chances of that event happening again.

  10. Maybe if they made it so you need to press the button 3 times in 10 seconds to switch it on maybe. Once to switch it off.

  11. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    10th June 2021, 6:16

    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

    Just a thought…the leaders line up on the grid and have at least 15-20 seconds before the first start light comes on to make these necessary switch adjustments. Wonder how those lining up in the last row get enough time to make these changes. Must be stressful considering the marshall at the back waves his flag as soon as the last car stops in position and the lights start coming on.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      10th June 2021, 11:10

      @asleepatthewheel Correct. It was the reason Gasly stated for why he overshot his marks on the grid in Barcelona. He was furiously changing settings for the start and at the back of the grid there’s not much time!

  12. Kudos to Mercedes.
    But their reaction wasn´t the same after they were unable to remove Bottas wheel, and Toto even suggested that Bottas was at fault to stopping the car out of position.
    Oh, well…

    1. He never suggested Bottas was at fault, he said him stopping a bit long was ONE of the contributing factors.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      10th June 2021, 11:12

      Toto was trying to protect the wheel gun man from blame by the media when he said that. He was pointing to a lot of factors, not just one. Had Lewis activated brake magic in the pits, gone long and then had the same issue Bottas had, I’ve no doubt Toto would have stated the same.

  13. I still don’t believe the whole ‘magic on’ -story, because if it was really on, the team would undoubtedly inform Hamilton as soon as possible of this seriously unsafe setting, yet they didn’t. On top of that, we’re even supposed to believe even Hamilton didn’t notice the massively skewed brake bias until after the race was over.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      10th June 2021, 10:27

      @balue Team radio at the end of the race:

      Lewis “Did I have magic on?” Bono “Yeah” Lewis “I thought I’d turned it off” Bono “You did but knocked it on the upshift”

      How are they to inform him and prevent the accident when the whole thing happened in 2 seconds??? They likely told him as he was getting out of the escape road. There is no way he did 2 laps with it on!!

      1. @davewillisporter

        “There is no way he did 2 laps with it on!!”

        That’s my whole point but there was no message from the team to switch it off, and he obviously didn’t even notice until the race was over.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          10th June 2021, 10:48


          There is no way any F1 driver wouldn’t notice a difference in brake bias forward of 75% compared to 57%. In addition, all drivers change the brake bias back and forward depending on which corner they are coming up to. He would have noticed it was on at some point in the first two corners!

          Logically, he himself noticed and switched it off and then asked the team at the end, or they told him it was on and to switch it off when he was in the escape road. Occam’s razor! There is no conspiracy! Put yer hat away!

          1. ian dearing
            10th June 2021, 18:13

            From the onboards you can see Ham right up the gearbox of the Haas through the braking areas once he re-joined. Which you couldn’t achieve with magic on. And I think people forget that radio messages are not live and occasionally edited. They were communicating with each other within 40s of the restart. And whilst some may believe the team thinks he can walk on water; there is no way they would let blast around those corners; or down a 200MPH straight with a wrong setting on the brakes

        2. F1oSaurus (@)
          10th June 2021, 14:30

          @balue It took 2 seconds between hitting the button and going off. How could they warn him for that?

      2. @davewillisporter @f1osaurus @scbriml It’s not about the first corner, it’s about driving for 2 laps without the team telling him it was on, and him not noticing. It just doesn’t add up.

        1. @balue OK, to switch it round – what make you thinks he drove the full two laps with BM on? I agree, that wouldn’t make any sense, but I haven’t seen or heard anything that suggests he did.

          The radio conversation with Bonnington “Was it on, I thought I’d turned it off…” was clearly from the perspective of what happened at the restart. If Hamilton didn’t twig straight after T1, he would have gone up every escape road on the circuit.

          1. @scbriml Yes it was him asking engineer Bonnington if the magic was on, and he confirming that was indeed the case. He clearly didn’t know until then. It was like a real question after parking (following a 3-4 minute in lap) and checking his display clicking buttons. Only after getting the confirmation from his engineer, does he say that he thought he had switched it off. Bono then comes back to say again, yes it was on, and how it was hit accidentally during an upshift.

            If he had switched it off after T1, he would know full well that it had been on and there would be no need to ask his engineer. He would be talking about it or apologizing on the in-lap, not pretending to find out during shutdown check.

        2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          14th June 2021, 19:34

          @balue As I’ve said there is no way he could drive racing pace laps with brake magic on. You need to understand the effect of that setting. During a safety car or V safety car he will be braking much gentler to avoid locking the fronts as there is virtually no braking at the rear with magic on. You saw what happened when he applied full braking force into the first corner with magic on. Instant front locking. He would have realised something was wrong as the car was completely different under braking to normal. He would have checked settings and discovered brake magic was on and turned it off again before re-joining the track. The radio call was to ask if he had it on at the START because he thought he had turned it off to which Bono replied “You did (turn it off on the start) you knocked in on the upshift. Again, you CAN’T drive race pace with that on.

          The logical and most likely explanation is that he discovered it was on in the escape road, turned it off and then checked with the team at the end as to whether he had left it on at the start because he remembered turning it off. He DID NOT drive two laps with it on! You are talking about drivers who can feel when the tyre is graining and shift the brake balance for almost EVERY corner. They would know if brake magic was on very quickly. You’re going down the wrong path here! He would have found out himself that it was on and turned it off WITHOUT the team telling him. Stop getting confused by the radio call at the end. He was effectively asking if he had it on at the start and was told he did not.

        3. F1oSaurus (@)
          15th June 2021, 8:25

          @balue Just stop it! You have no clue and based on that lack of understanding you come up with the most ridiculous nonsense.

          Who cares how many laps he had brake magic on before the restart? That’s what it’s for. So yeah it’s on behind the safety car and off while he races.

    2. @balue The BM button was hit as Hamilton jinked to the left as Perez tried to cover him off. About one to two seconds before he applied the brakes. I don’t think it would be feasible for Bono to try and get his attention at such a crucial stage, even if he’d noticed in time. Not feasible and probably unwise.

  14. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    10th June 2021, 10:52

    @balue actually, he would have noticed it was on as soon as he hit the brakes for the first corner!

  15. My take on the brake bias, drivers rarely have to swerve suddenly while making upshifts which is why it probably never occurred previously at Mercedes. A simple beep would have indicated to the driver that it had reactivated, but in that particular situation, there was not enough time to correct it.
    Where should the button be to without increasing the driver’s work load.

    1. Not the location of the button but the use of it.
      Someone thought of i.e push 3 times to enable and one time to disable.

      1. Automatically disable or kill at a preset speed, limited to first and second gear, Guards around the switch like the pit limiter or reverse switch. Plenty of easy/ cheap options.

  16. F1MadFan1970 (@)
    10th June 2021, 17:08

    That button needs moving, i suppose until a problem happens you dont expect then you cannot anticipate it.

    1. @mikejohnherbert The button is where Hamilton wants it. Bottas has a red “BW” (brake warming) button on the front of his wheel.

      I would imagine it’s a fairly easy fix – either change the function so that the button has to be held down for a couple of seconds to activate BM (a single press, either deliberate or accidental, justs turns it off), or change the software so that it can’t be activated at such a crucial moment in the race.

      Apparently, one of the issues that Russell had when he drove Hamilton’s car at Bahrain was that he accidentally activated BM as he came into the pits.

      1. F1MadFan1970 (@)
        10th June 2021, 18:22

        Toggle switch would be better as that can’t be pushed by accident.

      2. ian dearing
        10th June 2021, 19:20

        Yes, the saving grace with Russell is that he came in very slowly, but nevertheless they had to move a bit smartish. Think its online somewhere?

  17. He accidentally flicked a switch. Talk of pressure is pointless considering his chief rival was already out the race.

    Sod’s law really but now they’ve seen what’s possible they’ll correct it.


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