The Mercedes Formula 1 team will make changes to avoid a repeat of Lewis Hamilton’s error at the standing restart late in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when he accidentally switched to a front tyre warm-up mode that wound the brake bias forward, resulting in him going off at the first corner
Speaking in the latest Mercedes race debrief video, technology director Mike Elliott indicated that there are plans to put a fix in place in time for next weekend’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.
He explained that the ‘brake magic’ button on the rear of the left side of the steering wheel Hamilton hit accidentally had been correctly disengaged when he formed up on the grid having used the setting to help build front tyre temperature on the formation lap. Elliott stressed that it’s the team’s “duty” to make it more difficult to make such an error.
“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 [Sergio] 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.
“The point he then braked, which was the normal point for him to brake, he was in the position where he got all of the brake balance shifted forward, which put all of the load through the front tyres and as a consequence they locked and from that point there was nothing that he could do than go wide.
“I know speaking to Lewis yesterday that Lewis sort of feels a chunk of blame for that, 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.”
Elliott also addressed Valtteri Bottas’s Baku struggles. The Finn qualified 10th and finished 12th and was baffled by his poor performance after the race.
He questioned whether some undetected car problem might have held him back, but Elliott didn’t reference any such issue.
Instead, he suggested Bottas’s struggles were down to a combination of difficulty building front tyre temperature and a lack of confidence that prevented him getting into a “positive spiral”.
But he stressed that the team needs to get on top of its front-tyre warm-up problems given the problem held it back both in Baku and Monaco, although at the latter it was Hamilton who struggled more with this limitation.
“At this circuit, one of the difficulties is getting the warm-up of the front tyre and it is also a circuit where you need to have real confidence, the walls are really close and if you get it wrong you are going to put it into the wall,” said Elliott.
“Those two things kind of go together because if you can go a little bit quicker, if you can get yourself a little bit closer to the wall because you are confident, then you get a bit more heat into the tyres.
“If you get more heat into the tyres you get a bit more grip and you can go faster and so you end up with this sort of positive spiral.
“I think Valtteri just didn’t get to that position. He didn’t find that last little bit of confidence to be in that positive spiral in the same way [as Hamilton].
“In practice, there were a lot of drivers who understeered wide and put the car into the wall, presumably because they didn’t get the front tyres into the window, and to the credit of our drivers both of our drivers avoided that mistake.
“I think it is also worth bearing in mind that if you look at this weekend and compare it to last weekend in Monaco, in Monaco it was Valtteri who was able to get the tyres into the window and get the best of them and it was Lewis that was struggling a bit more.
“So I think this is something that we need to understand as a team. It is something we need to work on and improve because if we don’t improve on that there will be other circuits this year where we will find the same problems.”