Lewis Hamilton Azerbaijan brake error exposes ‘big problem’ for F1

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Lewis Hamilton’s error that cost him a possible win in this week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix highlights a “big problem” with Formula One, according to a former leading designer.

Hamilton was challenging Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for the lead at the first corner of the restarted race in Baku, but had inadvertently hit a switch on the steering wheel that changed his brake bias.

With the setting now moved as far forward as possible, a move typically used behind the safety car to keep the front tyres warm and certainly not appropriate for racing speeds, Hamilton locked up and went sailing down the escape road.

Instead of fighting for the lead, the Mercedes driver rejoined in last place.

It was a huge blow to Hamilton’s championship prospects, with the Mercedes driver’s chief rival, Max Verstappen, having retired from the race.

Hamilton would have regained the championship lead had he finished seventh or better.

“The fact a driver can so easily hit something by accident that basically guarantees they are going to go off is a big problem,” Gary Anderson wrote on the-race.com.

“Imagine if that had been someone in the middle of the pack, or if it’s a corner without runoff? That could cause a very serious accident with multiple cars involved.

“Having such a dramatic impact on the car through one push of a button is a safety concern.”

Anderson, who made his name as the chief designer for Jordan in the 1990s, pointed out that the steering wheel on a modern F1 car is ridiculously complicated.

“A glance at the Mercedes steering wheel shows an astonishing number of switches, dials and paddles – more than 20 by my count – so if anything it’s a surprise these kind of mistakes don’t happen more often,” he wrote.

“I’d suggest that a rule should state that no driver-activated switch should be able to impact a system by more than a certain percentage from its initial setting when the car’s road wheels were last at zero road speed.”

Anderson highlighted the simplicity of the steering wheel on the 1991 Jordan that he designed, noting that even the dashboard behind it only contained “basic information”.

“I’m not saying we should go back to that but by comparison, today’s steering wheels are ridiculously complex and uber-expensive. Driving fast should be about the driver’s feel for the car, not about who manages to operate the systems correctly,” he wrote.

“It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving a road car, yet the safety commission of the FIA considers it safe enough to allow a racing driver to play with all these steering wheel knobs, dials and buttons whilst travelling at stupid speeds.

“It seems a bit alien to me.”

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