Video: Did Hamilton cause his gearbox problem? (updated)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Here’s the onboard video showing the moment when Lewis Hamilton’s car suddenly slowed during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It seems the McLaren driver may have caused the problem himself by accidentally hitting the pit lane speed limiter button with his left thumb.

The button is the second from the left on the steering wheel. Watch the video below and judge for yourself…

Hamilton reportedly admitted that he made a mistake, but McLaren have denied he made the remarks.

Update: McLaren have explained what happened to Hamilton:

“We can confirm that the temporary gear shifting problem Lewis suffered on lap eight of the Brazilian Grand Prix was due to a default in the gearbox that selected neutral for a period of time. It was not as a result of Lewis pressing an incorrect button on his steering wheel.”

“It was a gearbox problem, and it went into forced-neutral and changing down seemed to rectify it – it might be mechanical, but we doubt it. If it was something mechanical, they usually don’t fix themselves. It could be electronics software – but there’s no evidence in the analysis to support that. Could be a sensor – but again, there’s no evidence in the data recordings.

“So it would appear that the barrels that change gear went out of control – and out of control of the driver – and that’s probably hydraulic.

“That could be either a very small Moog servo control valves that were interfered with by a tiny piece of debris or they are sensitive to magnetic interference – something generated a magnetic field which caused the valve to misbehave.”

Update 2: Hamilton did not admit causing car failure in Brazil

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48 comments on “Video: Did Hamilton cause his gearbox problem? (updated)”

  1. oooh, great find. 10 out of 10 sir.

    ron’s really going to appreciate another trial by YouTube :)

  2. I think the car is slowing down already at that stage. Hamilton said he happened as soon as he exited turn 4, the response by hamilton to press buttons would be to the decrease in speed hw was experiencing. We also don’t understand if that is the pitlane speed limit button or if pressing it with a combination of buttons creates other functions.

    listening to the sound of the engine is a key point – It is very different to when the speed limiter is on, this sounds like a miss fire, in this situation is sounds very different.

    I would say unconclusive

  3. Captain Caveman
    23rd October 2007, 12:48

    So it looks like lewis does have a lot in common with nigel mansell.

    Both lost the championship on the last race and both have managed to effectively lose drive by their own actions.

    1991 Canadian Grand Prix ring a bell :-)

  4. Well, Scott, Lewis said the gearbox shutdown right at the apex of turn 4. Since the slowing down began at the exit of turn 4 (i.e. after the apex), it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was caused by a wrong press of the button.

    Just a thing here: why is McLaren’s ECU prone to human error? The programmers shouldn’t leave those loopholes in the system. The button might as well be labeled ‘self-destruct’!

    P.S. Isn’t it McLaren who will supply the standard F1 ECUs next year? Just a thought.

  5. Captain Caveman, Nigel’s error in 1991 didn’t really lose him the title. Williams’ unreliability in general did.

    On the other hand, his 1986 title hopes ended with a tire blow – which was ultimately out of his controls.

  6. Well he wasn’t waving to the crowd in this instance so Nigel’s remains undisputed.

    This video does appear to be of scenes after the event may have occured.

  7. Judging by the sudden speed with which the cars in front start to draw away from him, I don’t agree.

  8. But Lewis admits it was his fault! That is conclusive.

  9. editors believe Hamilton’s comments published in the french-language Canadian newspaper were not real.

  10. Regarding comment 8, the veracity of the quote is disputed. Hence, “Hamilton reportedly admitted.” Which is presumably why it’s not received widespread coverage yet.

  11. Here we go, another litany of “Hamilton can do no wrong” posts. You lot defend him more than you would your own mother.

  12. Keith:

    Yes you are correct about the sudden change of speed

    Mclaren are saying it wasnt a wrong input from the driver thats responsible. And even before the commencement of the race, the team had to open up his gearbox for some last minute inspection, cause they feared a fault was developing.

    Regarding the video, we see Hamilton going through a seqeunce of down changes. Before he reached the corner he apparently didnt have any drive and thats even before he pressed any buttons apart from the paddle shifts. Although I may turn out wrong eventually. But that did look like a deliberate action.

    But I am sure in a few weeks time we will have the true facts. So I wont be speculating on this one any more.

  13. Begs the question of why is a button of such nature so easily depressed when performing a gear shift?

  14. To me he looks like he is keeping up okay with the cars in front until he turns the corner and presses the button – but at the end of the day without the co-operation of FOM so we can get a better view of things, and without the honesty of McLaren and Hamilton, we will never know what happened for sure.

    It’s a bad sign that we have heard from McLaren yet simply don’t believe them!

  15. This is the problem thought isn’t it?

    McLaren have now stated what happened but people would rather believe an uncorroborated story in a Canadian newspaper rather than from the team.

  16. The ECU is a collaboration with Microsoft, what do you expect! :)

    Sorry couldn’t resist.

  17. A source close to the Hamilton family has described the report as “absolute rubbish”, telling that Hamilton has not spoken to the Canadian newspaper or said anything as such to anyone.

  18. I do not know if true or false, but still there is a lot of information about it in the canadian press.
    In Italy also it is being published as true.
    In Spain there is the same information, but also they comment that McLaren denies the canadian source as legitimate because Hamiton has not spoken to the canadian newspaper.

  19. Re comments 2,6,7,14
    This video is a replay during the race broadcast.
    The sound we hear is not Lewis car. (watch the passing cars – the 3rd one doesn’t make a sound and after the 4th there is anoter pasing car’s sound with no car). The sound is from cars passing by the commentators box start/finish probably (Lewis as well at that time, as Allen says that it sounds OK).
    His finger does coincide with the car slowing down. But it’s quite hard to believe that there is such an easy way to kill his speed. Maybe whilst adjusting something (as they do all the time), it triggerd the mulfunction…or if there is such button then maybe…
    If he admits to it and it gets confirmed then end of story.

  20. I just find it difficult to believe that a mechanical malfunction could occur before lap 10 and then NEVER re-occur later.HMPH.

  21. It’s not unheard of – in fact it happened to Mika Hakkinen in a McLaren at Interlagos in ’99.

  22. I have just got access to the Onboard footage of Brazil, while the event when Lewis suffers the incident is missed, I have scanned through the footage when he comes into the pits it appears his pit lane speed limiter is on the right hand side of the steering wheel. so the opposite hand that we are all debating about in this clip. If anyone has been able to see this footage it would be good to get some clarification on this matter so stop all this hear say.

  23. Just looked at it again, the button on the left hand side, the one we are looking at in this clip is used in the combination before he enters the box. Perhaps a Neutral button??? Hmmm!

  24. “I just find it difficult to believe that a mechanical malfunction could occur before lap 10 and then NEVER re-occur later.HMPH.”

    Didn’t a similar situation happen to Michael Schumacher once, also at Brazil? I seem to remember (2000 or 2001 I think) that while he was leading he suddenly fell way off pace due to a technical problem, which were resolved on the same lap and he was able to get back up to speed. But I can’t remember what year or what the exact problem was.

  25. Page 22 of last weeks Autosport has a replica Mclaren steering wheel for sale. The button on the left hand side is N for Neutral or D for Drink. The PLS (Pit Lane Speed limiter) is on the right hand side. Sorry to hang around on this – just want to conclude – if the action in the video is anything, it is Lewis pressing the Neutral or Drink button, the rest we have to take with a pinch of salt if it is true or not.

  26. Guys Hamilton addmitted that he hit the wrong button by mistake. He flat out said it was his fault not mechanical. or at least that is what I read. But until I hear it from someone else I am suspect.

  27. Maybe Lewis think that behind that bend was pitlane :}

  28. The fact the fault didnt re-occur & that Hamilton straight away put in some blinding lap times kind of supports the wrong button press idea.. It’s easily done, of course, as i know from experience. Only the other day on my car’s steering wheel i meant to turn the volume down only to press the track advance button… What a nightmare that was!! ;)

  29. oh, this time it is Dailymotion, not YouTube :-)

    it is really difficult to tell… I do not see any reason for Hamilton to tell what really happened. But with McLaren to supply ECUs next year they should be keen to blame it on human error. if McLaren comes out and say it was not mistake of Hamilton, I am kind of inclined to believe them this time

  30. Back in the days when there was real racing and cars had real gearshifts, the drivers used to miss a gear occasionally and that led to other guys overtaking them. What’s that? Oh, overtaking – it’s when one car goes by another. It used to happen sometimes in those days.

    But to return to the point: I find it heartening that F1 has found a way to duplicate this amazing effect. :D

  31. Conflicting info as to how the buttons are arranged, though N or P seems to be candidates – compare image on Mclarens site: it has the reverse arrangement with the speed-limiter to the left. A matter of driver preference perhaps. Anyway I lean toward human error, more often than not mechanical glitches return and/or gets worse.

  32. Thanks Lee from for the steering wheel.

    It is easier now to believe that the entire canadian news story was a fabrication by just looking at the steering wheel. And this updated article from Mclaren, confirms the original belief that it was a gearbox issue.

    You can clearly see Hamilton hitting the neutral button as he couldnt find any gears.
    Seems there is a conspiracy somewhere to just give Hamilton bad press however possible.

  33. Hear, Hear Oliver!!

  34. oliver, i’m not sure that it’s a conspiracy.

    lewis has the ability to polarise opinion in the way that schumacher once did. look at the comment count on this site for posts relating to lewis versus someone like barichello.

    look at the impact the guy has made this season, it doesn’t matter who you ask, everyone has something to say about him.

    and i’m liking the debate(s).

  35. i know driver press the speed limit button right before entering the pit lane, when the car is already running at a slow speed (close to the speed limt). i was curios, if he did press that button in race he was doing probably 200 km/h, so whan that button is press, the car gradualy slows down or it brakes very hard ???

  36. Hamilton sucks, and it hurts me because I’m English! But the truth is that he is a SPOILED LITTLE KID.

  37. Sidepodcast:

    Yes I agree with you, that hamilton does polarize opinion. I sometimes wonder, who started it first, the side that says he is not good, or the side that says he is too good. Concerning Barichello, what exactly are we supposed to write about? Maybe its a coincidence, but since he joined Honda, they have got slower.

  38. I wouldn’t agree with your Rubens-Honda comment, oliver. Remember, they won last year (Rubens’ 1st with them). It’s just that it was Jenson who won.

    As for Hamilton as a polarizer, isn’t that the case with all the greats? Raikkonen, Alonso, Schumacher, Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Lauda…

  39. Journeyer:

    Barichello statement was actually joke. I like him.

  40. The wheel shown in comment 31 by Lee is not the real wheel. I don’t know if Hamilton pushed it or not but in the real wheel, I have seen it many times, it is in the top left.

    Answer to another question … the car would slow down very quickly with the speed limiter. Hard to believe but from the video and the timing it really looks like he pushed it.

    In any case Raikkonen deserved it more than any mercedes driver.

  41. McLaren’s website has this feature on the steering wheel: – Behind the wheel (external)

    And this clickable guide: – Interactive steering wheel (external)

  42. As I understand it, the steering wheel displayed on Mclaren’s site is last year’s model and the other link above (showing a replica) has the current configuration of buttons. In other words, I think it’s determined by now LH is pressing Neutral and nothing else. Though the video is inconclusive as to when LH presses it – that is, if he causes the car to slow down or reacts to the car slowing down – my impression is his action is very deliberate and determined, in sum: he did not cause the problem but reacted to it.

    Maybe I should add I always rooted for Kimi, so this pro-LH interpretation is not based on me being one of his fans.

  43. La Presse journalist now admits Hamilton did not speak to him. Other journalists were telling him what Hamilton had supposedly said to his engineers.

    Hamilton’s steering wheel had the Neutral button on the left side. This can be seen from the photos taken during the weekend. Even if he pressed the button accidentally before the problem occurred, it doesn’t explain why the problem lasted so long. I can only think it was a technical problem.

  44. What’s all the fuss about Hamilton? New boy on the block? I think not! How many other drivers can you name that have had the benefit of being sponsered and tutored by one of the world’s leading race teams.Untill we see the full introduction of professional 10 year old apprentice drivers there is no one with whom to compare Hamilton with. Untill then why not treat Hamilton as just another good driver who happened to have his F1 debut coincide with Mclaren’s most reliable season for quite some time and Ferrari’s most unreliable!!!! We won’t mention the spying will we?

  45. rather late i know but i’ve just come across this and for all of you who think hamilton caused this himself…. why on earth would he try and take a drink through a fast corner like that??? surely he’d be waiting for a straight or a less intense moment. the problem had already started to develop by the time this video starts.

  46. Andy – as you can see in an article linked to above there was a journalist who made up a quote claiming Hamilton admitted he had pressed a button on his steering wheel:

    Hamilton did not admit causing car failure in Brazil

    The journalist later admitted he made the quote up. Despite that many people continue to believe Hamilton’s problem was self-inflicted, particularly those who don’t like him…

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