F1 Braking Secrets – Discs

While the carbon disc used in Formula 1 takes about six months to make, techniques and baking times can vary from team to team… Explanations.

SUPPORT, GRIP AND BRAKE COMPOUND

It rarely accelerates. Sometimes turning speed. Almost always the brakes… When the young driver was asked about the factor that most impressed him during his first test behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, he mentioned the power of the brakes.

Compared to the engine’s 1,000 horsepower and 5g of centrifugal force in corners, decelerations of more than 5g are enough to be dizzying, even if the rules strictly regulate the freedom of engineers in this area.

As we’ll explain in detail in part five of this series, an F1 car’s braking system consists of discs, calipers, pads and master cylinders. All these elements are connected by a hydraulic circuit and controlled by an electronic box from the rear (the famous “brake-wire” in F1 is explained here).

F1, disc, caliper, pad

But it takes more than braking to stop a single-seater car traveling at 300 km/h in just four seconds.

Braking in a Grand Prix car is also about the exceptional grip of the tires, the enormous downforce generated by the chassis and its Venturi tunnels, and the muscle power of the driver, who adjusts pedal effort as support is reduced.

It is this combination of downforce, grip and braking that makes Formula 1 racing cars the best decelerators.

carbon

CARBON FROM STEEL DISCS

When the driver presses the brake pedal, its pressure is transmitted through a hydraulic circuit to the caliper, which has two jaws holding the disc. Weighing between 1kg and 1.2kg, this circular piece is made of carbon.

Not because steel is less strong, but because carbon is lighter and can withstand high temperatures better (it resists better and expands less).

It is for these reasons carbon discsOriginally used in aeronautics, it was introduced in F1 in the early 1980s despite high production costs.

brembo

F1 Brake: CARBON-CARBON

As explained by Giovanni Clemente, a race engineer at equipment supplier Brembo, which supplies almost all teams with discs and all teams with calipers, their production is long and complicated.

“The material we use is CER, which is an internal acronym for clean carbon. We start by making a matrix with polyacrylonitrile fibers (polymer), which we heat to about 1000 degrees. This piece is then given the rudimentary shape of a disc (or a wafer made of the same material). Then we will put this matrix in the infiltration furnace so that the voids are completely filled with carbon and the part is denser.”

“The cavity is filled with carbon, not resin (unlike composite materials). This carbon sequestration process is complex, expensive and time-consuming. In total, the production of the disc takes six months, during which two to three months the disc remains in the furnace and is exposed to the leakage of gases that will deposit the carbon into the smallest recesses of the matrix.

F1 Brake

SIX MONTHS OF PRODUCTION

After leaving the furnace, the part is machined to the required dimensions, which may vary from one team to another within the limits set by the regulations. The front discs are larger than before, with the adoption of 18-inch wheels from last year. They should be between 32.5 cm and 33 cm in diameter (in the past they could not exceed 27.8 cm).

In the back, on the contrary, they kept roughly speaking the same dimensions, because their diameter should be between 27.5 cm and 28 cm. If the rear discs are smaller than the front since 2014, this is because part of the rear brake work is taken over by the MGU-K.

As for the maximum thickness of the disk, it has not changed: it is 32 mm both on the front and on the back.

carbon disk

Discs or pads are processed on special machines to give their final shape. In total, it takes five to six months to develop a disc together with the Brembo team.

“Even if the material remains the same, Clement explains, cooking techniques and times, as well as matrix structure, may vary from team to team depending on their specific goals. There are all kinds of possible combinations, so we can talk about co-designing the drive with the teams.

If the rules specify ranges for sizes, it’s to allow teams to fit smaller or thinner discs to circuits that aren’t very demanding in terms of braking, such as Silverstone, Interlagos, Le Castellet (which won’t happen anywhere). F1 calendar 2023), even Spa.

circuits, F1, brakes

As shown in the above diagram of F1 braking by Brembo, the easiest circuits are Interlagos, Silverstone and Suzuka, while Spa is more complicated. Difficult tracks are Bahrain, Melbourne, Baku, Spielberg and Monza. Finally, the most complicated circuits for the left leg are Montreal, Singapore, Mexico City and Abu Dhabi.

Also read:

In order for the discs to slow the car down, they must be compressed with carbon pads using calipers. In the next episode, we will explore these two elements of the braking system that are important in Grand Prix in pictures.

Paradoxically, Formula 1 needs good brakes to go fast.

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