How Formula 1 Brakes have Evolved


 From KERS to discs with 1,200 ventilation holes: Brembo innovation over the last seven F1 Championships

The 2016 Formula 1 Championship is getting close and Brembo is preparing to flank the top teams in yet another season. In anticipation of Brembo's braking system innovations for the 2016 season, let's review the evolution of the Formula 1 braking systems over the last seven years, when the single-seaters with Brembo brakes won both World Drivers' Championship and World Constructors' Championship. 


2009: Lighter and more compact rear brakes

Size doesn't matter: Brembo puts all of the teams it supplies in the best conditions, as proven by the Brawn GP at the 2009 World Championship. The new regulations lead to a reduction in the aerodynamic downforce because of limits to the wing area and, in contrast, the increase of mechanical grip ensured by the return to the slick tyres. Moreover, KERS is introduced for the first time. As a consequence, the load on the front axle of the vehicle goes up, reaching a total that oscillates between 60 and 65 percent compared to the load that varied between 55 and 60 percent in 2008. Brembo makes the braking system more manageable, designing lighter and more compact rear brake calipers with respect to the previous year, and revises the specifications of friction material to make the rear axle less sensitive to the variations in torque and temperature.

In 2009, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win 15 out of 17 seasonal GPs.



2010: More intense use of brakes due to increased weight

In a year full of surprises, it is Red Bull's turn in 2010: the only variable to remain unchanged are the winners' Brembo brakes.

The 2010 technical regulations increase the minimum weight of the single-seater (from 605 to 620 kg including liquids and driver on-board) and ban refuelling, which lead to an increase in the size of the tank, from 100 litres to 230-240, with inevitable variations to the general equilibrium of the vehicle. This is combined with a reduction by 20 mm in the width of the front tyre tread, bringing the load to the forecarriage to 53 percent. Brembo engineers focus on a system that is able to dissipate the energy better and has a higher efficiency standard in every load condition, as well as at any temperature. Thus, the braking systems are able to perform optimally both in qualifications, when the cars  aren't loaded with fuel, and on the starting line, when the cars are decidedly heavier. The materials and systems are designed to work under a wide range of thermal levels.

In 2010, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win 14 out of 19 seasonal GPs.



2011: A reduction in the weight and new materials for the braking systems

After the success in 2010, Red Bull proves itself again by dominating the 2011 Championship: Brembo is still at its side.

A revolution in Formula 1: Pirelli replaces Bridgestone as tyre supplier, the front wing can no longer be mobile, the double diffuser and the F-Duct are banned. KERS is back however, and the DRS is introduced, meaning it is possible to activate the rear wing for a few seconds to increase the number of overtakings, when the distance to the car in front is less than one second. With the return of KERS, the load returns to the front axle at the expense of the rear axle, resulting in greater solicitation of the front brakes. Due to extensive experience with KERS in 2009, Brembo manages to increase the rigidity of the braking system components, while at the same time decreasing the weight: the caliper weighs just 1.6 kg and the brake disc a mere 1.4 kg. Development of the attrition material for the brake pads continues as well.

In 2011, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win 13 out of 19 seasonal GPs.



2012: Ventilation in the braking systems increases

In 2012, Brembo is supplier to the two teams that fight for the title all the way to the final race. In the end, Vettel's Red Bull takes the lead over Alonso's Ferrari.  

FIA is back to modifying the rules, banishing blown diffusers and as a consequence, reducing the aerodynamic load on the rear.

The tyres change, they are squarer now and are made of a constant grade compound. Lastly, the maximum height of the nose is lowered from 62.5 to 55 cm. The various stylistic and design differences in the single-seaters drive Brembo to further customise the braking systems (in terms of both the rigidity and the air flow control inside the wheel), which are developed continuously throughout the course of the season. The ventilation holes in the discs, on the other hand, are multiplied, going from 200 to 600 in one year.
This is possible because the design of the ventilation holes is pushed to the extreme, increasing the utmost number and reducing the diameter, exponentially increasing the carbon surface exposed to the air flow and thus the thermal wear.

In 2012, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win 11 out of 20 seasonal GPs.




2013: Less wear of the braking system friction material and greater disc ventilation

The four golden years of Red Bull powered by Renault end triumphantly in 2013: Brembo is thankful.


For once, the changes to the regulations are minimal: the tyres are 2 kg heavier overall (the minimum weight rises from 640 to 642 kg) and are composed of a softer compound that amplifies the degradation. The double DRS experimented by some of the teams in 2012 is banished. Brembo introduces the new CER material which, compared to the previous CCR, guarantees maximum speed in reaching the most efficient operating temperatures, a wide range of uses (pressure and temperature), and a very linear friction response. The incredibly low wear allows for performance that is unchanged and repeatable from the beginning to the end of the race. The improvements to ventilation continue, with the number of holes in each disc surpassing one thousand.

In 2013, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes just miss sweeping all the wins, taking  18 out of 19 seasonal GPs.


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2014: The introduction of Brake By Wire mandates a braking system re-design

In 2014, sixty years after its initial success, Mercedes is on top of the world. An epic change in Formula 1: turbo engines are back after disappearing in 1988, but for the first time they are coupled with a system of energy recovery. ERS pulls up alongside KERS to capture the waste heat dispersed by the turbo in the exhaust pipe. A significant increase in the minimum weight of the single-seaters is made, going from 642 to 690 kg. To manage the supplementary horsepower in the power unit, Brake By Wire is introduced. But this, along with the notable increase in the single-seater mass, obligates Brembo engineers to re-design the braking system, especially in the rear, for a problem-free combination with KERS. In particular, the rear brake discs undergo a reduction in their diameter with respect to the previous season, with an advantage in terms of weight and speed in responding to the pressure.

In 2014, the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win, for the first time, all of the 19 seasonal GPs.


2015: More advanced brake discs, new calipers and the evolution of Brake By Wire

This year, notwithstanding Ferrari's growth, Mercedes still reigns.

FIA once again modifies the rules regarding the measurements of the single-seaters: the minimum weight goes up to 702 kg while the minimum height of the nose rises to 85 cm. But most importantly, increased horsepower in the power unit turns the tables. With a new material for the brake discs, Brembo replicates the CER 300, which reduces wear on the braking system, keeping the performance constant from the beginning to the end of the race. Improvements are also made to the cooling of the discs through an increased number of ventilation holes, which go up to 1,200 for each disc, and to the fixation of the disc to the transition hat, which increases structural resistance. The calipers in aluminium/lithium are new and more importantly, more efficient. Lastly, Brembo produces different BBW components: the actuator for some teams, the valves and the rigidity simulator for others.

Once again, in 2015 the single-seaters with Brembo brakes win all of the 19 seasonal GPs.


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