Which circuit is hardest on the brakes?


 Brembo's prognosis on the circuits in the 2016 Formula 1 that are hardest on the brakes

The 2016 Formula 1 World Championship has just begun and Brembo takes a stab at predicting how hard the brakes on the single-seaters will have to work at the 19 remaining circuits in the championship.


The 2016 Formula 1 World Championship tracks are as varied as they can possibly be from the standpoint of difficulty for the braking systems. They range from slow and tortuous circuits like those on the city streets, to fast tracks characterised by very high average speeds.


The toughest circuits from a thermal point of view


To make our prognosis for each track more objective, we have attempted to cross-reference some rather telling 'historical' indicators for the braking systems: the percentage of the race spent braking (vertical axes) and the average braking power. The first statistic quantifies the time spent braking over the course of the entire GP and the second indicator gives an idea of how intense the braking is on average in the same GP. The cross-reference of these two indicators resulted in this graphic, which mainly highlights the thermal aspect linked to the use of the brakes.




Indeed, the circuits that are quite challenging as far as cooling the brakes fall into the two upper quadrants. In the upper left-hand corner of the graphic are the slower circuits characterised by a significant aerodynamic load and high percentages of time spent braking but with braking that is not particularly intense.


Even when the braking is only slightly intense on average, the circuits are still extremely difficult on the brakes, especially because of the high temperatures that the calipers and brake fluid reach. Moving to the upper right-hand quadrant, the tracks become faster and require cars with less aerodynamic load.


Initially we find tracks like Montreal and Sakhir that have fast straightaways as well as stretches with sharp, repetitive curves and are just as hard on the brakes since they are characterised by both a considerable amount of time spent braking (although distinctly lower than that of Monte Carlo, Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi) and very violent braking sections on average. In the lower left are the circuits that tend not to be challenging on the brakes, like Interlagos and Suzuka, which stand out for their fast turns and not very intense braking.


Lastly, in the lower right-hand quadrant we have the fast tracks with very intense but infrequent braking. Setting aside the rare exception (such as Monza, which is amongst the most difficult circuits for single-seater braking systems), these tracks present a medium level of difficulty for the brakes due to braking sections that are characterised by decelerations nearing 5 g but are preceded by straightaways that last a very long time and allow plenty of time to efficiently cool down the friction material.



​The toughest circuits from the point of view of brake use


Whilst the previous graphic gives us a good idea of the toughest tracks on the brakes and the reasons that determine the difficulty for the braking systems from a thermal point of view, it is important to keep in mind that a circuit can be arduous on the braking systems from a purely energetic standpoint, meaning concentrating more on the violence of the individual stop and the resulting difficulty on the brakes.


To enhance our analysis further, for each circuit we cross-referenced two other indicators: total energy dissipated in braking by a single-seater during a GP (measured in KwH on a vertical axes) and the average deceleration of the braking sections of a GP (measured in G on a horizontal axes).

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In this graphic, the quadrants on the right highlight the tracks with the most violent deceleration. Canada, Austria and Italy prove to be the circuits with the greatest deceleration registering over 4g on average. In the lower quadrants on the other hand, circuits characterised by low dissipated energy and low braking power stand out, like Suzuka, Silverstone and Spa (these last ones are on the lower right-hand side). In adverse weather conditions, the low energy in play on these tracks can present problems tied to excessive cooling and the so-called 'glazing' of the friction material.


Indeed, the carbon with which the brake discs and pads are made do not guarantee the proper generation of friction at an operation temperature that is too low, jeopardising performance during braking. In the upper left-hand quadrant are the least challenging circuits as far as the intensity of braking, but they are by no means to be overlooked for the energy that the single-seaters have to dissipate in braking throughout the duration of the whole GP.


The toughest circuits from the Brembo technicians' perspective


The second graphic provides an outlook that is a bit different from that of the first graphic. The difficulty a circuit places on the braking systems is rated by quantitative indicators like those that have been evaluated up to now, however qualitative factors that are difficult to measure must also be taken into consideration. Besides grip, aerodynamic load, atmospheric conditions (such as high ambient temperatures that increase the mechanical grip and make heat dissipation generated in braking more difficult), and the quantity and intensity of the braking sections, it is primarily the positioning and sequence of the brakings that play a decisive role in determining how tough a circuit is on the braking system.


Just as important as the other conditions is the fact that braking occurring in a tight sequence and at a short distance from each other leads to a surplus in difficulty on the braking systems because they do not have enough time to cool down sufficiently on the short straightaways. These variables are not easy to quantify for those with little experience on the subject. Yet, the Brembo technicians have studied the Formula 1 tracks and have interfaced with the main Teams for more than 40 years. From their expertise emerges a ranking that is slightly different from those that the numbers alone provide. The Brembo engineers that work in Formula 1 have assigned a score from 1 to 10 for each track, which indicates the effort required of the braking systems by the different tracks. Seven circuits fall into the highest category with scores that range from 8 for Monza and Sochi to 10 for Montreal and Abu Dhabi.


Most likely these last two will prove to be the most challenging in the 2016 season as well due to the presence of numerous braking sections with elevated energy and at short distances from each other. This makes them a very difficult test bench for all of the braking system components, which are under continuous stress from the high levels of energy and temperature. In the intermediate category (scores from 5 to 7), there are 10 tracks that offer a medium level of difficulty but are not to be underestimated. These include Monaco, Hungary and Melbourne (the brand new Formula 1 Baku track will probably be included here too).


It will be necessary to pay particular attention on these tracks to managing the temperatures during the race weekend in order to prevent the systems from overheating and vapour lock to occur. Lastly, the less challenging circuits will make it possible to count on very manageable tracks in the 2016 season, like Spa and Suzuka (score of 4), Interlagos and Silverstone (3). On these tracks, the wide curves are fast, which determine brakings that are not very challenging in general, but which can generate problems tied to excessive cooling and the so-called glazing of friction material.


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