Boiling Hot Temperatures Put Brakes at Risk on the Sepang Circuit


 Drivers use their brakes for 16 minutes at the Malaysian GP

After the night time Grand Prix in Singapore, Formula 1 is back to competing by the light of day with the 15th race of the 2017 World Championship scheduled from September 29 to October 1 at the Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia).


Located about 53 miles from Kuala Lumpur, the track was built inside a 260-hectare former palm oil plantation. It took 14 months of work to complete it, after which it was inaugurated on March 9, 1999.

For years, Formula 1 raced on this circuit in March and April, but last year the GP was postponed until the fall.

Moving the race to later in the year meant this was the hottest competition in the 2016 championship: The temperature of the track oscillated between 120°F to 133°F.

The biggest concerns this generates are related to establishing the correct dimensions of the air intake so that operational temperatures of the braking system can be managed efficiently on all of the circuit's 15 corners.

According to Brembo technicians, who classified the 20 tracks in the World Championship on a scale of 1 to 10, the Sepang International Circuit presents mid-level difficulty on the brakes.

The Malay track earned a 7 on the difficulty index, which is the same score given to the circuits in Budapest, Barcelona and Monaco.



The demand on the brakes during the GP

The 15 corners on the track require drivers to use their brakes 8 times per lap. From the starting line to the checkered flag, each driver uses his brakes about 450 times for a total of just under 16 minutes.

On average, the brakes are used for 17 seconds per lap, which is similar to the time spent braking in Budapest and Monaco, however these tracks are a lot shorter than the 6,061 yards at Sepang.

The average deceleration is 3.7 G, but eliminating the hairpin corners at turns 2 and 14 would result in a much higher figure.

The energy dissipated in braking over the course of the race by a single-seater is low: barely 100 kWh, the second lowest in the championship after the 76 kWh at Silverstone.

At Spa-Francorchamps the average registered is 102 kWh and at Suzuka it reaches 109 kWh.

From the starting line to the checkered flag, each driver exerts a total load of 47 metric tons on the brake pedal. This figure is not that far off from what is recorded at Silverstone (46.2 metric tons), but the air temperature there is significantly lower than in Malaysia, where the heat and humidity require greater physical effort.


The most demanding braking sections

Of the 8 braking sections at Sepang International Circuit, two are classified by Brembo technicians as very demanding on the brakes, three are of medium difficulty and the remaining three are light.

The most challenging by far is the Pangkor Laut corner (turn 1): the single-seaters go from 204 mph to 56 mph in 3.11 seconds, traveling 75 yards, the length of five badminton courts.

At this point, the drivers are subjected to a deceleration of 4.4 G and they apply a 275-pound load on the brake pedal. For both this and turn 5, the last corner before the finish line, the deceleration is 4.4 G. But on turn 5 the drivers are going slightly less fast when they apply the brakes (199 mph) and enter the corner (54 mph), and both the braking distance (73 yards) and the load on the brake pedal (271 lbs) are lower.

Braking at the Langkawi corner (turn 4) is also noteworthy: The cars go from 192 mph to 67 mph in 2.3 seconds and 62 yards with a peak deceleration of 4.3 G. On turn 7 the drivers use their brakes for only 1.09 seconds, which is enough to slow down from 183 mph to 129 mph.


Brembo performance
Single-seaters with at least one Brembo brake component have won 13 of the last 18 Malaysian GP races contested so far, including the last nine.

The driver who has won the most on this track is Sebastian Vettel with four victories, three of which were with Red Bull and the most recent in 2015 with Ferrari. He and his fellow countryman Michael Schumacher are the only two to have ever won two consecutive Malaysian GP races. This year, Daniel Ricciardo will attempt to repeat this feat.