Formula 1 vs Le Mans: A comparison of the Brembo systems and braking performance


 Brembo compares the braking systems and braking performance its products provide teams competing in the two races.


For half a century, Formula 1 races and the 24 Hours of Le Mans have been the world's two most important competitions for four-wheeled prototypes. The hefty investments made by Manufacturers in recent years have resulted in equipping these single-seaters with beastly 1,000 horsepower hybrid engines.

This is possible in the Formula 1 cars thanks to a power unit made up of six different elements: The six-stroke internal combustion engine with 1.6-liter engine capacity and a rev limit of 15,000 rpm; the turbocharger; MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat); MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit – Kynetic); the electronic control unit; and the battery.

For the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Manufacturers have quite a bit of choice in the construction of the power units. Some focus on 2.4L twin-turbo engines with kinetic energy recovery, while others look towards a simple naturally aspirated 4.5L engine (regulations set the maximum to 5.5L). In Formula 1, there is a lot of intense deceleration where the values often surpass 5G (at Monza it gets up to 6.7 G), but at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the braking force does not go over 3.5 G.

The reason for this wide gap is the difference in mass of the two prototypes. A Formula 1 single-seater has a minimum weight of 1,616 lb including the driver while an LMP1 car racing at Le Mans weighs at least 1,929 lb, plus 6.6 lb for camera gear or a spare power pack. Of course, non-hybrid LMP1 cars can weigh up to 45 kg less, which means the overall weight drops to 1,836 lb.




Formula 1 races last about 100 minutes, they never go over 2 hours. The 24 Hours of Le Mans lasts an entire day. So, it is better to compare two tracks that are similar in length, number of corners, geographic position and climate.

During the Belgian GP in Spa, the Formula 1 single-seaters have to face about 350 braking sections, while at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an LMP1 will brake more than 4,000 times.

This is a huge challenge for Brembo. Fortunately, the Company has garnered 20 years of experience in endurance racing and has developed tailor-made solutions.
 The only common factor these cars share is that their discs are made of carbon.
What is different, and by a lot, are the disc properties. We've outlined these in the table below:


Formula 124 Hours of Le Manss
​Disc thickness​up to 32 mm30-32 mm
Front disc diameter​278 mmup to 380 mm
Rear disc diameter260 - 272 mmup to 355 mm
Number of ventilation holes​Over 1400Between 36 and 430
Range of use 662-1832°F662-1472°F
Wear per eventless than 1 mm3-4 mm per disc and 8-10 mm per pad​​
​​ ​

The difference in the disc diameter is linked to the size of the rims used in the respective championship races. Currently in Formula 1, 13" rims are allowed. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans the cars are equipped with 18" rims.





In Formula 1, ventilation is crucial to preventing the system from overheating. Depending on the forecasted air temperatures during the Grand Prix and the specific race strategy, each driver chooses from three different Brembo disc solutions: Around 900, 1,200 or 1,400 holes.

The teams rely on personalized cooling schemes, an element that is essential for improving heat dissipation. The temperature of the F1 discs can get up as high as 1,832°F during the race. Ventilation of the LMP1 cars is not as intense at the 24 Hours of Le Mans because the teams actually have the opposite problem: Rather than cool down the systems, they have to keep the temperature from dropping too low, especially at night or during neutralization phases.

That explains why these cars use the same number of ventilation holes that the Formula 1 cars used years ago. At Le Mans, it is important to keep the carbon discs from dropping below 662°F, which would cause the friction material to glaze, reducing braking efficiency and resulting in premature disc wear.

To prevent this from happening, Brembo offers friction material for discs and pads that has a more efficient thermal conductivity.




Just like in Formula 1, the LMP1 cars racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans use Brembo carbon brake pads. Naturally, the pads they use are thicker to guarantee they remain fully operational for the entire 24 hours.

Just consider that pad and disc wear during a Formula 1 race is less than one millimeter, while the prototypes racing in Le Mans consume 3-4 mm per disc and 8-10 mm per pad.

To monitor consumption, the Formula 1 single-seaters are equipped with sensors that continuously relay the temperature of the discs and calipers to the engineers in the pits. In some cases, the sensors also monitor the status of the pistons so that they can calculate disc and pad wear.


Monitoring these elements enables proactive problem-solving in different conditions of use and communication with the driver in real time about modifying brake balance and recovering energy from braking the single-seater.

In addition to sensors, the Brembo discs on the prototypes at Le Mans have slots with a range of depths that make it easy to quickly check the status of the discs when the car is in the pits for refueling or to change the driver. When one of these slots is no longer visible, it means the disc has been consumed more than the depth of the slot when new.

Obviously, when the last slot disappears, the disc has to be replaced because the level of performance has gone down.



It may seem impossible to compare the braking performance of these two types of cars since they don't race on the same track.

To get around this problem, we decided to compare the hardest braking done in the two competitions, calculating the average deceleration of each as it relates to braking time and distance. In general, the Formula 1 and LMP1 cars are very different and their behavior during braking can't and shouldn't be attributed to the brakes alone.

The race cars have different weight distributions and aerodynamic loads, but even more importantly their tires differ in size and compound, which plays a significant role in braking performance. Although not perfect, this comparison still provided interesting results.   






On Chicane 1 at Le Mans (turn 5 on the track), the LMP1s arrive going 208 mph and they brake for 3.21 seconds during which they travel 640 feet.

This is how they drop to 68 mph, the fastest possible speed to get through the chicane without driving off the track. To do this, drivers apply a load of 220 lb on the brake pedal and undergo a deceleration of 3.5 G.

 In comparison, as the Formula 1 cars enter the Parabolica at Monza (the last turn on the Italian GP track), they are going 195 mph and in just 1.22 seconds they use barely 236 feet to reduce their speed to 127 mph.

The drivers are required to apply a remarkable amount of force: 6.7 G in deceleration and a load of just over 440 lb on the brake pedal.

That means a Formula 1 race car is able to drop more than 55 mph [195-127 mph)/1.22] in one second, while the top-end LMP1 cars can only reduce their speeds by 43 mph [(208-68 mph)/3.21] per second.

We can imagine a few counter-arguments you may have. At Monza, to reach peak speeds the single-seaters unload the weight distribution, which leads to optimized results. ​

There is some truth to this argument, however the extremely winding tracks like Singapore and Monaco confirm the incredible braking power of the Formula 1 vehicles.

On Turn 1 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore, the Formula 1 single-seaters brake for 1.98 seconds to go from 183 mph to 84 mph: That means in one second they drop more than 50 mph. And on the first corner after the tunnel (Turn 10) at the Monaco GP, the single-seaters go from 178 mph to 58 mph in 2.03 seconds: In essence, in one second they decelerate 59 mph. ​




The difference may seem minimal, but said another way it really is impressive: In 236 feet of braking, the Formula 1 single-seaters go down more than 65 mph, while in the same amount of space the LMP1 prototypes decrease their speeds by about 43 mph.

On the two Varianti at Monza (del Rettifilo and della Roggia), the 236 feet of braking ensures a drop in speed of 76 mph and 73 mph. We have further proof of this difference in braking power looking at the races on the tracks in Singapore and Monaco.

On the first corner at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, the Formula 1 single-seaters brake in a mere 266 feet and on the first turn after the tunnel in the Monaco GP, in just 377 feet. In this first case, 236 feet of braking ensures a deceleration of 71 mph, while in the second race the same distance allows a reduction of 75 mph.

Going back to the data for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Italian GP, even the number of mph lost in just 3.2 miles of braking verifies the superior braking power of the Formula 1 cars.

On Chicane 1 at Circuit de la Sarthe, every 3.2 feet of braking corresponds to a drop of 0.7 mph in speed, while on the Variante del Rettifilo, every 3.2 feet of braking leads to a reduction of 1.05 mph in speed.


To summarize, in a hypothetical braking competition between F1 single-seaters and LMP1 race cars, during the first 186 - 311 miles on the track, the Formula 1 cars outshine by a long shot.

Still, as you can imagine, the F1 vehicles would end up with worn brakes after barely one eighth of the race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. ​