From 350 to 80 km/h in three and a half seconds -- the astonishing braking power of Formula One cars is one of the most amazing aspects of the sport. The old Royal Park in Monza is one of those places that invites the visitor to enjoy a leisurely...
From 350 to 80 km/h in three and a half seconds -- the astonishing braking power of Formula One cars is one of the most amazing aspects of the sport. The old Royal Park in Monza is one of those places that invites the visitor to enjoy a leisurely stroll. And that's all to the good, because it encourages fans to get out on the circuit in the thick of the action, where they can really appreciate the speed of F1 cars.
For since Hockenheim was remodelled, the Monza Autodromo is the last real high-speed circuit in Formula One. On the start/finish straight, the cars reach speeds of approximately 350 km/h... which means that when they brake for the first corner, they depend heavily on the remarkable braking power that is a special signature of high-tech Formula One.
In Monza, you decelerate from 350 to 80 km/h in only three and a half seconds. F1 brakes work in the same way as roadcar brakes, but under much more extreme conditions: in Monza, the discs glow at 1000 degrees almost constantly, and they have to be replaced after the Grand Prix.
Brakes are designed according to FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) rules, which stipulate the following to guarantee safety:
*Two separate braking circuits for the front and rear brakes. If one braking
circuit fails, the second is a redundant back-up.
*High-tech aids like ABS (anti-locking brakes) are prohibited. So are are exotic and expensive materials like beryllium for brake callipers.
*Brake callipers must be made of an aluminium alloy.
*A maximum of one brake calliper per wheel is permitted. Teams can also use up to six pistons, one disc and two pads per wheel.
*Maximum brake disc diameter is set at 278 mm. Discs can be no thicker than 28mm.
Discs and brake linings consist of the toughest and lightest material currently available -- carbon fibre. Carbon brakes were introduced at the beginning of the '90s, because they are astonishingly heat-resistant. Discs and pads used to be made of steel. The only disadvantage of carbon fibre is the price: every Formula One brake disc costs approximately 4000 Euro.
The goal is to achieve optimum stopping power without overheating the braking materials. When the driver hits his brake pedal, brake fluid is fed into the pistons which press the brake pads against the disc. The disc is held tight by the brake cylinder and is perforated to allow air to flow through and keep it cool. To stop the car swerving under hard braking, the driver can adjust the brake balance from the cockpit. Braking power is usually 60 percent on the front brake and only 40 percent on the rear.
This helps prevent wheels locking up when the weight of the car is shifted forward under braking. Over the course of a Formula One season, teams will also experiment with various types of brake cooling ducts to optimise disc/pad performance. At the German Grand Prix, for instance, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team introduced discs equipped with extra-large air intakes.
Braking also puts pressure on drivers' body strength, stamina and timing. When they brake at the end of Monza's start/finish straight, drivers experience up to 4g of deceleration -- if their upper body weighs 50 kilograms, it is pressed forward into the seatbelts with a weight of 200kg. It is this remarkable stopping power, rather than sheer speed, that Formula One cars unique. The high-tech brakes allow drivers to brake a mere 100m before the corner -- even at 320 km/h -- and yet maintain total control over their cars.