Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Revealed: Mercedes 2017 development front brake solution

As the season winds down, the teams are already apportioning some of their free practice time to the development of 2017 concepts.

Mercedes has been at the forefront of this push, looking to maximise the track time afforded to new concepts and improve the W08 before it's even hit the tarmac.

The team has all but admitted that the scope for improving the W07 now lies only in the set-up at each track, with little-to-no development parts available at this and the last GP.

Its time during free practice over the last few races has been split between track acclimatisation, fine-tuning and development work for 2017.

With a fierce development battle expected to break out at the start of next season, it's hardly surprising that teams want to evaluate key concepts ahead of time. These early tests expose the developments to other teams, though, and so distractionary tactics come into play, with something run in plain sight whilst trying to conceal the real test component.

Mercedes W06 front suspension bay
Mercedes W06 front suspension bay

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It's a tactic that we've already seen from Mercedes use, like when the team attempted to divert attention away from its new hydraulic suspension element in Brazil last season, by combining it with a rough version of its 'S' duct. It was a charade that didn't go unnoticed though, as you can see in the illustration above.

We've already extensively covered Mercedes' new front wing concept, with the mainplane separated from the endplate, in a move which is sure to change the flow structures being generated by outer section of the wing.

However, like with last year's Brazilian GP cover-up, we can exclusively reveal that the team has once again been trying to perform sleight of hand, as we've uncovered the use of a new front brake assembly that Mercedes has been testing since Monza.

The assembly consists of several new components, with carbon shims [1] of a similar if not the same material as the brake discs mounted either side of the main brake disc. These new shims feature their own cooling holes with which to dissipate heat that may be transferred to them as the brakes are applied.

The inner of these two shims would be fairly easy to mount within the standard brake housing but the outer shim requires a new concentric housing, with metal supports used to bridge the gap [2].

Both of the shims are independently cooled by airflow taken in by the brake duct, with the inner given it's own pipework from the inlet, whilst the outer one employs an offshoot from the crossover pipe which ordinarily only cools the caliper [See blue arrows for airflow direction].

It's unclear at this stage if the shims are a simulation of the increased disc width that is available for 2017, up to a maximum of 32mm from 28mm, in order to understand the thermal impact this has on the brakes and tyres - or an area of development that the teams will chase in order to reduce the width of the disc and reduce the rotational mass.

If it's a case of the latter, the use of these shims is going to be divisive, as all the teams will be forced to chase the gains that it will likely afford, perhaps so much so that the FIA may step in and clarify its position before a spending war ensues.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Brazilian GP
Track Interlagos
Teams Mercedes
Article type Analysis
Topic Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis