The 2018 breed of F1 cars is set to be the fastest ever as the combination of constantly-evolving aerodynamics and softer, grippier Pirelli tyres should be good for an extra second or two per lap over last year’s machinery.
The brakes are an often forgotten aspect of F1 cars, but the level of development that goes into them is no less than you’d see for an engine or a front wing. Brembo supplies most of the grid and with the extra speed (and the extra weight caused by the Halo), the Italian manufacturer hasn’t skimped on the details of this season’s braking equipment.
To cope with the extra stresses caused by the stickier tyres, the carbon discs have gained an extra 100 ventilation channels to help cool them down from over 1000 degrees centigrade. There are three types of disc depending on the circuit, ambient temperature and race strategy, ranging from 900 holes to 1200, with a massive 1500 on the beefiest set. Front discs will generally be 32mm thick, with the rears at 28mm.
They’re incredibly light, too - at little more than a kilo each, they weigh six times less than the carbon ceramic discs you might find on sports car, and 12 times less than regular steel discs.
There’s no holding back when it comes to the calipers, either, which themselves can reach 200 degrees centigrade. Despite the demands, keeping the weight down is key, so Brembo has managed to make them lighter and stiffer to maximise the effectiveness of the brake-by-wire systems.
This is especially evident with the rear brakes, which only run four-piston calipers (as opposed to the six-piston ones at the front) because the resistance generated by the energy recovery systems of the hybrid power units aids with the stopping power.
Brembo works with each team to produce bespoke discs, depending on whether there’s a preference for lighter, but less stiff discs, or ones with a stiffer construction at the cost of increased weight. Where thousandths of a second can make an enormous difference, the driver having confidence in the feel of their brakes is absolutely vital.
A Formula 1 caliper is expected to last for at least 10,000km, with teams ordering a dozen or so sets to get them through the year. Discs need to be changed a little more frequently - generally, a team will need between 140 to 240 per season, and upwards of 480 pads.