Braking technology is one of the few areas in F1 where extensive design freedoms are still in place – and the development never stops. Leading the way with calliper design for the last couple of years have been Red Bull and Aston Martin. Mark Hughes takes a look at how those two teams have cleverly continued to exploit this performance area.

    Most of the F1 teams’ brake calliper design development has been on the front brakes, as the rear system relies heavily on the reverse torque of the ERS-K, and so the actual rear brake discs are relatively small. Most of the direct braking is done at the front. The callipers contain the hydraulically-operated pistons which clamp the brake pads down onto the carbon brake disc.

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    Immense heat is generated as the kinetic energy (energy from movement) of an F1 car is converted to heat energy as the driver slams on the brakes. The discs regularly reach temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius.

    The callipers need to be stiff enough to not be distorted by the braking forces – but also light. Because the wheel and brakes are not supported by the suspension but attached to it (unsprung mass) any weight has a particularly negative effect on the car’s grip and ride quality.

    BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 24: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW45
    F1 brake discs regularly reach temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius

    The lighter the better, even more so than is the case with sprung masses such as the chassis and bodywork.

    Incredibly intricate ways have been devised to reduce the masses of the callipers while still retaining adequate stiffness. Cooling channels to dissipate the heat also reduce the mass.

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    The cooling holes in the discs themselves help dissipate the heat faster when the brakes are not in use, but they also ensure that the discs get even hotter when they are in use – because the energy is being distributed over a lower mass of material. The more the callipers can assume some of the heat dissipation role, the better.

    Aston Martin last year introduced extravagantly ribbed and machined callipers – and this year Red Bull have followed suit. This year’s Aston has retained the intricate callipers but re-sited them lower on the disc, lowering the centre of gravity, as seen in the image above.

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    Red Bull already had theirs mounted there last year, but have now introduced a more intricately-designed calliper, with a level of detail matching Aston’s as seen in the image below.

    Red Bull brakes
    The current Red Bull RB19 features intricate cooling channels for its low-mounted calliper (right). Last year’s calliper was similarly mounted but not as extensively drilled and machined (left)

    With rivals already anxiously scoping out how they can emulate both Red Bull and Aston Martin’s strengths as they look to develop their own 2023 machines, calliper design will likely play a small – but significant – part in that process.

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