Teams will have to work hard in order to adapt their disk brakes and pads to the new rules or to take advantage of the new tires to a maximum level.
Although all the opinions, given before 2017, have been concentrated on the new tires and aerodynamics, the impact of these changes on the other areas of the new cars, they are much more important. The fact there is more grip thanks to the new regulations, does something fundamental to the brakes which they are very important during this Formula 1 season. Braking distance will be shorter while more energy is going to be developed: this means brakes, ERS as well as the pilots will suffer a big stress. So far, cars were using disk brakes with aluminum calipers working together with six pistons. Disk brakes were made of carbon with a diameter of 278 millimeter and a greater braking action on the front wheels than on the rear ones. The braking action in the back side is generated partially due to the action of the rear brakes as well as the ERS-k together with the MGU-k system. All together, they slow-down rear axle while they are charging the battery. Thanks to the high level of aerodynamic load, a car can go from its maximum speed to their maximum braking action in few milliseconds. Once, the aerodynamic load is going down due to a reduction in speed, the braking power necessary to stop the car is reduced.
Checking brakes temperature will be important
Almost any team had success to manage brakes temperature during qualifying or during a race without any problem, until today. Mercedes talked about its problems with brakes temperature in 2015, due to its greater speed obtained with their cars when compared with other competitors. In 2016, they have already emphasized the fact that their brakes were requiring more attention than those of the others teams, with a special situation experienced in Singapore. What is influencing the temperature of a disk brake, it is air ducts used to concentrate an air flow to bring the temperature down. This factor must be balanced because when the air ducts are too big, there is an increase in the aerodynamic drag. The ERS-k, this year, will experience more technical problems because energy recovery during braking is too aggressive. Something pretty important during a race since the possibility to recover some energy with this device, it can help to manage properly the fuel load necessary to finish a race. This season, we will see new solutions and new problems related with his important system, something in the past years was not an issue at all.
Increase of the minimal weight
At first glance, this shall be an help during a braking action because the new cars should be slower in the straight lines but faster in a turn. In reality, those physical principles behind braking is more complex than what is in reality. Braking will be more aggressive this time and cars will be heavier hence they will be more difficult to stop. Minimum weight is now fixed to 728 kg, approximately 26 kg more than 2016 so brakes will be under more stress and wearing will become a critical subject. Meanwhile, fuel load is increased of 5 kg more; this means that in the first turns of Melbourne, cars will be 31 kg heavier than those of last year
More aerodynamic load, less distance to stop
Keeping in mind what we just said, disk brakes will be wider of around 4 mm and 32 mm thick. This looks like, it is not a big change in the braking power but together with more aerodynamic load, pilots will have more power to slow-down their cars in a shorter distance than before. So cars will brake with a greater braking action in the first meters, reducing the distance necessary to slow-down the car. All the materials used in the braking system will be pushed to their limitations, something Mercedes Amg discovered along last years.
Braking disks and calipers must be changed
On the other hand, those new wider braking disks will allow factories like Brembo, Akebono and Ap Racing to design a brand new type of brakes to see if the choice of the materials together with their new project is capable to maximize the performance. In fact, the main pistons working on the braking system will have to be activated quickly, so a faster pressure will have to be given to the brakes. A difficult task that it can give some potential malfunctions during some very long races.
Energy recovery will be more complex
ERS-k will have a very difficult task, this year. This energy recovery system, it will have to carry on recovering a maximum of 2 Mega-Joule per lap but since the distance to slow-down a car is shorter, there will be less time or energy available to recharge a battery. Consequently, ERS-k system must work in a shorter period of time increasing fuel consumption. MGU system, used to control the electronic system in charge of the battery management will be under greater stress from a thermal point of view. This made necessary to design from zero the ERS-k system to face this new challenge and to do not interfere with the turbo when they are running.
Braking will be less frequent, more aggressive while distance to reduce speed will be reduced. However, brakes management during a race it might become something really important and demanding. Those teams capable to understand this reality will be able to work properly with brakes manufacturers to improve their performance. Vice versa, the teams not capable to manage properly this new situation, they will experience some difficult time with pilots and team principal becoming upset or frustrated by this incredible complex task. We are sure, we will listen many pilots and engineers to talk about their brakes along this new exciting Formula 1 season ready to start in few weeks.