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An in-depth look at the braking systems on the Formula 1 single-seaters at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
From May 12 to 14, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will host the 5th race of the 2017 World Formula 1 Championship. Located in Montmeló, the circuit was inaugurated on September 10, 1991 and 19 days later it hosted its first Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Just recently, in February and March, the Catalunya track was stage to eight days of testing during which the single-seaters drove for a total of more than 34’000 km . It was the perfect bench test for the state-of-the-art #brembo braking systems, which include a brand new brake caliper and thicker discs (32 mm compared to 28 mm in 2016) that come with 1,400 ventilation holes.
The level of grip on the track continues to be very high, as demonstrated by the wear on the tires. The strong winds, which forced Fernando Alonso off track during testing in 2015, combined with the 1,047 meter main straightaway and other smaller straights allow for efficient thermal dissipation between one braking section and another.
According to #brembo technicians, who classified the 20 tracks in the World Championship on a scale of 1 to 10, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya falls into the category of circuits presenting medium difficulty for the brakes. The Spanish track earned a 7 on the difficulty index, which is the same score given to the tracks in Monaco and Sepang, as well as the Hungaroring.
The demand on the brakes during the GP
Although the lap time is almost 15 seconds less than the track in Sochi, the difference in the use of the brakes comes to merely half a second: the cars brake for 14.5 seconds every lap of the Russian GP, while at the Spanish GP they brake for 14 seconds. The overall time spent braking on this circuit totals 18%, the same percentage recorded at the Bahrain GP.
The average peak deceleration is 4.2 G; last year it was 3.8 G, which proves that the current single-seaters have a greater amount of brake torque.
Hand-in-hand with the increased brake torque this season, we can expect to see more dissipated energy in braking: during the entire GP, each single-seater is expected to dissipate 157 kWh, which is equivalent to the hourly consumption of three dance clubs in Ibiza.
From the starting line to the checkered flag, the #brembo technicians forecast that each driver will face about 530 braking sections, exerting a total force on the pedal of approximately 75.5 tons. In other words, each driver will apply a load of more than 750 kg every minute, which is the same weight of a single-seater, pilot included, and a second set of tires.
The most demanding braking sections
Of the eight braking sections at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, two are classified as demanding on the brakes, five are of medium difficulty and one is light. Different from all the other tracks, there is not even one corner in which the brakes are used for less than a second.
The most demanding braking section is at turn 1 (ELF): the single-seaters go from 324km\h to 151 km\h by braking for 1.70 seconds while traveling 50 meter, which is less than the width of the Camp Nou playing field. To do so, the drivers are required to apply a load of 154 kg on the brake pedal and undergo 4.8 G in deceleration, the same amount NASA astronauts experienced in the 1970s when returning to Earth at a 3-degree angle.
This same amount of deceleration is registered at the 10th corner (Caixa). The single-seaters arrive at the corner going 309 km\h and brake for just 1.46 seconds while traveling about 65 meter. Another critical braking section is at turn 7 (Wurth) because in just 35 meter, the single-seaters have to go from 267 km\h to just over 146 km\h.
More than half of the Spanish GP races (19 of 37) were won by single-seaters equipped with #brembo brakes. Ten of these went to Ferrari, which has been victorious eight times since 1996 on the Barcelona track. Last year however, first place went to Max Verstappen with Red Bull, making him the first 18-year-old to ever win a GP.
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