Building Brembo Brakes for F1

Gary S. Vasilash

Although stories about Formula One racing typically include pictures of exotically shaped carbon fiber structures in exotic locales—

Nico Rosberg Australian GP

--here’s something that is exotic in its own way and made of carbon, albeit not fiber in the body panel sense:

Brembo F1 brake

That’s a brake that Brembo has developed, with a carbon-reinforced disc, and which it is supplying to five teams (Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, Sauber F1 Team, Scuderia Ferrari, and Scuderia Toro Rosso).

One of the changes for the 2013 is the use of tires that are heavier (by 2 kg) and have softer compounds. This means there is greater wear during a race because the tires get to temperature faster. This means more pit stops. Which, presumably, means more opportunities for position changes during a race.

What does this have to do with brakes? It is important that braking occur without locking the wheels, because that would lead to even more wear. So modulation is key. As is temperature control.

Because brakes can reach 1,200° C, it is important that they be kept as cool as possible. So to cool the carbon discs, there are as many as 1,000 holes in the discs. Also, there is a titanium component used between the disc and cup; this fastener facilities cooling as it is spline-like in form and helps channel air.

One interesting aspect of the holes, which Brembo has been putting in the discs for the past several years, is that their number has changed significantly thanks to a better understanding of air flow, accomplished through the use of computational fluid dynamics, wherein the airflow between the intake the and disc is examined.

Before 2008, there were 30 holes. In 2011, the number of holes increased to 200 holes. And today, based on a better understanding of thermic discharge, there are more than 1,000 holes.

How long does it take to manufacture a Brembo brake caliper for the F1 teams? If you take out the various steps that take the discs out of direct manufacture (e.g., surface treatment), 10 hours. As might be expected, assembly is performed by hand.