x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Formula One explained: Brakes and braking

Before each race of the season, The National explains a different aspect of Formula One. This week: brakes.

Before each race of the season, The National explains a different aspect of Formula One. This week: brakes.

How do F1 brakes work?

The short answer is: very similarly to road car brakes. While a Formula One car performs at far higher speeds and requires a far shorter braking distance, the primary principle remains the same: to effectively remove the car's kinetic energy and bring it to a quick stop. Disc brakes with rotating discs are squeezed between pads by use of a hydraulic caliper.

Road car comparison While the assumption is that F1 cars are far more advanced than regular road vehicles, when it comes to the braking department, an F1 car is in parts less capable. The reason for such is that the sport banned the use of anti-skid systems in the 1990s and also, in 2008, prohibited traction control. However, they are fitted with a second braking system to nullify the risk of a failure while travelling at high speed and they are also made of far more advanced materials to better cope with the higher temperatures generated.

How do the braking distances compare?

According to the Formula One website, it takes a race car "considerably less distance to stop from 160kph than a road car uses to stop from 100kph". The sport's engineers are also discouraged to further develop braking systems as any improvement could result in shorter braking distances and thus fewer opportunities to overtake.

Driver's thoughts When Lewis Hamilton swapped cars with the Nascar driver Tony Stewart after the Canadian Grand Prix last month in Montreal, the American driver said the one thing that stood out the most about Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes was "how incredible and efficient the brakes are. It's just amazing how far you can charge the corner."