Friday, April 11, 2008


The brakes of a Formula 1 car do the same job as their road going cousins do. They convert the kinetic energy resulting from the motion of the car into heat and light (!) energy. In the process, they slow the car down. The most significant difference between the brakes used in road cars and the brakes of Formula 1 cars is the material with which they are made of. Road cars (most of them) use steel discs that are clamped by calipers. Formula 1 cars use a very different material for their discs. The same material is also made use of in the construction of the monocoque, the engine cover, the front and rear wings... well, almost all of the car is made of this material. It's carbon fibre. This extremely tough and extremely expensive material has a coeffecient of friction that is appreciably much higher than what steel possesses. It also has the capability to withstand extremely high temperatures in the order of 1000 degree celsius that is quite easily reached when they haul a Formula 1 car from 300 kph to 80 kph in about 100 or so metres. The drivers, when they brake for a corner, experience anything upto 5g of longitudinal acceleration (acceleration due to deceleration. Sounds funny, doesn't it? :-))

What does this 5g feel like? How does it feel when tear drops from your eyes are forced into your helmet visor when you brake? That's how 5g feels like!

The drivers have the option of adjusting how much braking force should go into the front and rear wheels. This is normally called the brake bias. This is also unique to F1 cars as road cars don't usually provide this luxury to the drivers. Whether this really is a luxury to the drivers or not, we'll see in F1 TECHNOLOGY :: BRAKES (Part 2).

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