Mercedes-Benz Takes F1 Brakes to the Next Level

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STUTTGART, Germany – Mercedes-Benz has made no secret of the fact that every element of its 2020 Formula 1 car has been improved for this year.

And while most of the attention has been dominated by its DAS system and a bold revamp of its sidepod concept, a deep dig into less obvious areas – like its brakes – highlights the attention to detail the Mercedes-Benz team has put in.

The front brake disc bell is a component that usually divides teams into two camps: those looking for maximum stiffness (such as Ferrari) and those that focus their attention on maximum lightness, (such as Red Bull).

However, in the case of Mercedes-Benz, it has looked to F1’s past for inspiration as its bell has a truncated cone shape that’s full of holes. This not only offers the required stiffness with a reduction in weight, but also brings aero benefit too.

Since 2012, when Adrian Newey introduced a contentious solution on the RB8, teams have skewed their designs to take into account a secondary function: aerodynamics.

The blown axle devised by Red Bull, which took air from the brake inlet and ejected it through holes in the side of the stub axle, was discovered by Giorgio Piola at the second grand prix of the season.

But, it wasn’t until the Monaco GP, which Mark Webber went on to win, that the FIA decided to act.

Charlie Whiting considered the combination of the holes in the wheel and axle, allied to the rotation of the cone-shaped stub axle, to constitute a ‘moveable aerodynamic device’ and declared this and another borderline solution on the RB8 illegal, requiring the team to be compliant for the Canadian GP.

Teams were not content with filing this idea away in a drawer though, with Williams the first to find a legal way of emulating the concept the following season.

The FW35 featured a hollow and open-ended stub axle with a fixed nozzle housed within. Fed airflow in a similar way to the banned Red Bull solution, but no longer rotating around the axle’s axis, this version may not have had the same potency but still helped to clean up some of the turbulence created by the wheel and tire.

Over the course of the next few seasons, many of the teams developed this solution to the point that when the FIA was devising the new regulations for 2019 it decided to outlaw them.

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