TECH TUESDAY: The very different solutions from Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to one of F1’s most important performance areas – Formula 1 | CarTailz

In assessing the respective performance patterns of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes this season, much attention has been paid to their different aerodynamic characteristics and how these are better or worse suited to each track layout. But relatively little has been discussed about one performance factor at least as important: how each of the RB18, F1-75 and W13 uses their tyres.

There are myriad factors that go into tire behavior – notably weight distribution, suspension geometry, tire pressure and brake preload – but perhaps the most important of all is how the brakes are used to control tire temperature indirectly via the rims. It’s an incredibly complex subject.

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The optimal temperature of the tire (depending on the compound) is between 100 and 150 degrees C. The carbon brake discs, which are about 15 centimeters away, run between 500 and 1,000 degrees C. The requirement is to keep the tires within their rather narrow operating temperature window. which is more difficult to do with the undriven front tires than with the driven rear tires.

The focus of cooling the rear tires is simply to transfer brake heat out and away from the rim, but at the front it’s sometimes beneficial to transfer more of that heat in the tires so that they warm up in time for a qualifying lap, a race start or a restart.

Brake ducts are used to direct air as needed. The front ones tend to be more complicated in design because their job is more complex than the rear ones – and this is where we see big differences between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.


The complete brake system from Red Bull after a fairing redesign, in which, among other things, a thermal cover was removed.

In addition, the complexity of the requirements for the channels has increased this year due to the legal requirement for a standardized wheel rim. Previously, the teams designed their own rims with different indentation patterns on their inner surface to achieve different surface areas, and therefore different heat absorption rates, depending on the requirements of the track and the car itself.

Also new to the 2022 regulations is the requirement to exit brake cooling air through a single rear-facing outlet rather than through the wheel spokes, where previously this would help accelerate the washed-out airflow around the front tires.

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The channels within the channels distribute how much of the incoming air goes directly to the brake disc to keep it below the critical threshold at which the carbon would oxidize. There will be another duct that directs the air to the caliper. Both flows then exit through the same aft outlet.

These ducts are encased by a large carbon fiber drum designed solely to contain heat in the braking area and prevent too much of it from seeping through the metal rim and into the tyres. As a rule of thumb: Every 10 °C rim temperature increases the tire temperature by about 1 °C.


Ferrari brakes.jpg

Ferraris run in their drum without encasing the disc, unlike Red Bull or Mercedes.

Ferrari’s solution to these complex requirements appears simpler than Red Bull’s and Mercedes’, as they have exposed the brake disc in the large drum. The other two cars have fairings in the area inside the drum that can be varied to distribute different flows to the disc, caliper and straight to the exhaust.

From the respective performance patterns of the cars this season, it is clear that Ferrari’s system puts more heat into the rims and tires as it almost never fights for instantaneous power from the front tires on the first lap – and the other two often do.

This could well be an important part of Ferrari’s super strong qualifying performances this season. However, the downside is that rim temperatures can continue to rise during a racing stint, causing the tires to overheat.

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We saw this trait most recently in Japan, where Charles Leclerc managed to hold off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull for three laps, both laps two seconds faster than the rest of the field, before the Ferrari’s front tires then began to overheat, causing Verstappen to pull was able to get away easily and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull to catch up with the Ferrari at the end.

The phenomenon was also a factor in Verstappen’s win over Ferrari in the Imola, Miami and Hungary sprint races.


Merc W13 Brakes.jpg

(L) Mercedes trim panel with bottom section open; (R) Mercedes fairing with closed lower part.

For much of the season Mercedes seemed to have the best front tire temperature cooling, typically with strong pace towards the end of the stints. The disadvantage, however, was that the front tires were often out of temperature at the start of a qualifying lap.

Red Bull seemed to straddle the positions of Ferrari and Mercedes: better than Mercedes in qualifying but not as good as Ferrari, with better tire life than Ferrari in stints but not as good as Mercedes. Both Red Bull and Mercedes have improved their respective brake cooling trade-offs over the course of the season.

All of this underscores how these differences have been accentuated under the new rules in their importance in determining the order of competition.

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