Brought to you by TheJudge13 technical analyst Lorenzo De Luca
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of the upcoming season is most definitely the new turbo engines, the new aerodynamics regulations and the limited amount of fuel. But there is an element that could affect performance of the cars, that is not mentioned much: Brake-By-Wire.
In 2009 KERS was introduced to Formula 1 cars, a system that recovers the kinetic energy during braking to recharge a battery and allows the driver to use this energy (via a button on the steering wheel) as and when needed, but limited to 6s per lap. From this season onwards, KERS has grown up and is now called MGU-K (ERS-K) and it now has a twin brother called MGU-H (ERS-H) who’s job it is to recover energy from the exhaust gasses that power the turbocharger.
The new regulations has raised the amount of energy that can be harvested during braking from 400KJ to 2000KJ per lap, resulting in significant changes in the efficiency of the elements that make up the braking system. As a result teams now make use of smaller rear brakes disks, and from this year teams have adopted four piston calipers rather than the standard 6 piston calipers, still used at the front.
Engineers recognised that the braking capacity provided by MGU-K and MGU-H will be such that it will make braking problematic for the drivers. In 2009, the first year of using an energy recovery system, there were several drivers who had issues in managing the braking distance which varied significantly when KERS was charging or not. Over time, the adoption of appropriate electronic strategies allowed teams to eliminate the problems and allowed exploitation of an even more exasperated braking phase.
Since the MGU-K system has twice the power compared to the old KERS (80 bhp vs 160 bhp), it is crucial that engineers find a way to keep the car as stable as possible when the driver push the brake pedal.
And this is where Brake-By-Wire comes in.
Thanks to special electronic mapping will modulate the power to give to the rear brakes, according to the pressure exerted on the brake pedal, while at the same time take into account the energy taken from the brake discs by the MGU-K. This will ensure stability to the car while braking, but importantly relieve the driver from the task of having to change his brake distribution to ensure the ERS recover enough energy trough the MGU-K.
To understand how complicated this kind of system is for engineers – after the first winter testing session in Jerez, the Sauber F1 Team rebuilt the whole system because it was mis-calibrated and caused their drivers to lose control and spin the car several times.
Given that the braking phase will still be crucial for good lap times, it’s easy to understand how important it is to have a good Brake-By-Wire system is.
While everything on the car is controlled by the ECU and engineers have their hands full just to understand the system the options available to them are endless. Without doubt a few would have been thinking how to gain extra benefits out of the system, benefits such as ABS or a form of traction control.
Time will tell however we will be seeing some very clever use of the new ERS system over the course of the year and years to come.