F1 Brake Failure: Brake By Wire Explained

Brake Failure and F1 are on a fast track to being synonymous in the Formula One world. It seems as though every race is not being decided by wit and skill, but instead by whose brakes will last the longest before crossing the white flag.

But why does this keep occurring? Isn’t the point of implementing new technology into F1 supposed to benefit drivers?

Before you can critique the system you must know how it works.

Probably the simplest explanation of the new brake by wire system as defined by RacecarEngineering is as follows: When the driver hits the brake it is not just the carbon brake discs and pads that slows the car down on a 2014 car, the energy recover system also does a significant amount too, kind of like engine braking but with a much stronger effect. This means that the drivers left pedal (F1 cars have no clutch pedal) is no longer linked directly to the rear brakes, but instead it is linked to a computer which then controls the rear brakes. The front brakes continue to operate in the same way as they always have done.

The primary reason for this is that rules state that a car is only allowed to recover a certain amount of energy per lap from the rear brakes (it does not recover from the fronts), and there is only a finite amount of total energy that can be stored in the battery. When reaching either of these limits, the ERS stops recovering energy and the braking effect is lost and the traditional brakes take over. But for the driver, it i

The semi active BBW system is designed to stop that from happening and automatically balance the conventional brakes with the ERS braking. But, getting that to work properly is currently a substantial problem for numerous amounts of teams including Lotus. “The biggest problems are how the chassis works with the power unit and how the energy recovery system works. So there are some inconsistencies there which are making it very difficult for the driver to predict what he is going to get when he arrives at the corner” Technical Director Nick Chester admitted. “So the system is not doing exactly the same thing every time and that is disturbing the driver and losing us a lot of time.”s important to retain the brake feeling otherwise when he hits the pedal he is never quite sure what will happen next. Imagine driving down a steep hill in a low gear using the only engine braking to slow you down, then suddenly that braking effect stops it makes the car almost impossible to drive smoothly.

The brake by wire system may possess some flaws, but when tweaked correctly, it could mean a whole new ball game for Formula One fans all over the world. It will take some time, that’s for sure, but with success, it could be revolutionary to the sport. Only time will tell what the BBW system has in store for F1, but right now, all we can do is wait and find out.