The Monaco Grand Prix is the shortest and slowest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar but that is offset but the fact it is one of the most demanding tracks to drive due to no run-off areas and Armco barriers just inches away from the drivers—one mistake and you’re in the wall.
It isn’t the hardest circuit on brakes either but that doesn’t mean they don’t get punished on a circuit that will see over 3,700 gear changes over the course of the race. Brembo shares with us just a little insight as to what the brakes will experience during F1’s biggest event.
The historic track, which snakes through the streets of the Principality of Monaco, is one of the four magnificent circuits used in the first edition of the F1 World Championship in 1950, and it is still being used today. It has been modified slightly over the years, the most recent change having been made in 2015 to the Tabac turn, which brought the length to 2.07-miles (3,337 meters). This figure however is quite moderate since it is almost one mile shorter than the second shortest track in the Championship, the one in Mexico City.
The Circuit de Monaco causes a significant amount of problems for the brakes on the single-seaters. Indeed, the winding track and limited grip often require the driver to control the car with the help of the brake, bringing on negative consequences for the temperature of the calipers and brake fluid. In the past, this event was frequently a stage for issues linked to overheating the system and vapor lock (the phenomenon where the brake fluid reaches boiling temperature inside the caliper) with elongation of the pedal while braking, circumstances that often led to either retiring the car or if not, an accident. In the 1990 Monaco GP, Derek Warwick and Ivan Capelli were obligated to retire for just these kinds of problems with the brakes, although neither of them were equipped with a Brembo system.
In this modern age, the Brembo technicians have worked on cooling the brakes to put these problems at bay, although it is still necessary to pay particular attention to managing the temperatures during the race weekend.
According to Brembo technicians, who classified the 21 World Championship tracks on a scale of 1 to 10, the Circuit de Monaco is in the category of tracks that present mid-level difficulty for the brakes. The Monaco track earned a seven on the difficulty index, which is exactly the same rating as the city track in Melbourne.
Brake use during the GP
The extreme amount turns and constant input into the steering wheel translates into 13 braking sections every lap. The time the single-seaters spend braking is equivalent to 26% of the overall duration of the race, a record for the entire World Championship. The presence of so many curves makes the average deceleration just 2.7 g, a figure that surpasses only that of Mexico City. The amount of energy dissipated by each vehicle while braking throughout the whole GP race is 128 kWh, which is equivalent to the amount of electricity consumed by about 80 residents of the Principality of Monaco during the GP race.
Once the drivers cross the finish line, they will have braked more than a thousand times, on average once every six seconds, applying a total load on the pedal of 83 and a half tonnes, the same weight as four fully loaded 16-meter yachts docked in the port of Monaco.
The most challenging braking sections
Of the eight braking sections on the Circuit de Monaco, Brembo technicians have classified two as hard on the brakes, four as presenting mid-level difficulty and five as light.
The most challenging is the one after the tunnel (turn 10), which is known as the port chicane: the drivers come flying in at 186 mph (300 km/h) then they slow down abruptly to 43 mph (70 km/h) in just 426-feet (137 meters). To do this, they apply a load of 142 kg on the brake pedal and endure a deceleration of 4.6 g.
The braking section at Sainte Devote (turn 1) is a bit less demanding: 182 mph to 62 mph (293 to 101 km/h) in 387-feet (118 meters), slightly more than the length of the Louis II Stadium pitch where the Monaco football team plays.
Of the mid-level braking sections, the most relevant is the Massenet (turn 3) because the single-seaters approach it at 180 mph (290 km/h) and have to cut their speed in half so they don’t end up crashing into the barrier: the brakes are used for just 1.04 seconds, but the force employed is 136 kg.
The shortest braking section overall is the one coming out of the port chicane because to stay on the track, the drivers brake for 62-feet (19 meters) and apply a load of only 42 kg.