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The Aston Martin F1 brake revamp that helped Alonso's Bahrain charge

Fernando Alonso's shock podium finish in the Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain came the hard way, as he had to fight his way back through the pack.

Matters were not made easy for him as a shorter DRS zone, and Aston Martin's relative lack of straightline speed, meant there was no chance of easily passing on the straight.

Instead, Alonso pulled off some great overtaking moves, which included a brilliant dive down the inside of Lewis Hamilton at the tricky Turn 10.

These passes were possible because Alonso knows that one of the strengths of his AMR23 car is under braking.

This had become crystal clear when looking at the Q3 qualifying laps of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Alonso himself.

Looking at telemetry overlays, the Spaniard was better than both his rivals on the brakes into Turns 1, 8, 10 and 11, giving an indication as to just how well this aspect of the AMR23 is performing.

Aston Martin has clearly overhauled a lot of its car this year, with it aggressively pursuing the Red Bull-style downwash aero concept.

But there has also been a less obvious but appreciable difference in other design features, including the front brake assembly, and it is this that appears to have played a part in what happened at the weekend.

Aston Martin AMR22 brake drum detail
Aston Martin AMR23 technical detail

The most critical of changes Aston Martin has made to its brakes is in abandoning the three o'clock mounting position it had for its caliper in 2022. Instead, it has moved back to the more familiar six o'clock position.

The caliper itself carries the DNA of its predecessor, with a slot along the centreline, which is then divided by a row of ribs that allow the heat rejected by the disc a passage through the caliper's body.

A carbon fibre housing is then fixed to the caliper that brings in cool air via the brake duct inlet and is piped out the rearward-facing outlet.

The ducting used to perform this task is obviously very different to 2022, given the caliper's position. This has helped the team to introduce other airflow and heat-exchanging solutions this season.

The most obvious of these being the inclusion of a disc fairing (blue arrow), which is similar to the ones used by several teams throughout 2022.

Aston Martin AMR23 front brakes (arrowed)

Aston Martin AMR23 front brakes (arrowed)

In Aston Martin's case, the fairing is a little more substantial than some of the solutions seen last year, although there has been a trend amongst the teams that already used them in 2022 to increase the size of theirs too.

The disc fairing is a result of the teams thinking laterally regarding the changes posed by the new regulations.

F1's wheel rims increasing from 13 inches to 18 inches resulted in a much larger wheel well. And, while the brake discs also grew in diameter, up from 278mm to between 325mm and 330mm, the volume of free space within the brake drum has increased.

Furthermore, the inability of teams to use the brake assembly for aerodynamic throughput under these new regulations has required them to rethink their cooling and aerodynamic strategy.

This is even more critical when we consider how teams had, under the previous regulations, employed various design tricks to manage the transfer of heat between the brakes, wheel rim and tyres to further improve performance.

The disc fairing has therefore become the first in a nest of enclosures housed within the brake drum, as teams look to recover some of the performance that would have otherwise been lost by the regulation changes.

The second layer in the nest (right-hand side of the image), further assists in routing the airflow and managing the heat transfer between it and the air gap to the main drum's surface, with airflow even fed directly into the void (white arrow) and further managed by the strake alongside.

Notably, the enclosure on this layer of the nest has a blister surrounding the heat rejection ports around the caliper housing (red arrow). This not only allows space for the heat to be rejected between the various surfaces, but it could also be opened up at future races if the team needs to adjust how the heat moves between the various layers.

Aston Martin isn't on its own when it comes to making changes to the front brake assembly this season.

Others have followed, while some of those that already had this concept in 2022 have made further optimisations.

Ferrari F1-75 front brakes
Ferrari SF-23 brake detail

Ferrari has also installed a disc fairing as part of its changes for 2023, with the Scuderia also looking to reap the rewards on offer in regard to thermal management.

We can see how changes have been made to the routing of the pipework to and from the caliper housing.

Red Bull RB18 front brake comparison
Red Bull Racing RB19, front brake

Meanwhile, Red Bull, which has already run and optimised a disc fairing throughout the course of last season, has also made changes for 2023.

The fairing has increased in size and offers more of a supportive role externally in helping to shape the airflow inside the drum than its predecessor.

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