Data at the service of Formula 1

Back when Formula 1 was under the control of Bernie Ecclestone, everything seemed like a well-kept secret. Even if it was broadcast on the small screen, the motorsport that is considered the most important in the world seemed out of reach for ordinary mortals, especially when one wanted to ogle its behind the scenes.

However, you have probably noticed that Formula 1 is more entertaining and more competitive these days. This effervescence is attributed to a major overhaul of the regulations, but also to a panoply of novelties that revolve around the sport. Elements that are the result of long studies carried out with the aim of bringing new followers to the sport. Netflix’s hit series Drive to Survive is the most visible proof of this new vision of openness.

If the Formula 1 organization is now doing its utmost to make the sport more attractive and accessible, it must inevitably base its decisions on the data it collects in order to not only listen to spectators, but drivers and their cars.

Formula 1 is the most technologically advanced sport, in addition to producing tons and tons of data. And processing this data requires Herculean computing efforts.

“Data in Formula 1 has always existed, but we are in the business of collecting it. The challenge for the organization of Formula 1 is how to use this data to put it at the service of the spectator”, explains Rob Smedley, a data consultant for the organization of Formula 1 and former race engineer within of Ferrari and Williams with whom we spoke.

Cloud computing technologies at the service of performance

“Data comes from almost everywhere. For example, an average of 300 sensors are used in an F1 car to understand the dynamics of the car on the track. With 20 cars in the field, so that’s 5000 data points just in the mechanical chapter. Then there is the timing data everywhere on the track, those related to the weather and those provided by Pirelli coming from the tyres. Combining all these sensors, the data points are in the millions,” says Smedley.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Advanced cloud technologies provide the ability for the Formula 1 organization to process these gargantuan amounts of data, on demand, without having to rely on its own facilities. And that’s where companies come in, like one of the series’ title sponsors (and Canadian Grand Prix title sponsor), Amazon Web Services (AWS).

« We’re always trying to make the sport more exciting for the fans, and when we asked them, they said they wanted closer races, » Smedley said. It was therefore necessary to propose to the teams to rework the aerodynamics of the cars. We no longer wanted the car in front to create such turbulence that the car behind could not follow it. But above all, we didn’t want to penalize the leading car,” he concludes.

Picture: Amazon

Using computational fluid dynamics simulations, which recreate a virtual wind tunnel, engineers were able to draw a virtual model of two vehicles following each other and run simulations that, using AWS cloud technologies, cut our simulation times from 60 hours to 12 hours. This created the guidelines for the design of the cars, which each team could adapt to their own specifications.

“You also have to understand that everything is in the hands of the teams in the end, and that the best wins! »

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

…but also at the service of the fans

There is a core of real enthusiasts within Formula 1, those who know absolutely everything. But the organization, like any other business, wants to develop a succession of customers.

You’ve probably noticed that everything seems to be easier in F1. And with the Netflix series Drive to Survivethere is a whole other class of people who have become experts in their own way.

AWS cloud technologies therefore also serve to simplify the data processed to explain what is happening on the track, but also what could happen, and to popularize in a way what engineers once kept as a well-kept secret.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Pit stop strategy predictions, pit stop performance, driver performance, future car development analysis, it’s all on the table.

“We have a responsibility to take care of new fans who are looking for a new experience,” concludes Smedley.

The automotive industry also benefits

We know that many of the technologies developed in Formula 1 are found in our passenger vehicles. But manufacturers are also using the services of AWS and other companies specializing in cloud technologies to overcome certain challenges.

Closer to home, for example, AWS is working with the company Blackberry to develop the IVY software platform that will allow automakers to provide a secure way to read vehicle sensor data, normalize it, and create actionable insights. from this data, both locally in the vehicle and in the cloud.

In the end, if only these technologies alone could settle the race for the supply of semiconductors so that we can receive our vehicles within a reasonable time, the automotive industry would be doing a lot better!

In video: Audi will make its Formula 1 debut in 2026

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