Formula 1 has always been a laboratory for experimental technologies and today generates an almost incomprehensible amount of data, noted McLaren driver and two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.
In a panel discussion during the Fourth Industrial Revolution keynote, Alonso said data and connectivity are crucial elements in a successful race weekend. “People at home watch the TV and maybe they see 22 cars running around the circuit, but I think each car is providing so much data in every single second that I think no-one can imagine.”
“Formula 1 has been always a laboratory for many things, many experiments and many new concepts, and it’s no different in data. Every single movement we do with the car, every steering wheel input, every throttle input, brake pressure input is transmitted immediately in real time” to staff at the team’s headquarters in the UK, who study and analyse the data to “provide us with the information that we need to improve our efficiency when we are driving, our inputs to perform better.”
Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group, noted innovations surrounding the collection, analysis and delivery of data, and automation is revolutionising even one of the world’s most technologically advanced industries. The possibilities today are “unbelievable” he said, noting connectivity has “now become our oxygen to a certain extent”.
Citing advances in the speed and consistency of connectivity, Brown said there “are no boundaries to where technology innovation will take us. It’s a part of our day-to-day life” that everyone, not just F1 teams, depends upon.
Despite the focus on technology Alonso pointed out the human element remains a key part in Formula 1. While McLaren’s team performs around 20,000 race simulations on the eve of a race to determine the optimum race set up and pit-stop strategy, the driver is the first to experience changes on the day, such as rain.
“You tell the team it’s raining and they are at the computer, they only see the computer, they only see the data…Sometimes it’s easier to put the hand out of the pit wall and see that it’s raining,” he said.
For all that Formula 1 is a technologically advanced industry, Brown noted advances including the increasing power of smartphones open up new opportunities to improve the experience for fans.
The data rich nature of Formula 1 enables the company to share data with followers. “So depending on your level of following for the sport, we can really open up and show you what’s going on inside our garage and people are very fascinated by it.”
“And now with mobile devices we’re able to bring that real time, so fans can see certain parts of the race, the race car and what Fernando is doing in real time.”
Brown couldn’t resist a joke about 5G: “Fernando’s being doing 5G for 17 years,” before noting anything which helps the team perform faster and gives it an edge is a welcome development.
“The faster, the quicker, the more reliable the better.”