The Singapore Grand Prix is right around the corner and F1 fans can expect a weekend of high-octane thrills. Rick Scurfield, APAC President and Vice President, NetApp, discusses how data continues to define what is possible for some of the fastest drivers on wheels.
How can F1 drivers boost their competitive advantage with the use of data?
Formula One (F1) racing is a multibillion-dollar, global sport. Cars fly around the track at speeds of more than 200 mph, and races are often decided by milliseconds. Sometimes more than 12 out of 24 cars are within 1 second of each other; a millisecond can be the difference between a winner and a loser. Beyond cars, what most people don’t see is that F1 is the result of combining extreme sports and extremely innovative technology. It’s not always the best driver or the best car that wins the race—it’s whoever has the right real-time information to make the best decisions.
Teams rely on real-time information to refine racing strategies on the track—when to take a pit stop or when to accelerate or brake. Each car radios immense streams of data back to the pits—and often to the teams’ headquarters. An F1 racecar has 100 sensors feeding data in real time to engineers who analyze it in real time to coach the drivers during the race to optimize performance. Off the track, teams analyze historical data, simulations and wind tunnel testing to effectively design a new car for each race. F1 is the ultimate data-driven sport. During a typical race weekend, the sensors on the car produce about 25 GB of telemetry data per 3-day race weekend. Every year, some 20 TB of data gets collected, stored and analyzed.
What changes from race to race making data-driven decisions so important to the drivers?
Regulation changes in 2014 will have a lasting impact on the data and technology used in 2015. These changes affect things like tires, engine, temperature and fuel usage, each of which generates streams of real-time information that are used by teams to make immediate decisions about in-race strategies. For example:
- Fuel limitations will influence teams to consider multiple pit stops as cars could run faster and consume less fuel.
- Four different compound tire types (super-soft, soft, medium, hard) produce multiple permutations to maximize performance. Most teams start off with super soft tires to gain ground early in the race—unless it’s raining.
- Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) are used instead of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS). A larger proportion of each car’s power comes from ERS, which makes up the powertrain or power unit, and also generates power using waste heat from the engine’s turbocharger. To compensate for the extra power being generated by under braking by ERS, teams are allowed to use an electronic rear brake control system.
- To improve safety, particularly in the event of double waved yellow flags, a virtual safety car system designed to ensure drivers slow sufficiently has been introduced. This can be used to neutralize a race without having to introduce the safety car itself.
- Lastly, Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit has been modified this year to allow closer racing and more overtaking. Only time will tell what that means for the race this year.
NetApp has partnered with Sauber since 2007. Is there anything new with the extended partnership this year?
NetApp and the Sauber F1 Team announced the extension of their partnership in July this year. After a successful three-year collaboration with NetApp, this year marks the fourth consecutive year the Sauber F1 Team has worked with NetApp as a Technical Partner. NetApp provides the Sauber F1 Team a reliable, flexible and unified storage infrastructure for all IT services involving engineering, business and administration at its headquarters in Hinwil, Switzerland, as well during the Formula One weekends around the globe. The Sauber F1 Team and NetApp started working together in 2007, building up their partnership in early 2012 when NetApp became technical partner. This year, NetApp provided the Sauber F1 Team with an upgrade to a system of the FAS8000 series, which delivers significantly higher performance and an increased storage capacity.
To learn more about how NetApp customers around the world are implementing NetApp solutions to gain a competitive edge, visit our Customer Showcase.