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How communication and computers are leading changes in F1

How communication and computers are leading changes in F1

How communication and computers are leading changes in F1

F1 Mercedes 2014 It’s the 50th anniversary of Silverstone this weekend as the British Grand Prix takes place and so Plusnet thought we would take a look at how broadband internet, computers and technology have also revolutionised how teams perform on the track. Whilst social media has played a significant role in helping fans peek behind the scenes, which we will be covering in a future blog with F1 Team Caterham, it is undoubtedly the work in the offices of each team that provides the thrills and success on the track for fans to enjoy. Being able to communicate internally and externally through email, as well as receiving in-race data at an almost instantaneous rate, is a necessity and can mean the difference between winning and losing.

This season's cars

Regulations are commonplace in F1 and are designed to ensure that all teams are on an even starting position. Changes for the 2014 season meant that cars had to be redesigned to be quieter, more fuel-efficient and use hybrid V6 engines. With such big changes comes a lot of analytics of data, communication and computing, and broadband internet is vitally important in ensuring this information and data is sent around the world to a number of locations in one go. Undoubtedly, the ability to do this is a godsend compared to 20 or 30 years ago.

Wind-Tunnels and Aerodynamics is where success is made

Team Mercedes currently sit 158 points clear of anyone else in the F1 Constructors’ Table and aerodynamics is a vital part of how a car will perform throughout each season. Paul Kelly, the Aero Model Technician, and Ed Cooper, Race Team Number 2 Mechanic, from Team Mercedes took some time out to talk to us and provide some insight into how communication is vital when testing the cars in their roles. For larger teams, such as Mercedes, aerodynamics involves using a wind tunnel to test performance with data being sent to computers, quickly dispatched around the world via the internet. This is an expensive process, and for some of the smaller teams like Marussia, they have instead invested in testing through a supercomputer, which runs complex algorithms to simulate a wind tunnel to save money and time. Regulations, however, only permit teams to a certain amount of testing and so constant communication via email and telephone becomes vitally important, as Paul and Ed explain.

“It is everyone in the department’s responsibility to make sure we are as efficient as possible in order to develop our car quicker than all the other teams,” says Paul. “Developing the aerodynamics of a car is the quickest way to put performance on the car. All of the gains we find in the tunnel will end up on the race car around 2-3 months later. We will be doing this all year round so every few races the car will have upgrades. “My main role is to build and look after a 60% size model of our race car which is used for aerodynamic testing in the wind tunnel.  “I help to manufacture these parts and also test and fit them to the model. The model also has all sorts of systems and gadgets which measure air pressures, loads and forces all over the model to very fine detail which I also build up and fit.”

This data can then be fed back to other areas of the team for decisions to be made on improving every aspect of the car to increase as much performance as possible. Telemetry allows data from the car to be sent wirelessly to the pitlane, and around the world, instantaneously so that issues can be identified quickly and instructions given to the driver as to what to do. Naturally, in races, this makes having the best and most reliable wi-fi and broadband connections important. In testing a 90 minute session will yield around 5GB to 6GB of data. This makes Ed’s role critical in resolving situations based on this data, as he has to be ready for any slight issue that the car may have shown by the data sent on the track.

“My role impacts team performance directly; from the build of the car in the factory to being involved with the pitstops. I need to know how to strip down and build up all components of the car and one error can lead to a DNF and loss of points for the whole team. The more efficient I am at my job the more time and flexibility I get for the team.  “I spend the winter in the factory building the new season’s car, then go out to testing, and when the season starts I travel to the circuits preparing and working on the car for race weekends. In between races I work on the car back at the factory.” 

So how has this behind the scenes work impacted on Mercedes this season?

 “So far our cars have blown the field away which shows how much time and effort went into the development for this year’s car. We need to keep pushing to stay on top,” says Paul.  And the ambitions for Silverstone: “Can only be a 1+2”, says Ed. Paul adds: “Maybe a home win for Lewis, but as long as one of our cars is on top I don't mind which one.”
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