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Racing to the top with data

Nurdianah Md Nur
Nurdianah Md Nur9/28/2022 05:15 PM GMT+08  • 8 min read
Racing to the top with data
Winning a Grand Prix and the F1 championship calls for the effective use of data, apart from having a talented driver and well-oiled pit crew. Photo: Mercedes-AMG F1 Petronas F1
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The Oracle Red Bull Racing team has won many Grand Prix this year, but the race for the Formula One (F1) Constructor Championship is still on. Besides having a skilled driver and a well-oiled pit crew, winning the remaining Grand Prix also requires accurate and real-time insights that shape a race strategy or fuel split-second decisions.

Let’s look at how some F1 teams are leveraging technology to get ahead of their competitors and improve their championship standing by becoming data-driven.

Race strategy based on real-time simulations

Having a race strategy driven by quick and accurate insights is vital in F1, as a mere tenth of a second can make a difference between finishing on the podium or not. However, this is no easy feat as trackside conditions can be unpredictable on race days.

“By nature, races develop very fast, increasing the likelihood of uncertain events becoming a reality. Oracle Red Bull Racing engineers, therefore, wanted to tackle the high levels of uncertainty when plotting strategy decisions. They needed to find out how external and internal factors — from weather conditions, pit stop times and even potential crashes — could affect their goal of winning,” says Chris Chelliah, senior vice president of technology and customer strategy for JAPAC at Oracle.

To achieve that, the Oracle Red Bull Racing team migrated its strategy systems from its existing infrastructure solution onto Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) last year.

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Its engineers can now run 25% more simulations of possible scenarios and outcomes than before. The simulations are based on near real-time data fed from various sources at incredible ingestion speeds, enabling the team to respond to changes during a race faster.

Because of this improvement in throughput, the strategy team further developed the most competitive race strategy plans possible before the start of each race and made the most advantageous calls during each race.

Chris Chelliah, senior vice president of technology and customer strategy for JAPAC, Oracle

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He continues: “More notably, while the quantity and speed of simulations increased, the costs actually decreased. The cost-effectiveness and flexibility of OCI further enabled the team to scale out their simulation footprint for the future and model the strategies and reactions of their competitors.”

Christian Horner, Oracle Red Bull Racing team principal and CEO, adds: “Discovering and reacting to opportunities quickly is crucial to our success on and off the track, and Oracle is integral in that effort. Every element of our performance is driven by data analysis.”

Apart from powering simulations, Oracle Cloud is also used to support driver training. Chelliah explains that it helps the team leverage AI and machine learning to analyse video and digital inputs. This provides young drivers with video overlays comparing their lap performance against modelled optimal laps.

Besides that, Oracle is working with Red Bull Powertrains to develop the next generation of F1 engines set to debut in 2026, as Red Bull Racing becomes one of only four current manufacturers supplying engines for F1. Red Bull Powertrains will use OCI to optimise modelling of its new engine combustion chamber to reduce costs while improving results.

Optimising performance with analytics

The McLaren F1 Team is using Alteryx’s automated analytics platform in various ways to optimise the performance of its cars and drivers.

“In racing, we are always looking to refine our learning in ways that help us go quicker. Alteryx [empowers us with that capability by] transforming the way data is collected and analysed at speed through intelligent analytics automation, helping us make decisions faster,” states Mark Waller, chief commercial officer of McLaren Racing.

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Before a race, Alteryx’s solution helps the McLaren F1 Team to predict what could happen in a race by simulating over 30 million scenarios with about 90% accuracy. These simulations come from multiple sources, including high-performance computers, the wind tunnel, computational fluid dynamics, and the drivers.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for F1, limits track-testing time on a given weekend. “As such, everything must happen at top-speed as the McLaren F1 Team conducts multiple production and testing, generating colossal amounts of data that require analysing to optimise the car design process. This process involves over 80,000 components to build an F1 car and 90% of the changes that the car undertakes during the race season,” explains Philip Madgwick, senior director for Asia at Alteryx.

At the start of the race weekend, 100,000 parameters of information are generated from the 300 telemetry sensors on board. This includes engine levels, fuel capacity, temperature, or even the amount of G-force the drivers will feel going into corners.

“It’s a range of data that needs to be captured, and it’s far too much for any single human to analyse, capture any anomalies and derive insights. With Alteryx, the data is processed and analysed in real-time by all team members — be it engineers guiding the drivers or the race strategy team located at the pit wall,” says Madgwick.

Allowing this data to flow seamlessly enables near real-time decision-making from a team that continues to challenge for podium positions.

Philip Madgwick, senior director for Asia, Alteryx

Additionally, the McLaren F1 Team leverages Alteryx to process the data from each race and derive key insights, which are correlated with pre-race simulations that go into building the next model.

Madgwick says: “Part of this stage is understanding the drivers’ and pit teams’ performance, helping them to evaluate whether they would make the same decisions in the next race with similar circuits or how they can optimise for a different circuit. We ensure that the McLaren F1 Team is well-informed and data-driven in every step of the race.”

Enabling improvements on the go

Fitted with hundreds of sensors, the modern F1 car generates billions of data points for analysis to help teams outperform their competitors. Almost half a terabyte (TB) of data is generated per race, which is approximately 8,500 hours of music or 150,000 high-resolution images.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team leverages Pure Storage’s modern data solutions to quickly access and extract insights from the massive amount of data to fuel decision-making during a race.

Consequently, the team has improved the query times for database applications by 90% and can now gain access to trackside files 66% faster than before. It also shortened the time needed to manage storage by 90%.

“This drives race performance, considering the limited amount of prep time in between sessions, especially during the qualifying rounds. It also allows the team to run more design simulations, enhancing their ability to improve the car’s performance,” shares Matthew Oostveen, chief technology officer and vice-president for Asia Pacific and Japan at Pure Storage.

Pure Storage has also provided a portable IT infrastructure that allows the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team to improve car design and performance on the go.

With Pure Storage, the team can bring its all-flash arrays trackside from race to race, which acts as a compact, mobile data centre to store and process real-time data from its sensors across each car. There is also a 68% reduction in data centre rack space on-site at each race, freeing up valuable space trackside for other types of freight.

Matthew Oostveen, chief technology officer and vice-president for Asia Pacific and Japan, Pure Storage

Additionally, the flexible consumption model enabled by Pure Storage removes the need for traditional storage renewal, and allows the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team to consume its storage on a sub￾scription model.

Also, only one storage administrator is needed to manage the entire environment even when the volume of data increases. All of these help future-proof the team in the long term in terms of storage capacity, upgrades, maintenance and cost.

Furthermore, data protection is built into Pure Storage’s solutions, so the team does not have to worry about business continuity or interrupted insights on and off the track. “This ease of management gives the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team the peace of mind to focus on its core business of winning races and improving race performance,” says Oostveen.

Protecting data, their crown jewels

Since modern F1 races are powered by data, safeguarding that data is critical.

“F1 is one of the most competitive sports on the planet, with a history of corporate espionage. For an F1 team, the impact of losing their data is similar to having their cars stop on a track. Without data to improve the performance of the car and driver, they will lose the race. [As such, F1 teams should ensure they have the best cyber protection in place] to protect all their sensitive data,” says Candid Wuest, VP of cyber protection research at Acronis.

This is why the Williams Racing team is leveraging Acronis Cyber Protect — an AI-enhanced solution that integrates data protection with cybersecurity — to protect its 15TB of data spread across over 1,200 mailboxes and SharePoint sites.

By deploying Acronis’s solution to many endpoints and taking advantage of the solution’s features such as URL filtering and vulnerability assessments, the Williams Racing team can now better safeguard its data and take disaster recovery precautions. [This enables the team to get] back on its feet immediately after a breach.

Candid Wuest, VP of cyber protection research, Acronis

The Williams Racing team, he adds, plans to implement Acronis’s solution to all its endpoints to ensure continuous data protection across its operations.

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