Big Data and Formula 1 Success

Published Apr-07-19

How big data is helping Formula 1 teams drive to victory.

Formula One, United States

The Story:

Big Data and Formula 1 Success Aside from the speed, the technology-driven machines and fearless drivers, Formula 1 is a competitive sport where big data matters. Today's Formula 1 cars are not only mean machines that can travel at over 200 miles per hour, but they’re also intelligent and connected systems that produce reams of data. Making sense of and leveraging that digital information is crucial if teams want to overtake their rivals in a sport where every second counts.

Typically, a Formula 1 car is covered with more than 200 sensors that are constantly monitoring and transmitting information. They allow vehicle components such as tire pressure, oil and water levels and wheel speeds to be monitored in real time. If a driver or a race team notices issues with a car during a race, the data can be collected and analyzed to pinpoint exactly where the problem occurred and make a decision on how best to respond.

Improving Pit Stop Times

An example of where big data has been used to great success is the pit stop. This is one of the most crucial parts of a race and speed is of the essence. Races can be won and lost because of what happens in the pit lane.

In 2016 pit crew workers at the Williams team wore sensors that measured biometric data such as heart rate variability, breathing rate and temperature. By analyzing the data Williams was able to adjust the crew's fitness and training to help improve their performance. It worked.

During the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of the 2016 Formula 1 season the Williams Martini Racing team changed all four tires on a car in 1.92 seconds. That's less time than it took you to read that last sentence. The achievement earned the team the DHL Fastest Pit Crew Award.

Faster Access to Data

Faster access to data can also put teams out in front. Mercedes-AMG, the home of five-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton now uses all-flash arrays (external storage arrays that only use flash media) provided by Pure Storage. The change from its older spinning-disk hardware has removed data bottlenecks allowing for more rapid processing and analysis of data.

With the old spinning-disk storage system, it was difficult for people to access information simultaneously. Not so with flash, as response times to key database queries have been cut by as much as 95%.

“There are no fears about how quickly people can access data. Everyone has the same access. Now, people can get to the data as fast as they want to,” said Matt Harris, head of IT for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, in an interview with ZDNET.

Improving Team Performance

Data-driven systems are being employed throughout whole organizations to boost efficiency. A fraction of a second can change the outcome of a race and so teams are looking to improve processes among everyone that accesses data. This includes team leads who determine strategies and engineers who study car components that drivers might need to pay special attention to.

Perhaps more than any other sport, Formula 1’s use of big data is driving big decision-making in the pursuit of success.

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