While F1 cars and their drivers are the stars of the racetrack, fans are likely unaware that the team is supported by technology running on the other side of the world.
Whether the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team is at the Brazilian Grand Prix 2013 in São Paulo or the Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, the F1 operations are run at a facility in Milton Keynes, UK.
When it comes to explaining the growing role of technology in F1 racing, Infiniti Red Bull Racing technical partnerships head, Alan Peasland, simplifies it to drivers being able to better analyse on-track performance and understand the car’s dynamics on different parts of the circuit.
“During practice sessions information on lap-times and in-car footage can be packaged and sent back to the track, for the drivers to view when they are in the garage between sessions,” he said.
Peasland said that the modification and improvement of car setup and handling is never ending process, and the gear the team has enables engineers to “gather more data directly from the car and view this back at the factory in real time.”
“That ultimately improves car performance, both in speed and also in handling and stability,” he said.
F1 cars need to be built with “ever increasing precision and accuracy,” which in turn influences reliability, so there are benefits for the team to share richer data and report issues back to the owning design engineer at the factory in a timely manner.
“With ever increasing car complexity and a demand on continuous improvement and quality, being able to send CAD data to support the engineers and mechanics, and also liaise with key design staff in the factory, helps to ensure we build the car to the highest standards of precision and reliability,” Peasland said.
Despite the advancements made by modern technology, Peasland admits that there are still numerous challenges that need to be overcome by racing teams such as Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
The global reach of the F1 world means that the team has to deal with technological limitations, such as connectivity, when attempting to remain connected to the main factory in the UK.
In the consistently tough economic climate, racing teams are now faced with strict controls and regulations on the number of engineers that can travel to each race event, and Infiniti Red Bull Racing is no exception.
“There is now a greater demand on being able to collaborate with experts who remain at the main factory throughout the course of the race weekend,” Peasland said.
Tightening regulations by the FIA, the governing body of motorsport worldwide, has also limited the amount of testing a team can perform during a season.
This limitation extends to the amount of time engineers and mechanics can work in the garage during race weekends.”
“This means there is an ever present challenge of needing to do more work in less time,” Peasland said.
In this situation, the factory aids in the analysis of the test results from practice sessions at a race weekend and then offers car-setup instructions that the race team can use.
“Performing these tasks quickly, efficiently, but reliably is essential to maximising on-track time during practice sessions,” Peasland said.
Life in the fast lane
This growing push for maximisation with fewer resources is made possible through the latest technology, in particular in the area of telecomunnications.
To that end, Infiniti Red Bull Racing has had a strategic partnership with American telco, AT&T, since May 2012.
“The AT&T service has given us the opportunity to understand more about the types of data we wish to share between the track and factory, and also how we can prioritise the most important information,” Peasland said.
When it comes to identifying the true value of the partnership with AT&T, Peasland selected the ability to be able to share more data between the track and factory.
“We continue to work together to identify other solutions that may be possible,” he said.
To illustrate how technology can have a direct impact on race position, Peasland said the IT infrastructure allows the team to react to on-track incidents.
“Increased network performance has enabled richer data to be sent in less time to the track,” he said.
“Having a network solution that gives us confidence in both its reliability and security means we're able to place a greater dependency on car telemetry and Ops room support during race weekends.”
Patrick Budmar travelled to the Infiniti Red Bull Racing pit at the 2013 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne as a guest of AT&T.
Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.