Advanced uses of technology are almost prosaic in Formula 1 these days. To gain the next great competitive advantage, teams must turn their attention the most finely-tuned and sophisticated machine in the sport – the driver.
As regulations standardise cars and support crew, drivers will be the next arena for gaining a significant competitive advantage.
Speaking at a roundtable event with Tata Communications, Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsports at Formula 1 – who previously served as the technical director of the championship-winning Benetton and Ferrari teams – spoke about how one of F1’s greatest strengths is its human element.
This constant battle between man and machine means that it is in the best interests of teams, fans and the sport itself to look after the true stars of F1 – the drivers.
A gruelling environment
A Grand Prix represents a tremendous physical strain for drivers as they sit for hours in cramped positions at high temperatures, subject to huge amounts of G-Force. On average, they lose around two to three kilograms of body weight during each race.
With this is mind, teams are now looking to monitor indicators such as a driver’s heartrate, body temperature and hydration levels, transmit it back to the pit, analyse it and then act on it in the same way that they might change tyres or alter their refuelling strategy.
By better understanding how the body behaves under certain conditions or even during a certain straight or turn, teams could in future ‘optimise’ their drivers – for example by reducing their body temperature or regulating heartbeat – to improve performance.
Teams that want to be competitive in the coming years must take this concept even further by exploring the transformational potential that IoT and wearables could have on personnel in the wider Formula 1 teams – and not just on drivers.
During the season, teams are subject to gruelling regimes where they fly around the world, moving from time zone to time zone and circuit to circuit.
At each race, teams set up their working environment, perform throughout the weekend under tremendous pressure, watched by hundreds of millions of people, and then disassemble their equipment and garages once it’s done.
They then move onto the next circuit and starts all over again. It’s a tough schedule, so whatever efficiencies technology can bring will make the sport better.
More suspenseful sports experiences
There is also incredible potential for the IoT to drastically transform the fan experience across the sport.
The connectivity offered by today’s smartphones and wearables means that fans and teams can now have a direct link to each other.
This connection will take the sport to new and innovative places.
It’s also an area where F1 has traditionally lagged and needs to catch up if it wants to gain a share of the younger generation of sports fans.
Indeed, the second challenge of the 2017 F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize was seeking input from fans on this very question.
The technology chief of Formula 1, John Morrison, paints a picture of a future Grand Prix where, “Through a mobile app connected to sensors at the track, fans could tune into customised live video feeds based on their favourite team or driver, take part in live polls and synchronised cheering, and interact more seamlessly with other fans on social media. Fans’ emotions could be tracked to create aggregate emotion charts on large displays at the circuit, creating a more interactive, immersive and thrilling race experience.”
Meanwhile, other sports offer a glimpse of Formula 1’s direction of travel. For example, in Formula E, the class of motorsport that uses electric cars only, fans can vote to give one driver a power boost during the race via the sport’s official app.
Brawn has ruled this particular feature out for Formula 1, but there is a desire to do more with data and technology to create a richer fan experience.
He has spoken about how Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll’s epic tussle in Baku right to the last corner could have been predicted 20 laps beforehand.
While the eventual result couldn’t be predicted, Brawn said that the data could have absolutely predicted that the cars would be neck and neck on the final lap.
How these real-time updates, predictions and analysis are incorporated in the live broadcast and communicated to fans is therefore a key question for F1 as the “will they, won’t they?” suspense could add value.
Away from the action on the track, IoT applications are also being deployed around stadia and other sporting venues to enhance what fans are seeing and experiencing on the pitch or the track.
For example, many soccer and football stadiums now allow fans to order food and drinks to their seats, with orders being sent directly to food and concessions stands.
We may also eventually see “intelligent” stadiums that employ IoT for things like health and safety and crowd control, for example directing fans to the bars or restaurants which are least busy.
If and when implemented in Formula 1, these kinds of new experiences will ensure the sport remains its place on the grid as one of the world’s most popular sporting attractions.
As F1 continues its digital transformation, new technologies will play a more active role in evolving the experience for fans following the action live and on-demand, trackside or across a range of platforms and devices.
This piece was written by Mehul Kapadia – Vice President, Global Marketing at Tata Communications.
Czech driver Martin Prokop and Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla were the big winners on Monday as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan served up a potent reminder of how difficult it is to find a path to victory in this event.
Partnered by David Pabiska in a Ford F-150 Evo, Prokop won the spectacular 287km Nissan Stage 2 to grab an advantage of 10mins 30.2secs from Poland’s Jakub Przygonski as the overnight cars leader fell to second place in his Mini John Cooper.
The UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and French co-driver Xavier Panseri still retained hopes of a second successive Desert Challenge win after finishing the day in third place, 1min 24secs further behind in his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR.
Prokop made it clear that this had been anything but a trouble free day. “We had a tough two thirds of the stage and PC3 was full of soft sand and big drops,” he said.
“We caught up with Al Qassimi and rode alongside with him for two hours, but I think we came off line a little. We crashed into a dune near the end.”
On a day when the heat and soft sand of the desert dunes made it a particularly tough stage for the riders, Quintanilla set the fastest time on his Husqvarna to take a lead of 1mins 8secs from the KTM of Dubai-based defending champion Sam Sunderland.
But with Argentinian Kevin Benavides on a Honda and Austria’s reigning Dakar Rally champion Matthias Walkner on a KTM both in hot pursuit, just 2mins 39secs separates the leading four riders.
Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves, the 2014 Desert Challenge champion, and American Ricky Brabec on a Honda completed the top six, but Australia’s overnight leader and 2016 winner Toby Price plunged out of the reckoning because of a shattered fuel pump.
Top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi, recent winner of the Dubai International Baja, held on to his top 10 place among world-class competition with another good performance.
“It was a really good stage today,” Quintanilla said. “I started fifth so it was a good opportunity to catch some time on the guys ahead, but some big dunes and soft sand made it hard to maneuver.”
On the other hand, it was less than smooth sailing for Sunderland, his main rival.
“I had a difficult day today,” the Dubai-based rider said. “A lot of the track was off piste and the sun was pretty high and I reckon I lost time today.
“I managed to catch Toby (Price) early on and we rode together. It was an extremely hot and long day.”
Provisional leading positions after Nissan Stage 2
1. Martin Prokop / David Pabiska (CZE / CZE) / Ford F-150 Evo 7:19:06.9
2. Jakub Przygonski / Tom Colsoul (POL / BEL) / Mini John Cooper 7:29:37.1
3. Khalid Al Qassimi / Xavier Panseri (ARE /FRA) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 7:31:01.1
4. Yasir Seaidan / Aleksei Kuzmich (KSA / RUS) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7:34:31.8
5. Cyril Despres / Steve Ravussin (FRA / CHE) Buggy Ford 2WD 7:38:23.5
6. Vladimir Vasilyev / K,Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / Mini Cooper Countryman 8:00:55.5
7. Yahya Al Helei / Khalid Alkendi (ARE / ARE) / Nissan Pick Up 8:36:47.8
8. Stephan Schott / Paulo Fiuza (DEU / POR) / Mini John Cooper 8:51:56.7
9. Eugenio Amos / Filipe Palmeiro (ITA / POR) / Mini All4 Racing 9:02:43.2
10. Terence Marsh / Riaan Greyling (ZAF / ZAF) / Nissan Navara 9:07:17.6
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) / Husqvarna 450 7:04:19
2. Sam Sunderland (ARE) / KTM 450 7:05:27
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450 7:06:14
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT) / KTM 450 7:06:58
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR) / Honda CRF 450 7:17:44
6. Ricky Brabec (USA) / Honda CRF 450 7:18:29
7. Jose Ignacio Cornejo F (CHL) / Honda CRF 450 7:27:10
8. Toby Price (AUS) / KTM 450 7:31:01
9. Michael Metge (FRA) / Honda CRF 450 7:33:28
10. Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / KTM 450 7:34:57
Hamilton was in control of Sunday’s race until Romain Grosjean’s Haas stopped on the track and officials imposed a Virtual Safety Car (VSC), which restricts the pace of the cars on track.
The VSC caused the field to slow while Vettel, who was leading courtesy of Hamilton’s earlier stop, was able to dive into the pits for fresh tyres and lose less time than under normal race conditions.
It meant Vettel emerged from the pits marginally in front of a startled Hamilton and held on to his advantage to the chequered flag for his third Australian GP victory.
“What just happened guys?” Hamilton queried his Mercedes team over radio during the race. “Why didn’t you tell me Vettel was in the pits?
“We thought we were safe, but there’s obviously something wrong,” the team replied.
“Did I do anything wrong? Should I have gone faster?” Hamilton pressed further.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said an investigation would be needed to find out what happened.
Overall, this weekend has been positive. Congrats to Seb and the guys in red, today they did the better job and we go back to the drawing board. We still have great pace and are looking forward to putting all of the learnings to the test in Bahrain #AusGP #F1 @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/B2KPiQvYW3
Overall, this weekend has been positive. Congrats to Seb and the guys in red, today they did the better job and we go back to the drawing board. We still have great pace and are looking forward to putting all of the learnings to the test in Bahrain #AusGP #F1 @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/B2KPiQvYW3— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) March 25, 2018
“It’s very hard to take because we had the pace. For whatever reason, we need to find out, we lost the win,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“We thought we had about three seconds margin. I don’t know what happened to them, we need to ask the computers and that’s what we are doing.
Whether we had a software problem somewhere, we need to fix it.
“I think the problem is within our systems. I think we have a bug somewhere that said 15 seconds is what you need, we had 12, it should have been enough but it wasn’t.”
Wolff said the lack of overtaking opportunities on the Albert Park street circuit also contributed to the galling defeat.
“Lewis was attacking flat out but you can see the overtaking is pretty bad here,” he said.
“Even the mega overtakers couldn’t make a pass. Lewis had to give up because the tyres wouldn’t have made it to the end.”
Mercedes’ former world champion Nico Rosberg said he was staggered by the team’s software problems.
“It’s unbelievable that Mercedes had a software glitch of five seconds. Five seconds is the world out there in F1. It’s a huge one and it cost them the win,” he
“It’s only the first race and Mercedes had awesome pace out there. Lewis, when he was pushing, he was fast. I don’t think it’s time to worry yet for Mercedes.”