Deeper Insights to Keep Formula One Champions in the Driver’s Seat

Großer Preis von Bahrain 2017, Freitag - Steve Etherington

As a lifelong fan of Formula One—and someone equally passionate about technology—going behind the scenes at the recent British Grand Prix and checking out the engineering prowess at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport was truly eye opening. Knowing that this very work is set to be supported by TIBCO’s advanced analytic capabilities, made the event all the richer. The subsequent Mercedes first and second place certainly kept my spirits high!

In the wake of our global partnership with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, TIBCO technology is set to derive deeper insight on the inner workings of the racing cars to help to optimise every facet of performance. Real-time streaming, visual, and predictive analytics will combine to put everything from tire pressure to fuel burn efficiency under the microscope to support the race engineers on site and at the factory with decision making and automated action.

The more I see, the more I am struck by the synergy of values and motivation between our two brands, which is an alignment that provides a critical foundation for any successful partnership.

As the sleek, silver machines tore around the circuit, it occurred to me that speed is perhaps the most prominent parallel of all; as a company we have long spoken of the two-second advantage and the criticality of fast, real-time actionable insight to gain an edge on the competition. In practice, it means that being equipped with all the facts—that deeper level of information that gives you that extra two seconds on anyone else—enabling you to make critical decisions in real-time to the advantage of your business.

In short, this level of detail puts you in the driver’s seat. This seems to be a perfect metaphor for an environment where every second counts—a pit stop, for example, lasts just 2.4 seconds during which the tires will be changed, petrol tanks filled, and terabytes of data downloaded and analyzed.

Being pushed to the limit and squeezing every drop of value out of the technical and human capabilities is now a given. The sport has always had a reputation for being technically demanding—the ultimate collusion of man and machine, but talking to the engineers and the drivers really brought it home just how entrenched this is, starting with the sheer volume of data that is generated by the cars over the course of a racing weekend.

The two-hour race is the culmination of the considerable effort that starts days prior at the Northampton factory. From the drivers to engineers and everyone in between, each and every team member works toward achieving their ultimate performance and what ties all these efforts together is data. It is then that the complex analytics enables all parts of the human machine to quickly identify where performance and time improvements can be made. In short, data is the key to F1 victory.

With countless variables, such as track temperature and wind speed, context is constantly changing during qualification and races. The team has to seize short-lived opportunities and quickly adapt race strategy by augmenting their perspective to identify and act on known and unknown patterns. Streaming analytics is the best way to do this through its ability to capture the large volumes of data produced by the car’s sensors. By comparing it to the context—consider again the weather or opponent track position—data helps the team to make the best decision, when it matters most.

It is TIBCO technology that will be pulling hundreds of gigabytes of data from the more than 200 sensors installed in every vehicle as well as additional software and field equipment ready to collate and transform data into meaningful and actionable intelligence.

For instance, with 11 sensors in just one tire, each one will have a story to tell on the inner working of these cars, further bolstered by the thermodynamic cameras installed on the front wing which reveal real-time images of tyre deterioration during the race. Thanks to this information, both the race team’s performance can be dissected to glean insight to inform future design improvements. With both championship leader Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen both experiencing tire failures in the closing laps at Silverstone, such data from tire sensors could have been absolutely critical to the race result.

And, as we know, data value isn’t just about what is happening right now. Historical insight remains a font of knowledge enabling us to build models and use them to identify patterns on streaming data for predictive and operational insight. When this is blended with real time information, it becomes a powerful proposition.

With Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport accumulating 20 years of historical data to work with, the team are particularly excited to extrapolate some past findings to see how it can help to inform present decisions. It seems then like we’re on track for an exciting season.