In hindsight, one could wonder if Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari’s brake caliper fire symbolized the entire weekend. The qualifications and race were fiercely fought, leading to some surprises and drama on track. With the 70th anniversary of the Italian teams’ home race, they were expected to bring home a win. Fans around the world had very high expectations that the red team failed to meet.
On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton looked at the weekend with a different perspective. The UK driver is now so far in his career that every pole breaks a record. The top spot on the Drivers’ Championship is within his reach and a reason to slow down when conditions get tricky. But that’s not how Hamilton operates.
Hamilton delivered a truly incredible performance during qualifications on Saturday. With heavy rain at the start, visibility and adherence were limited. Some drivers would have been better off without qualifications. Especially Romain Grosjean, who severely crashed in Q1, leading to an interruption of qualifications. But then what followed is a rare occurrence in Formula 1—a qualification session where conditions changed so quickly that it was virtually impossible to predict the outcome. In the past, this is how some great drivers were revealed, from Ayrton Senna to Sebastian Vettel. This time, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll came out of qualifications as potential F1 superstars. But the man who really stood out was Hamilton. At the very end of Q3, he claimed a pole with a lap that had as much to do with the car as the driver.
The onboard footage showed him constantly pushing the car to its limit, at times without visibility. And we’re not talking about just any track; Monza is a track with some of the fastest corners in the season. Hamilton’s performance during qualifications came from total confidence in the car’s engineered setup, as well as “high definition” knowledge, including memory of the track. Together, both contributed to his success.
Hamilton built his knowledge from racing on the track and in various conditions season after season. His engineers leveraged analytics to gain insights from past races, combining them with simulation results about the current car to determine the ideal setup. This setup becomes the starting point from which the car will be adapted to deliver the best performance in a new context. This new context can include the competitiveness of other teams, how much the parts on the car have been used, and external factors such as the weather. Some of these factors can change so quickly that engineers have only minutes to identify the right setup.
Analytics change the game for F1 teams as it allows them to:
- Access a vast array of data quickly, summoning the “memory” of the team, one of their key assets, to find insights
- Apply simple and complex models to this data to quickly identify the best setup and avoid operating on assumptions that could have catastrophic consequences
- Provide relevant visualizations to build a “common language” that allows insights to resonate with the whole team, from mechanics responsible for setting up the car, to drivers and strategy engineers that need to understand the outcomes and implications of the setup.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport excelled at setting up their cars, not only on Saturday for Hamilton, but for both drivers on Sunday. Hamilton led the race from beginning to end. While this may sound a bit boring, a quick look at the videos or the lap times show that he didn’t hold back the entire race to keep competition at bay. Monza is a tough circuit, and Hamilton knew that the safety car prevented him from a win in Spa last week. Valtteri Bottas was not far behind, after having made a magnificent overtake on Räikkönen on the outside in the Parabolica, one of the most terrifying turns of the track. It takes an incredible confidence in a car to achieve such moves at more than 300km/h (186 mph). Bottas’ satisfaction with the performance of the car showed when called his car a “beast” on social media.
The F1 circus heads to Singapore for another highlight of the season, the only urban night race. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport now leads both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championships with a performance fueled by data.
Discover the analytics solution Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport uses, provided by TIBCO.