Path to the Podium: Data as a Common Language  

During the Formula One race season, avid F1 fans tune in to see if their favorite teams and drivers will place on the podium and get one step further in the fight for the championship. But before the drivers take their positions on the starting grid, the entire team goes through intense preparation in order to ensure their success.

Long before the weekend starts, teams work to compute data from the last race while preparing for the upcoming race by looking at historical data from previous seasons. Engineers need to be able to use visual analytics to identify areas for improved performance and any causes of issues by zooming in on a specific metric at a turn or a lap. At the factory, they use analytics to work on results of the tests, typically on parts of the car. At the racetrack, they will compare current results with simulations and past results, and work on the data to identify the configuration with the best propensity to increase performance.

On the other hand, team leads use the data to consult key car metrics to decide to adapt the strategy or not. They will compare this data with the initial data on which the strategy was based, or even data about the competition.

The  information from the team leads and engineers is relayed to the mechanics, who are essential in adapting the car’s configuration to make sure it delivers the right outcome. They need to understand the data that engineers and team leads may have based their decision on, and validate that the outcome is compliant with the expectations.

The cars are then ready for the free practice sessions at the race track on Friday of race weekend. Free practice sessions start a period of intense collaboration as the entire team actively works to find performance wherever it may be. The team has the opportunity to find the best configuration of the car for the track and climate conditions with the drivers getting a feel for the car and the set up. This is also the first time the team gets a feel for the competition.

After free practice, engineers and mechanics have a long night ahead of them to get the car ready for qualifications the next day, using the insights and recommendations from the practice sessions to make modifications to the car. Come Saturday, it is the last free practice session before qualifications. Qualifications require fine tuning by the team as this is the time where the car needs to be the fastest to get a better starting grid but a proper configuration since the car will start the race with a very similar configuration. This is crucial because teams can build an advantage before the race even starts.

Finally, the race takes place on Sunday. Teams can place their cars on the starting grid 30 minutes before the race and get them at an optimal configuration with the correct tire pressure and engine temperature among other factors. After the drivers take a formation lap around the track, it’s lights out.

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