Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s Holy Grail: The Fastest Setup Combination

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If you’ve ever followed a Formula One™ race, you probably wonder how exactly the cars become as fast as they do. The answer is simple: data. But to make sense of the million pieces of data the car emits on a daily basis is no easy feat. For teams like Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, data is crucial to continually evolve and innovate, especially when it comes to car setup. Teams work tirelessly to find the one Holy Grail: the fastest possible set-up combination. This can make or break the team’s position on the starting grid, and later, the podium. 

From March to December, participating F1 teams travel to 21 circuits around the world, each with its own set of characteristics. Conditions change faster than a blink of an eye, so it’s the combination of external events that present challenges and opportunities. Circuitous streets such as Singapore or Monaco present different challenges for drivers than more open tracks such as Monza. 

The trackside rockstars responsible for finding the fastest and best possible set up are the  Vehicle Dynamics Group (VDG). The group prepares the car for Friday’s practices session and the rest of the race weekend, taking the driver’s feedback into consideration as they begin to get a handle on the car. Though the setup can change for the two practice sessions, what’s chosen for Qualifying Day on Saturday is what carries the team through to the race.

The proper setup has big payoffs: getting to the front row of the starting grid and understanding optimal car configurations. The higher the pole position a driver starts from the starting grid, the better the chance they can stay in the lead throughout the race — this has been the case for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport for the majority of the 2019 season. 

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport faces two massive challenges when it comes to setup: (1) the sheer volume of data to process and (2) overcoming the cadence of data which is on par with other F1 teams. Enter stage right: TIBCO® Spotfire and TIBCO Data Science. Here’s how we help:

  • Analyzing previous races and previous circuits and apply predictive algorithms to understand what changes were made at previous races to help them learn and predict what to do at future events
  • Dissecting the simulations to extract the optimum car setup and discover performance trends that help the team react to what it sees during a race weekend

A team that makes big wins, is one that oftentimes is willing to take on significant changes. The team moved out of their previous comfort zone into their new normal zone of operations. Now, anyone across the company in a position of critical decision-making can access the data with ease.

You’re probably thinking: What does F1 car set up have to do with my business? Something that your business and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport have in common is trial and error, or in innovation speak, failing fast and failing often. This is the guiding principle that digitally transforms businesses, creating innovation opportunities by giving businesses the freedom to think beyond how things have always been done— and to disrupt and change for the better. 

To learn more about how Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport uses TIBCO software to find the fastest possible setup to help them expect the unexpected, read the full case study.