Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport: Continuous Innovation & Collaboration Creates the Optimal Formula One™ Car
Putting one of the world’s best Formula One™ cars to the test to maximize reliability, performance, and design
Five-time FIA Formula One™ World Champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport are no strangers to success. Over the years, the team has formed a data-driven culture, leveraging data analytics and insights to gain a competitive advantage. To propel continuous innovation, the team has implemented an augmented intelligence product portfolio for quicker data analysis, shaving off critical milliseconds for the ultimate competitive edge. When producing the 2019 car designs, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport drew on TIBCO’s strategic insights to support the process of determining the optimum race-day car configurations and achieving real-time adaptation to race conditions.
Mike Elliott, technology director, looks after aerodynamics and dyno testing. Along with Elliott, John Ingle, head of dyno, and Andrew Crook, principal aerodynamicist, work to continuously innovate the race car, trying to find every crucial bit of performance to improve the driver’s lap time.
Test, Analyze, Repeat
Simply put, the wind tunnel is a large hairdryer. An object (in this case, a 60 percent scale model of an F1 car) is fixed inside of and wind is blown over it at varying speeds to gauge the impact of many elements of the design. The team has the capability to measure forces and pressures around the model to gauge the flow field. The added challenge is that FIA regulations limit the number of runs that each F1 team can perform in the wind tunnel, the amount of time spent in the tunnel, and even the test speeds. For example, teams are only allowed to test at 50 meters a second or at 180 kilometers an hour.
“When it comes to developing our capability in the wind tunnel, it’s very important that we look to maximize the learning from each run and minimize the time it takes for us to do each run,” said Crook.
One Test, Two Test, Three Test, More
Formula 1 teams are always looking to find small gains, which becomes increasingly challenging the more the cars evolve and advance throughout the season. One of the ways Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport sees those millisecond gains is through dyno testing.
Teams are restricted by track testing time, with the goal of increasing the longevity of costly components. And this season, teams are only allowed to have three engines —that’s for 21 races—as opposed to four or five engines as in previous years. Because of these rules, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport tests the interaction between the engine, transmission, and hydraulics early to try to ensure these critical components will last the required distance.
The race engineering team is the other crucial group that relies heavily upon the data produced by the dyno team. It relies on this data to get the car setup for its biggest impact at the race circuit. Collaboration with the dyno group is essential for testing the performance of the engine and gearbox. Both need to be tested in a way that is representative of what the team should expect on the track.
Finding Clarity in the Clutter
Many of the aerodynamic testing components, such as the wind tunnel, produce large amounts of data. The goal is to run the aerodynamics of the car as close as possible to the real race track environment to ensure critical gains are seized once the lights go out.
When it comes to analytics tools, this group primarily leads with TIBCO Spotfire® analytics to bring insights from the testing data and use this new knowledge to make more empowered decisions across departments to optimize performance, and ultimately, win championships. Spotfire® analytics allows the team to look at the data across the whole season. From improved aerodynamics allowing for more efficient use of time in the wind tunnel, to visual, real-time analysis of car and driver execution during testing, to more reliable components that decrease the likelihood of early swap penalties or a did not finish (DNF) designation, Spotfire analytics has been a critical component to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s performance on the track.
“Spotfire software is allowing us to view the data in a much more dynamic way, and it’s allowing us to think about how we use data and quantities of data,” said John Ingle, head of dyno groups. “We can take on more data, knowing that we can look at smaller aspects, giving us signs in the future.”
Make it Count
The work that is being done at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport undoubtedly parallels other industries: applying speed of learning, quickly analyzing data, and deriving insights to make more informed decisions.
“Some of the things that we learn in Formula 1 are definitely applicable to other industries: the speed of analysis, the speed of learning, and how you can turn that, in our case, into lap time,” said Elliott. “In the case of other businesses, that might be into products and return on sales on those products, so analytics is massively important, and I think equally as important to the outside world.”
Like in dyno testing, businesses can take a close look at their operational efficiency. No matter how much time the team spends running, or in downtime, preparation, assembly, disassembly, or other areas, there are opportunities for significant improvement. The proper utilization of data is going to be where Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and businesses in other industries, can find specific areas for improvement. In the long run, this leads to other benefits, such as extending resources, developing new products or services, and saving costs.
Leaders, in no matter what industry, can use data in a strategic way. By treating data as an asset, companies can become data-driven like Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. Its continuous innovation culture has led to five championships in the last five years. This is not only an competitive win, but a business achievement. Businesses can achieve outcomes like these by implementing their own innovative and disruptive culture with the help of TIBCO® Connected Intelligence.
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