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What drives an F1 car?

Nurdianah Md Nur | Oct. 4, 2013
Besides having a powerful engine and good aerodynamic design, an F1 car needs to leverage useful technologies, such as analytics and ERP solutions, to have a leg up on competitors.

Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus F1 Team, leads Paul di Resta of Force India, and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso
2013 Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit. Credit to Lotus F1 Team.

It takes more than just the drivers' skills and the crews' teamwork for a Formula One (F1) team to clinch the F1 World Constructors' Championship title. The F1 car and the technologies powering it play a vital part too. Interestingly, the technologies utilised are available in the enterprise market for any organisation to use. We take a look at how some of these technologies are being used by the different F1 teams to provide them with a competitive edge at the recent race in Singapore's Marina Bay Street Circuit from 20-22 September.

Speed up with HANA
Sergio Perez in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car at Singapore GP 2013
Sergio Perez in his McLaren car at the Singapore Grand Prix 2013. Credit to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. 

F1 cars are fitted with numerous sensors that feed engineers with real-time information crucial to a race. For the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team (McLaren), each car carries over 120 sensors. Data collected from the sensors include pressures, temperatures, gear changes on brakes, tyres and fuel in the car, as well as other factors that affect the performance of the car.

All these data contribute to the many gigabytes of data an F1 car generally generates during a Grand Prix. To quickly analyse this huge amount of data, McLaren uses SAP HANA, an in-memory database software system. With SAP HANA, data analysis is achieved 14,000 times faster than the previous solution used, therefore providing results in seconds.

What SAP HANA does is to organise and analyse the data that is fed by the sensors into easy-to-understand visuals and language in real-time. The visuals and analysed information, which provide an overview of the car, will then be presented on a SAP HANA-powered dashboard. The dashboard also contains real-time race predictions and strategy simulations, which are generated within seconds, for improvements throughout the race.

Through the simulations, engineers could determine what might have happened in a particular scenario if they had made a different decision. All the analysed data thus enables "engineers to make real-time split second decisions — such as when to pit and what to change during pit stops — during the course of the Grand Prix," said Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal.

McLaren also uses the analysed data to retrospectively examine the performance of its cars on specific racetracks, such as Monaco's racetrack that has not changed much over decades. Whitmarsh said: "[SAP HANA enables us] to compare data from the car in real-time with historical data from past seasons, competitor strategies, and modelling in weather conditions. The team can thus structure plans of attack for future races [at the same racetrack] and train with specific scenarios in mind."


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