Formula One: A Technology Race

“It’s now obvious that Formula One is as much a technology race as it is a car race."

“It’s now obvious that Formula One is as much a technology race as it is a car race,” says Alan Peasland, Head of Technical Partnerships, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

With the 2015 Formula One season now underway following the weekend’s curtain raiser in Melbourne, and with the sport continuing to adapt to one of the most extensive rule changes during the past ten years, Peasland is unwavering in his belief that for Red Bull Racing, leading the pack digitally is imperative for on the track success.

“We have to be the fastest on and off the track,” admits Peasland, alluding to new season of regulations. “This is because our ability to rapidly gather, share and analyse new data is more important than ever.

“Of course, our sport is all about the people – the talented drivers, mechanics and engineers that make up Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

“But our team could not function without fast and highly secure communications on a reliable high-capacity network.”

Referring specially to the technology provided by global tech giant AT&T, Peasland says the technology allows Red Bull Racing to connect its dispersed team from all corners of the planet, helping them collaborate to make the best use of their talent, skills and experience.

“The AT&T infrastructure has allowed us to transfer at least 200GB of data between our UK headquarters and the track during every race,” explains Peasland, speaking to Computerworld New Zealand.

“Our 2014 network was two and a half times faster than that of 2013 and provided higher bandwidth.

“This has allowed us to make extensive use of telepresence, to introduce CAD and design tools into the garage, and to use factory-hosted data centres to run simulations and analysis.”

For Peasland, Red Bull Racing simply couldn’t run these applications without AT&T providing low latency.

“In such a fast-moving environment, we would otherwise be effectively cutting the trackside team off from decision support from the Ops Room,” he adds.

“Even at the Melbourne race, which is the furthest Grand Prix from our HQ, our latency-sensitive applications continue to work well.”

Another big challenge for the team is security. Given Red Bull Racing runs a highly mobile workforce that collaborates globally and shares vast amounts of sensitive information for Peasland, “it is critical to avoid any breach.”

Driving technology innovation

As Red Bull Racing’s Innovation Partner, AT&T helps the team of employees and critical partners work together – making sure that the trackside team, HQ staff in the UK and engine manufacturer, Renault, in France can interact as if they were all at the race or test track together.

But when quizzed on when AT&T technology is most important to the team, in the pre-race preparation stage or during the race itself, Peasland couldn’t answer, such is the mission critical nature of the technology.

“It’s equally important in both instances, but for different reasons,” he explains. “Pre-race preparation relies on the collaboration between HQ and trackside to optimise and refine the car for the specific conditions presented to us at each particular race event.

“During the race, the collaboration provides a mission critical link to assist with health monitoring of the car and providing real time race strategy support to the race team and drivers.”

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According to Peasland, today’s Formula One car is considered an evolving prototype – a design that is constantly being refined in search of the next tenth or hundredth of a second performance improvement per lap.

“Over the course of a Formula One season, we process many thousands of design changes to create new components that have to be sent to the track to be assembled onto the cars in time for the race event,” he explains.

And when the race event arrives, Peasland says that unsurprisingly, it is an incredibly fast-paced affair.

“But a lot of what happens on race-day is very well structured and planned by the team,” he explains.

On a race day, the team can have up to 100 different sensors on its cars, each measuring many different functions from tyre temperature and pressure to suspension loads, acceleration and G-forces experienced by the car and driver.

This data is then analysed with the help of factory-based engineers and simulation tools in the UK and France, using videoconferencing sessions for face-to-face meetings.

“This collaborative multi-disciplinary approach helps us make strategic decisions that ultimately affect our race position and competitiveness – and ensure driver safety,” Peasland adds.

“But it would not be possible without a capable communications network. This is where AT&T plays a crucial role.

“We have a secure Virtual Private Network connection between the Operations Room at HQ and our other facilities and trackside teams at race or test events.

“Team members also use smartphones as part of a unified communications solution that is protected via AT&T mobile device management tools.”

2015 and beyond…

With the 2015 season now underway, Peasland says AT&T’s support will continue to touch almost every aspect of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s operations, with plans to consolidate all of the team’s WAN links onto the AT&T backbone.

“Sophisticated computer simulations are becoming increasingly important as a tool to help our engineers predict how the car will perform,” he adds.

“We’ll be using them more often on race days, requiring extensive computing and communications power.”

As a result, in the near future, Peasland says plans are in place to expand AT&T unified communications solution to include IP-based phone services, presence and video conferencing while security, of course, is constantly being updated.

“We are also enhancing the connectivity to our wind tunnel,” he adds. “The wind tunnel is a vital tool for the team as they hone the design of the car to make it is as aerodynamically efficient as possible.

“Testing generates huge volumes of data that need to be analysed by engineers at HQ.

“A ten-fold increase in bandwidth and added resilience of the network to this facility, which is located in Bedford in the UK, will enable faster data transfer to our HQ for analysis and will greatly benefit the team on the track.”

As the world of Formula One today becomes ever more tech-focused and connected, Peasland says AT&T’s “blazing fast network and innovative solutions” directly affect how the team develops the car and how they gather data, learn from it and adapt.

“Our network infrastructure is now mission critical and gives us an edge on the track that is helping us take Infiniti Red Bull Racing to the next level,” he adds.