Data & F1
By Gemma Morris
21st March 2016

Stats, analytics and data play a big part in motor racing and this weekend we saw the return of Formula 1 with the first race of the season kicking off in Australia. The podium consisted of a typical Mercedes 1-2 with Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel claiming 3rd.

If you’re new to the sport it is easy to assume this was down to the driver and the driver alone, however it is what goes on behind the scenes and in the pit lanes that can really make or break a race.

Data has massively changed the sport, gone are the days of fuel based pit stops and driving to the limit, racing nowadays is all about the data provided by each car and how this determines each team’s strategy.

According to Forbes, in 2014 cars and teams were generating around 243 terabytes of data each race! With the start of the 2016 season more data is available and the amount collected is continuing to grow. Only last week IBM announced they were partnering with McLaren Honda F1 team to provide over 160 sensors in the car to feed real time data to the pit crew so they can make quick decisions, this data will also be available to the McLaren drivers, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, during the race which up until now had not been done.

The sensors in an F1 car can tell the pit crew how well the driver is conserving fuel, if there are any engine problems, tyre pressure, brake temperature and many other things. This data can change the driver’s strategy, if the crew can see the tyre pressure is low they might make an early pit stop or if the fuel consumption is high the driver will have to slow down. The timing of each of these things can make a massive effect on the driver’s position.

However this data can’t tell the crew everything; the driver still plays a big part in feeding back to the team. The data can tell the crew about tyre pressure but it can’t tell them how well they are gripping the track – only the driver can do this. But with the creation of new sensors does the future of F1 hold more data? 

How do you think data will change the future of F1? Would you like to see more data used? Let us know in the comments below


"I think F1 is about becoming more about telemetry ( hence the above article) as it is about aerodynamics and automotive engineering/ material science. However, F1 should be more about racing and the racing skills of a team driver plus team skills at pit stops ( it’s now around 2 seconds ) which is amazing. However, it is data that brings everything together from tyre wear and engine conservation to weather forecasting. Exciting times ahead." - Paul Fenech


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