In a sport where a split second can mean the difference between pole position and second place, or where a few drops of rain can mean millions of dollars worth of damage, the need to have the right data at the right time is paramount.
Every Formula 1 team in the paddock has invested heavily in IT over the last decade, and cutting-edge technological systems are now almost as important as engine and tyres.
One of the last known partnerships was between cloud experts NetApp and Aston Martin F1 (AMF1), and TechRadar Pro traveled to Team Silverstone’s headquarters to find out more.
The need for speed
“Put simply, my job is to make the car go faster, and I do that with technology,” notes Clare Lansley, CIO, AMF1, “and let’s face it, technology is ubiquitous across the industry.”
Formula 1 is now a truly global sport, with teams moving from as far away as Australia, Singapore, Canada and Brazil, as well as countless races across the European continent.
For all Formula 1 teams based in Europe, the need to transmit data at all times of the day is essential as a delay in getting the right information can make the difference between winning a pit race or improving the mechanics.
AMF1 entered the sport in 2021 with the intention of being “the first truly modern Formula 1 team”, and its technology partnerships play a big part in that.
NetApp is best known for its cloud and storage capabilities and offers your team a range of key services to help you succeed.
This includes two FlexPod compute and storage devices, described by NetApp’s chief tech evangelist Matt Watts as “an incredibly powerful, high-capacity system” that greatly simplifies IT infrastructure at the racetrack.
Lansley notes that she and her team, like the engineers, are basically given an empty concrete shell when they show up for an F1 race weekend, so we greatly appreciate the need for simple, plug-and-play systems.
Lansley notes that using the FlexPods – which are so important they’re regarded as “children’s gloves” – allows the team to gather more data and offer more opportunities at the track – but also replace older systems that were too complex – or It’s just hard to plan.
Lansley notes that freight costs around $500 per kilo, and because Formula 1 teams operate within a strict cost cap, the money saved from making a move such as switching to less taxing IT systems is essential, and the funds saved will go towards more car development or more engineers.
Every second counts
At AMF1’s headquarters, described by Lansley as “Mission Control”, around 50-60 team members are tasked with analyzing the approximately 440GB of telemetry generated over the race weekend.
NetApp provides its SnapMirror replication technology, compressing the data to make it as fast as possible to take the data to mission control where engineers and strategists can feed it into simulation models to predict the best racing choices.
Lansley gives the example of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melborne – essentially on the other side of the world from the home of AMF1 in the UK. After free practice sessions, teams only have a few minutes to choose their car setup before qualifying for the race.
The two-hour window between these two sessions is the shortest of any race on the Formula 1 calendar, and the use of NetApp SnapMirror technology means AMF1 has reduced the data access time from 20 minutes to under 10, giving the team much more time to carefully select the right setting – which helped him finish P3 and P4 in qualifying, his best result of the season.
“We’re in the future – I don’t want a bleeding edge, I want it to be in the embryonic stage so I can gain a competitive edge,” says Lansley. “The landscape is constantly changing, so having flexible decisions that I can use at the flick of a switch is essential.”
“If we want to perform on track, we need to have the right technology. In any business, the technology has to be in place before you decide your strategy – and it’s the same in F1.”