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November 18, 2015

Big Data in pole position on F1 starting grid

Analysis: Formula One veteran Mark Gallagher and Grand Prix winner David Coulthard share their views.

By Joao Lima

Winning a Formula One race is also no longer about the best driver and the fastest car, it is about making the best use of data.

At LiveWorx Europe 2015, in Stuttgart, Germany, Mark Gallagher, MD of CMS Motor Sport and 30 years Formula One veteran, said: "You want really robust reliable technology to deliver a safe product. And then of course we want to have great performance."

For the last 20 years, Formula One has been working on technology and trying to utilise new technological innovations to get the most out of driver and car.

"There is so much about Big Data, IoT, and other things that we can do with in this new world. It is pretty extraordinary what you can do when using this technology."

By using data, F1 has been able to build safer vehicles and reduce the risk posed to drivers. This led to no deaths for a period of ten years between 2004 and 2014, with Gallagher saying:

"Data improves safety. We now produce much safer products and that is helping to reduce fatalities."

As Formula One businesses integrate data environments to reach outcomes, real time data is today the big discussion within the industry.

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However, Gallagher has found a problem in the way work is carried out. He said: "There is a problem, they [Formula One] have spent millions of dollars building these systems out, but then they put it on human hands."

To further discuss the role of data in this sport, Gallagher was joined on stage by Formula One legend David Coulthard, winner of 13 Grand Prix.

The Scottish driver said that he did not see himself as a problem, but agreed that it is all about the data.

He said: "Formula One creates a wonderful piece of technology and then it delivers it to me to drive it as fast as I can. I do not think I am part of the problem.

"The data does not lie. It is part of being a human to cover up, data does not do that, it tells us the fact of performance.

"You have to work as a team. The team is developing a low volume production, might just be five cars a year. The ultimate goal in Formula One is to win in the construction field."

He said that different teams share data between themselves and that modern teams do a lot to make sure they are completely transparent with what they do with the car.

"You need to be completely open. Briefings [at the circuit] happen in front of competitors; about 15 engineers share information between themselves."

With the use of data – and the exchange of data – racing teams have managed to improve circuit assistance performance. Gallagher said: "Continuous improvement post 2010 led to increased efficiency even more."

He exemplified how much data can impact a driver’s performance in a race using Ferrari. The company, through the use of data, has reduced the standard six seconds spent around the car during a race to only three seconds.

Red Bull Racing has also utilised data, and following Ferrari’s steps, has reduced assistance time to less than a second and a half.

"The car comes in, they are in position and change the tyre without the tyre even stop spinning."

Just like the car revolution that is about to hit roads worldwide, racing will also see automated cars drive in into the sport.

When? "It is getting closer," said Gallagher.

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