Winning a Formula One World Championship is far from easy. It takes thousands of hours of research, building and testing, not to mention hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment. Ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix, CBR met with Red Bull Racing and AT&T to hear about how communication is more important than ever before.
With 19 races on four continents, teams in the world's most technologically advanced sport need to be in constant contact with their racing headquarters to analyse and act on the massive hoard of data generated during a racing weekend. But ensuring that a reliable network can be set up at all these different locations can be a major challenge, and one that needs to be conquered in order to become a winning team.
Last year's world champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, based near Milton Keynes, has been working with American telco AT&T over the past few seasons to install, provide and maintain communications networks at all Grand Prix locations. And, thanks to a new expanded agreement between the two companies, AT&T will this year provide Infiniti Red Bull Racing with communications that are up to two and half times faster than the services used in 2013.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing sends 60 people to each race weekend, and is supported by a further team at its headquarters and the offices of its engine supplier Renault in Viry, France. This means that communications need to be reliable and clear - but also temporary, as the network will only be used once a year at each location.
The three teams need to remain connected at all times, as more than 100GB of data will be transferred between the various Infiniti Red Bull teams during the course of a weekend, with each car featuring around 100 sensors which constantly transmit information to the pit lane and the factory. All of this can be crucial in making split-second strategic or mechanical decisions which could mean victory or defeat, meaning that a reliable communications network is an absolute must.
Using its experience from setting up temporary networks in the construction and retail industries, AT&T is able to visit the grand prix site a week before the race lands and then install a 'plug and play' network that allows the team to easily access to a high-bandwidth network.
The 2014 Formula One season has seen a raft of new regulations and rules aimed at making the sport more cost-effective, and all 12 teams are hoping that they have prepared sufficiently to succeed.
This means that the team has had to invest more than ever in research and development, especially as pre-season testing has been severely limited following rulings from the sport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile (FIA).
The team has, therefore, partnered further with AT&T to provide it with a network two and a half times bigger than the previous season in order to crunch the numbers not just from track testing, but also from the wind tunnel at Red Bull's factory, where the team will test its new car and all the aerodynamic components.
"Being able to get more telemetry off the car, more sensors, more data, has been absolutely crucial, because this is a brand new vehicle - the technology in it is new, the car is a completely different animal this year...so learning as much as we can in the short amount of time we have is crucial" said Al Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
The expansion in development also extends to the manufacturing of the cars themselves, which are made up of 7,000 components. The team went through 22,000 design changes during the 2013 season, with each new part needing to be tested, said Peasland. When a new part is built and sent out to the race team, 3D modelling will show the mechanics exactly where it needs to go on the car, meaning they can fit the part though they may never have seen it before.
The Infiniti Red Bull team will also look to develop the car over the race weekend following the free practice sessions which run prior to qualifying, with the increased network meaning that the team can run as many simulations as needed to hopefully produce a race-winning car.
Where AT&T really stands out, Infiniti Red Bull says, is in providing a reliable communications network that allows all the different teams to connect in almost real-time. In a sport where speed rules and the margins can be as little as a thousandth of a second, the ability to make the right strategic calls based on data collected from the driver and the car can be the difference between victory and second place.
"Our work with Infiniti Red Bull Racing is a great example of our network's strength and global reach,"said Andrew Edison, Regional VP for EMEA, AT&T.
"In the high-intensity environment of Formula 1 racing it is extremely important that the team is able to rely on the technology in place - especially since it can make a difference between victory and defeat."
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