AT&T helps Infiniti Red Bull Racing get into beat the competition with telemetry and data analysis worthy of the one of the world's most technologically advanced sports.
In the eyes of Formula 1 fans, the drivers and the cars are what make up the sport; but a lot more goes on behind the scenes before the tyres even come into contact with the track.
The world of Formula 1 racing is an intense environment in which a dedicated team, most ften distributed across opposite sides of the world, works tirelessly to improve the performance of the car. Even a hundredth of a second counts and can make a substantial difference to race results, so it is imperative that the trackside team is able to communicate quickly with a team of engineers back at team HQ.
In 2011, Red Bull Racing and AT&T first worked together to use AT&T's networking know-how to help the team maximize the contribution that state-of-the-art communications could make to racing performance. This initial agreement was then extended in 2012 to a comprehensive, multiyear agreement.
As Technical Supplier to the triple Driver and Constructor World Champions, AT&T provides the team with advanced network services, focusing on a high bandwidth link.
This speeds up communications between the team track-side and their UK-based headquarters in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. The requirement is truly a global challenge for AT&T as in the 2013 season alone, F1 Grands Prix are being held at 19 race circuits across 19 countries on five continents and multiple F1 test locations.
Getting to the front of the grid
A vast amount of preparation is needed to ensure that the car's performance, including its speed, reliability, handling and stability on the track, is at its full potential ahead of the race. In addition every circuit has its own individual requirements and challenges; therefore the team needs to ensure that the car's aerodynamics are fine-tuned specifically for the upcoming race.
The importance of data transfer between the track and the factory plays a significant role during every race weekend, as the teams work to establish their competitive edge on the track, which can be as little as a tenth of a second per lap. AT&T provides high-speed and highly secure connections between the pit wall, garage and the team's engineering offices on-site during a race weekend, and also provides Wi-Fi connections in the team's hospitality area.
In tandem, the overall network connection from AT&T allows the team to share data quickly and efficiently between the thriving operations room back at HQ and the tense track environment - whether in Australia or Monaco.
Matt Cadieux, CIO at Red Bull Racing, says: "Improvement to the car's set-up is a never ending process. AT&T's service allows us to send the information gathered from the car during the practice sessions to the HQ in the UK in real-time.
"Increased network performance and stability ensures greater volumes of data can be gathered from the car and transferred back to the factory for analysis. In some cases we can make use of specialist knowledge; for instance, by consulting the designer of the parts under test.
"It offers greater opportunity to perform more detailed analysis and part-to-part comparisons, ultimately resulting in an optimum car setup and configuration before and during the race."
Matt Cadieux: "We turned to AT&T for this service due to its proven track record."
Collaboration is key
Hidden from the fans' gaze, the team gathers information on the vehicle's performance any time the car is on the track from over 100 sensors on the car. These sensors measure thousands of parameters on the car when it's on the track and enable the technical staff to analyze all aspects of car and driver performance, from fuel efficiency and brake temperatures, to optimal versus actual racing lines around the tracks.
Collaboration between all the locations is extremely important as tighter budgets and stricter regulations by the FIA, the governing body of motorsport worldwide, mean that the teams are limited to 60 technical staff onsite at each race event - up to a 30 percent reduction in staff for some teams. In 2013, the teams also lost a further two hours in the garage due to restrictions on the amount of time staff can work in the garage during race weekends - stressing the need to do more work in less time.
Through AT&T's super-fast network, the team is able to support each other and carry out work more efficiently - maximizing on-track time during practice sessions. The network allows them to transfer higher quality data back and forth from the HQ in the UK to the trackside, including 3D visuals of the car, with the team reporting that they are experiencing data speeds that are four times faster than they previously experienced.
"Our work with Infiniti Red Bull Racing is a great example of our network's strength and global reach. 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.
"The Infiniti Red Bull Racing team, while young, has proven it is committed to innovating and excelling, to hold onto its Championship status. Securing three major titles in nine years, the team's voracious enthusiasm mirrors AT&T's ethos to support technical innovation," says Andrew Edison, Regional Vice President for EMEA, AT&T.
During the actual Grand Prix races, AT&T's network also enables immediate fault reporting and vehicle analytics before the driver has even started the race. The team supplements vital data monitoring with the use of high-definition videoconferencing, allowing them to immediately discuss and address any issues face-to-face.
However, no matter what planning and preparations take place ahead of the race, anything can happen on the big day. Before the team used AT&T services, there was an incident at the 2009 European Grand Prix in Spain, during which Jenson Button made an illegal manoeuvre while overtaking Mark Webber, costing him his position. As soon as the incident took place the team needed to put a case together, obtain the telemetry and lodge a complaint as quickly as possible to get Webber's original place back. Without the technology currently provided by AT&T the team took four laps to compile the information - about six and a half minutes - resulting in Webber losing ground on the lead drivers so, by the time the place was returned, Webber's race had already been compromised.
"We know now that with AT&T's network the team would have been able to transfer all the information required to lodge the complaint in less than a lap - that's four times quicker. The size of the network, and the amount of data that we can now send between the factory and the track allows us to send more data far more quickly," said Alan Peasland, Head of Technical Partnershipsat Red Bull.
Alan Peasland: "Our team has noticed a substantial reduction in the time transferring data."
In contrast, after Sebastian Vettel's first lap collision at the Brazilian race in 2012, the team, with the help of the new network capabilities, was able to react quickly and assess the impact on the car's performance immediately and send instructions directly to the track ahead of the first pit stop. The engineers were then able to act swiftly and make alterations which helped to reduce the risk of the damage worsening throughout the remainder of the race. This rapid recovery was especially important in this instance since this race was the Championship decider during which Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were both fiercely battling it out for the coveted number one position.
"During a race, anything can happen. The Brazilian race is a prime example of this and proves how important it is that the team is able to work together between the track and the HQ.
"Thanks in part to the quick response of the team, Sebastian Vettel went on to win his third Championship title for the team after an extremely difficult race. AT&T's network was a key component to this successful outcome, allowing the team at the track and at HQ to work efficiently and quickly together in this nailbiting, high pressure situation.
"Since implementing the network in 2011, our team has noticed a substantial reduction in the time transferring data between these two locations. This has resulted in enhanced team performance, with two extremely successful seasons following, which we hope to
continue," said Alan Peasland.
What lies ahead...
In 2014 the world of Formula 1 racing is set to experience the biggest regulation changes in a decade. The Championship will see the introduction of a revised engine regulation, in which the current 2.4 litre V8 engine will be replaced by a 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 hybrid engine.
This new regulation coupled with the on-going reductions in track time means that the team now needs to rely heavily on the virtual environment and AT&T's network to deliver it - even more so since this new engine configuration is a first for the sport. The team needs to start from scratch, building a new prototype around these complex parameters; therefore it will be extremely difficult to predict how the car will perform when on the track.
The network will be vital during the preparatory test sessions in early 2014, and most importantly the races, as every team attempts to optimize performance and reliability on their brand new cars.
Matt Cadieux finishes: "We turned to AT&T for this service due to its proven track record within the sport and its network's ability to give us that added competitive advantage above the other teams. We recognize that it takes the right team of people, technology and partners to optimize performance - and ultimately secure Championship titles."