How Data is Powering a New Age in Formula One Car Building
July 27, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

Formula One has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. The competition is not only on the race track but in the factory floor as engineers struggle to outthink each other to make their cars faster. The result has been a number of impressive technologies such as active suspension carbon fibre construction, traction control and advanced aerodynamics.

No surprise then that high tech and their money are now finding their way to the racing world. Tech companies such as Webex, Microsoft, Webex, Oracle and Zoom are sponsoring teams, races and even whole leagues.

Amazon, in particular, has been deeply involved in various aspects of the race. AWS, the company’s public cloud arm, is powering the sport’s on-screen graphics.

More importantly, Amazon has been heavily involved in the design of Formula One’s new 2022 car.

A look at the car and the first thing you will notice is its curves. Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal, this swoopy shape has specific aerodynamic goals behind it. It is meant to reduce what is termed as “dirty air”, a phenomenon where the wind off the back of an F1 car makes it difficult for the car behind to stay on track.

Today’s race cars generate a lot of “dirty air” and this makes racing more difficult and a little awkward as the cars can’t get too close to each other for fear of losing critical downforce. This force is critical in ensuring the cars stay on the track and not say, fly off into the air.

To design such a car however is not easy, if it was, F1 engineers would surely already have done it long ago. It requires a lot of computational power and talent to collect data relating to fluid dynamics and use it in design. AWS was especially useful in this aspect.

 Speaking on Techcrunch F1’s director of Data Systems Rob Smedley describes the difficulty teams would have to go through if they were to handle all the computation work on their own.

“It would have taken four days per compute cycle to model two of the new cars driving one behind the other.”

With Amazon’s help, Smedley and his team would be able to complete the same work in about six to eight hours. This means that the team can run more simulations and thus design a better car.

 As tech becomes more embedded into Formula One we are sure to get faster and more exciting races.

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