“I like to think of formula one as a gladiatorial sport between drivers and a virtual war between technicians and the teams and neither can win without the other,” says Ross Brawn, General Manager of Formula One Motorsports.
Speaking at the keynote of AWS re:invent, Brawn tells the audience, “We have the fastest racing cars on the planet – we pull 5Gs on cornering and breaking. It’s a big business and sport and it’s growing.”
In the fast-paced arena of Formula One racing, Brawn claims every second counts. Little wonder his track crew have ‘the pitstop’ down to an art – a crack team can change four wheels and tyres in 1.6 seconds. It can be the difference between winning and losing a race.
Indeed, Brawn suggests Formula One is a contest of innovative minds. “Every team has hundreds of engineers trying to produce the best car, the best aerodynamics, the best chassis, the best engine,” he says.
Currently, Formula One races in 21 countries around the world and millions of fans tune in to the sport or watch live in person on race days. Yet like any sport, Formula One is not immune to fan fatigue and Brawn says competition to keep fans engaged is high.
“Standing still is to go backwards,” says Brawn. He suggests despite Formula One having the most advanced cars on Earth and having spent three decades thrilling fans with trackside action – there is a pressure to deliver more.
Harnessing the power of the car’s data-rich systems is one avenue Brawn is keen to explore.
“We are most data-rich sport in the world, data fuels our performance. Each car has 120 sensors generating over 1-million points of data.”
Now Brawn has chosen to partner with AWS to unlock this data to not only benefit drivers but deliver incredible insights to motorsports fans. Brawn and his team of experts have worked with AWS on two initiatives using the high-performance computer data to deliver better more raceable cars and employing machine learning to develop and increase fan engagement.
Using the power of AWS SageMaker, Brawn’s team have built-out models to show how a car is being driven and how a driver is interacting with the track and circumstances.
“Currently the cars suffer badly when cars follow each other,” Brawn explains. “And we want to make the aerodynamics less sensitive. So, we did a design using two cars one following one another. This is a massively complex problem we’d never done it before. AWS’ high-performance computing has allowed us to do this, and experiment faster than ever before,” he said.
Brawn’s team has also used SageMaker to calculate risks and unlock insights into a car and driver’s performance.
“We call these F1 Insights and for the 2018 season we dug in deep to show you where performance is coming from.”
Brawn says F1 Insights will be rolled out throughout the 2019 season and will enable viewers to get an insider’s perspective of the race, providing real-time information on conditions, track speeds and driver response.
“On screen you will see a graphic that compares two drivers. You can compare corner speed as Ricciardo follows Hartley and fans can see where he is gaining time. Next season we will expand insights to include indicators such as car position, tyre degradation, even weather – we can use SageMaker to predict car performance.
Next year’s F1 TV broadcast will bring the insights to life for fans.
According to Brawn, overtaking and wheel to wheel racing is the essence of and critical aspect of the sport.
“And with SageMaker on board, we can predict what will happen next – we have the data.”
One of the wonders of Formula One racing is the speed in which the pit crew can change out wheels and Brawn plans to give viewers real insight into the process.
“The Pitstop is a major strategic element of the race,” Brawn says. “Stopping at the right time can win or lose a race. Now we can give fans insight into why they stopped, when they stopped and did they make the right call?
“We can bring that to the fans and help them understand whether a driver is in trouble, or whether he’s got a situation under control.
“Further down the road we will investigate the influence of tracks and racing formats on the
quality of racing. Can we change the format of racing? What happens if we change the formation for the starting grid…. Can we create tracks that achieve better racing and better overtaking? It’s an incredibly exciting new phase and it’s bringing many opportunities.”
The author was a guest of AWS at AWS re:invent