Analytics helps Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 team take pole position

For Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, data visualization, predictive analytics, and AI were key to winning its fifth consecutive Formula One World Constructor's Championship in 2018.

Analytics helps Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 team take pole position
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Formula One (F1) race cars are among the most technically advanced land vehicles on the planet. Since 2014, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has dominated the World Constructor's Championship, awarded by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) to the most successful designer over the course of a season. Matt Harris, head of IT at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, says data and analytics are core to the constructor's continuing innovation.

"F1 is incredibly dynamic as a sport and we also have to adjust to regulations as they develop, which is where technology can be invaluable to a competitive team by gathering the most relevant information and analyzing key elements efficiently, within the regulations," he says.

F1 cars are single-seat, open cockpit, open-wheel racing cars that must be built to exacting specifications by the teams themselves. Aerodynamics are a key part of the cars' designs, not just to minimize drag, but to generate downforce that allow the cars to stick to the road while cornering at high speeds.

The biggest F1 teams can have budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The cars, capable of reaching top speeds of 225 miles per hour, are customized for every track and associated weather conditions. A large team can have about 50 technical staff on site at a given race, with hundreds more back at the team's factory. Race weekends can generate terabytes of data collected by more than 300 sensors on everything from the engines and tires to biometric sensors in drivers' gloves.

"In Formula One racing, every millisecond and even the smallest factor can determine the outcome of a race," Harris says. "With a multitude of moving parts at any given time across all job functions, our team needed a common language that allowed engineers, strategists, and the drivers to communicate using the data collected."

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