AT&T helps Infiniti Red Bull Racing improve performance with telemetry and data analysis worthy of the world’s most technologically advanced sport.

For Formula 1 fans, the drivers and cars make the sport. But, a lot more goes on before the tires even touch the track. Formula 1 racing is an intense and exhilarating world. A team is put together to improve the performance of the car. Those team members are often located all around the world. In a sport where a hundredth of a second can make a big difference to race results, it’s critical that the trackside team can communicate quickly with the engineers at headquarters.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing and AT&T started working together in 2011. The team used AT&T’s networking know-how and communications platform to maximize race performance. They extended the agreement for several years in 2012 and increased the scale of services the next year. 

AT&T provides advanced network services, like a high bandwidth link, to help the team trackside, their UK-based headquarters and their engine manufacturer communicate quickly. The requirement is truly a global challenge for AT&T. In the 2015 season alone, F1 Grands Prix are being held at 19 race circuits across 19 countries on five continents and multiple F1 test locations. The sport adds new locations every year. In 2012, the sport had its first event at the Circuit of The Americas track in Austin, Texas. The sport recently expanded to new markets in Russia, the Middle East, Mexico and Asia.

"Global connectivity ensures that we can work as one team. Our Innovation Partnership with AT&T provides the framework that we need to reach our full potential both on and off the track. Working with a global leader in communications technology means that we’re always presented with innovative solutions to make our business more connected and our car more competitive," said Christian Horner, Team Principal, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

Getting to the front of the grid

It takes a lot of preparation to make sure the car is performing at its full potential before the race. Each circuit has different requirements and challenges, so the team needs to fine-tune the car’s aerodynamics for every race.

The importance of data transfer between the track and the factory plays a significant role during every race weekend. 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 in the team’s hospitality area. The network connection from AT&T lets the team quickly share data, averaging 400GB every race weekend, between the operations room back at HQ in the UK, Renault’s team in Viry, France and the tense track environment – whether in Australia or Monaco.

“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 allows us to gather more data from the car and transfer it back to the factory for analysis. In some cases we use the knowledge of a specialist, like the designer of the parts under test. We can perform more detailed analysis and part-to-part comparisons, which results in a better car setup and configuration before and during the race,” said Matt Cadieux, Chief Information Officer, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

Monaco vs. Montreal

Every race circuit is unique. The team is constantly improving and modifying the car to suit the circuit specifications – essentially working on an ever-evolving prototype. For example, the circuit in Monaco is very slow due to its numerous bends. This requires a high down force in order to get a good corner grip and stability at slow speeds. In contrast, the Montreal circuit is a much faster track and requires a very different car set-up. This means the car needs much less down force in order to increase the straight-line top speeds.  The Monaco and Montreal Grand Prix weekends are scheduled close together, so the team needs to work quickly to adapt the car to each track.  This exchange of valuable data lets the technical staff optimize the car’s performance for each race.

Collaboration is key

The team gathers information on the vehicle’s performance from more than 100 sensors on the car any time it’s on the track. These sensors measure hundreds of parameters on the car and let the technical staff analyze all aspects of car and driver performance – fuel efficiency, brake temperatures, optimal vs. actual racing lines around the tracks, and more.

It’s extremely important that all the locations work together. Tighter budgets and stricter regulations by the FIA (the governing body of motorsport worldwide) limit teams to 60 technical staff onsite at each race. In 2013, the teams also lost two hours in the garage due to restrictions on the amount of time staff can work during race weekends – stressing the need to do more work in less time. Through AT&T’s super-fast network, the team can support each other and do more work efficiently – getting the most from track time during practice sessions. The network allows them to transfer higher quality data from HQ to the trackside, including 3D visuals of the car. The team is experiencing data speeds that are 2.5 times faster than before.

“Our work with Infiniti Red Bull Racing is a great example of our network’s strength and global reach. In the intense environment of Formula 1 racing, it’s extremely important that the team can rely on the technology in place – it can make a difference between victory and defeat. The Infiniti Red Bull Racing team is committed to innovating and excelling in the world of Formula 1. Securing eight major titles in 11 years, the team’s enthusiasm mirrors our drive to support technical innovation,” John Vladimir Slamecka, AT&T’s Regional Vice President, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Winning the race – then and now

AT&T’s network enables immediate fault reporting and vehicle analytics - before the driver even starts the race on a Grand Prix race weekend. The team uses vital data monitoring along with high-definition videoconferencing, so they can immediately discuss and address any issues face-to-face.

However, no matter how much they plan and prepare before the race, anything can happen on the big day. Before the team used AT&T’s services, there was an incident at the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix, when Jenson Button made an illegal maneuver while overtaking Mark Webber, costing him his position. The team needed to lodge a complaint as soon as possible to get Webber’s original place back. Before AT&T technology, the team took about six and a half minutes, the equivalent of four laps, to get the information. In that time, Webber lost ground on the lead drivers. If the team had access to AT&T’s network, they could have lodged the complaint in less than a lap – four times quicker than the previous system.

In contrast, in 2012, Sebastian Vettel had a collision in the first lap of the Brazilian race. The team, with the help of the new network abilities, reacted quickly and sent instructions directly to the track ahead of the first pit stop. The engineers made alterations swiftly which helped reduce the risk of the damage getting worse throughout the rest of the race. The rapid recovery was especially important as this race was the Championship decider, and Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were fiercely battling.

Last year, the sport faced major regulation changes. This presented a whole new challenge for the team and meant they had to rely on AT&T’s technology even more to adapt. During the Belgium Grand Prix in 2014, AT&T’s technology played a vital role in Daniel Ricciardo’s win even though he started the race in fifth position. This success was a result of the team’s ability to react quickly through AT&T’s network and Daniel’s driving talent.  Through the nail-biting race, the trackside engineers were able to easily work with the team’s HQ to devise a strategy that allowed Daniel to take advantage of a collision between the two race leaders and ultimately finish first.

“During a race, anything can happen. We know the power and speed of the AT&T network helped our team to remain competitive and win races. Being able to react and respond to on-track incidents, both at the track and in the UK, plays a vital role in determining the finish position and result of a race,” said Alan Peasland, Head of Technical Partnerships, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

What lies ahead…

2014 marked the biggest regulation changes in Formula 1 for a decade. The revised engine regulation replaced the previous 2.4 litre V8 engine with a 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 hybrid engine. This new rule, paired with the on-going reductions in track time, pushed the team to rely heavily on the virtual environment and AT&T’s network to deliver it – even more so since this new engine configuration was a first for the sport. The team needed to start from scratch, building a new car prototype around these complex parameters. The network will continue to be vital as every team continues to boost performance and reliability on their cars.

Behind the scenes with AT&T

The Infiniti Red Bull Racing team is supported by an AT&T expert technical team who makes sure the network is ready. No matter where the race is, they are there, to provide on-site 24x7 support every race weekend. This lets the AT&T team test the network and solve problems before they occur. This also ensures the network is up and running ahead of all the race weekends, so the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team can plug and play when they arrive at the track.

“Formula 1 is moving towards a virtual environment. Tighter regulations are giving us less time on the track to test the car. This factor, coupled with the sports’ growing network of circuits, meant that our team needed a resilient, reliable global network. We turned to AT&T for this service due to its experience with the sport and its network’s ability to give us a competitive advantage. We know that it takes the right team of people, technology and partners to optimize performance – and ultimately secure Championship titles,” said Matt Cadieux, Chief Information Officer, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.