Connected Race: Network Is Mission Critical for Infiniti Red Bull Racing
With the 2014 Formula One race series two-thirds of the way through the season, the Grand Prix heads to Singapore Sept. 19-21. AT&T is a proud Innovation Partner of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team. We sat down with Al Peasland to talk about how his team is preparing for the competition this weekend, thousands of miles away from the U.K. home base.
AT&T: The Formula One race at the Singapore Grand Prix is a rare night-time race on a street circuit. What are some of the challenges that you and your team will face?
Alan Peasland: As a Formula One team, we are faced with many challenges, and our job is to make everything come together and work seamlessly during the race weekend. In a tropical environment like Singapore, heat and humidity are big factors. Our two drivers have to perform consistently at peak condition over the course of the weekend, and the night-time artificial lighting adds to the unique set of challenges they face.
As you can imagine, we have extremely complex vehicles which we need to build, test and optimize for the track. Another challenge for us is that the paddock and garage areas in Singapore are quite compact, so we have to manage logistics tightly so we can operate efficiently and effectively.
Keeping equipment cool and healthy is also a big challenge. The whole team very much relies on the IT backbone to be fully functional so we work hard to keep it 100-percent stable. Singapore is about 6,000 miles away from our operations in the U.K., and we have to communicate and collaborate with our colleagues back at the U.K. factory effectively to deliver a competitive performance on track.
AT&T: With the races taking place around the world, you have to constantly adapt to various different conditions of the new environment. How do you make sure that you stay competitive?
Peasland: The car is considered an evolving prototype – a design which never freezes and is constantly being improved. Over the course of a Formula One season, we process many thousands of design changes through the business, ultimately sending all of these new components to the track to be assembled onto the car in time for the race event, in our constant search for the next tenth or hundredth of a second performance improvement per lap.
On a race day, we can have up to 100 different sensors on our cars, each measuring many different functions from tire temperatures and pressures to suspension loads, acceleration and G-forces experienced by the car and driver. These are essential data required to monitor and analyze the health of the cars during the race and can help us make strategic decisions that ultimately affect our race position and competitiveness.
AT&T: How does technology play a role in getting the team in the best performing condition?
With limited in-season testing, the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday before the Sunday race are now even more important for us to understand performance gains from new car developments and to configure the car in the best set-up condition for qualification and the race. This means we will often add more telemetry and sensors, to the car in order to perform detailed analysis whilst the car is on the track.
This is where AT&T plays a crucial role.
AT&T is our Infiniti Red Bull Racing Innovation Partner and is helping us provide increasingly faster communication so we can run a more connected business that is required for the success of our team. This year, throughout the season since the pre-testing phase, AT&T has been helping our team of employees and our critical partners work together in key locations in our HQ in Milton Keynes, U.K.; our engine manufacturer, Renault, based in Viry, France; and the trackside team around the world.
AT&T: It sounds like collaboration across the team is key to success. How do you communicate between the U.K. factory and the race tracks around the world?
Peasland: AT&T’s support over the last few years has touched many aspects of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s operations. With a highly reliable and secure Enhanced Virtual Private Network (EVPN) connection from our U.K. factory to wherever we are in the world at any of the race and test events, we can analyze all the data near real-time, using our factory-based systems and experts and then provide immediate feedback and support to our race team engineers.
We have an operations room in our U.K. factory where we are able to bring key experts from a range of disciplines to monitor telemetry and liaise with the track-side race engineers. Telemetry is sent wirelessly from the car to the team's garage where it is then shared with all of the relevant back-office areas at the track, including the Pit Wall, the Engineers Office, and the Garage Telemetry area. AT&T is responsible for providing this trackside network and also the link that connects back to the factory in the U.K.
Being able to monitor the car's health is not only essential for our overall performance but also for driver safety. The ability to share telemetry, business systems, HD video and communication between the track and factory has been proven to offer a competitive advantage during race events. It also means that our engineers and technicians at the track can work with their own business systems with a speed and performance as if they were still in their U.K. offices.
In today’s more tech-focused and connected environment Formula One is moving into, the network infrastructure is mission critical. From how we develop the car to how we gather data, learn from it and adapt, it plays a crucial part in determining the season.