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back to article How do you drive a supercomputer round a Formula 1 track?

When you arrive at the Lotus F1 Team HQ you’re politely asked not to take pictures without asking first. It soon becomes clear that most of the site is off bounds photographically, so we agree that it’ll be easier all round if our guide, senior account manager Luca Mazzocco, simply tells us when we can take photos. It’s not so …

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Oooh, you lucky bugger

Visiting Lotus F1 under the guise of a legitimate article.

Still, when I went to Virgin's garage (now Marussia), they too had similarly impressive IT systems.

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JDX
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Re: Oooh, you lucky bugger

Virgin were shouting about how they were the first team to do ALL their modelling using CFD (computers) rather than using a wind tunnel and so on. But I think they gave up on it as it wasn't as good?

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Re: Oooh, you lucky bugger

They were. CFD is extremely useful but like many things in life it shouldn't be your only tool. Even wind tunnels let teams down, a few teams in the past couple of years have had issues with their wind tunnel results not being reflected by the results of parts on the cars.

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Re: Oooh, you lucky bugger

Well you can't simulate cornering in a wind tunnel, where g force makes materials react in a different way.

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Funny Story

My mates dad needed an engine for his old camper fan. Ebuy took him to the engine but the guys that were selling it sounded very dodge "meet us in the car park...."

Turned out they were part of the Mclareen F1 team and where using the engine to power the air conditioning in one of the factory storage units and I quote "To keep dust off the Cars"

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Re: Funny Story

I didn't know Ferrari made camper vans ;-)

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Meh

Re: Funny Story

They would have been using Mercedes engines as the block. As they have done for a number of years.

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Re: Funny Story

Ah, I just remember hearing that they were a really good source for Ferrari parts having unknowingly outsourced their own part production to Renault.

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Had the joys of visitng them a little while back courtesy of a supplier

Very interesting visit it was to, very nice bunch of people as well.

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I was lucky enough to visit when it was still Renault, very cool site!

Photos were off limit most everywhere, except one room where they had notable cars. The difference between Prost's motor and Schumacher's Benneton were pretty striking!

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Now, I'm a complete petrolhead, and I love F1, but all this secrecy just pisses me off. I get the impression that it is just to keep up a mystique, because if anyone could actually compare what was going on, they would see that there is no real difference between the teams at all. Making a big show about not saying how staff are allocated and not allowing pictures of the car-park just reinforces my belief.

Some years ago I went on a visit with my motor club to Prodrive when they still ran the Impreza rally cars. I took a picture of the technical drawing of the roll-cage (which was in the middle of the room in metal). Some techy got all upset about me taking that photo, but no-one cared about the photos of the real thing (which, of course, anyone on a rally could see!)

Yes, motorsport *is* about show, but I don't buy the whole "Ssshhhhh, it's a seeeeeeccccrrrrreeeeeettttt" bull.

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A photo of a design drawing of an object allows you to replicate that object exactly, a photo of the object itself doesn't.

These are organisations that expend thousands, and in F1 millions, of dollars trying to extract an extra tenth of a second on track. You'd better believe they're going to guard their work as closely as they can.

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Anonymous Coward

I was lucky enough to visit when it was still Renault, very cool site!

Though I gather internally they always consider themselves to be Enstone rather than <insert_current_sponsors_name>

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Pffft, can anything on google maps these days :D

http://goo.gl/maps/LSTF2

see? :)

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Re: Pffft, can anything on google maps these days :D

The above link translates to approxiamtely 6.4 miles north of woodstock.... wonder if it was initially developed by some aging hippies trying to determine the maximum speed at which a joint could be successfully lit..

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Re: Pffft, can anything on google maps these days :D

@Khaptain: They must have been some very stoned hippies then as the "Woodstock" you're thinking of is in the States, not Oxfordshire.

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Coat

Re: Pffft, can anything on google maps these days :D

When you are tripping, geographical location has no relevance :-)))))

<---- Mines the Techni-Coloured Dream Coat....

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Yum, F1 shiny!

However, liter? That for the Americans (when not talking in cubic inches), it's lovely litres over here. :D

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You do know that since the mid 80's cars are measured in liters in the US? My last car was 3,8l

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FAIL

The point --------------------------------------------> *

* <---------------------------------------------------You.

Rightpondians spell it 'litres', as it should be.

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> carbon fibre isn’t heated up, bent into shape then left to cool.

> Similarly, the carbon fibre isn’t heated up, bent into shape then left to cool. It’s “cured”.

In that particular case that's not what is going on...

The raw material starts as a "cloth" of carbon fibres, sometimes woven, sometimes not. Very basically this is soaked in epoxy resin and formed into shape, then left for the epoxy to go hard or cure - a chemical reaction between two different chemicals.

What you were looking at is more sophisticated than that in that I'm quite sure they'll largely be using "pre-pregs", where the cloth is delivered to the factory in a refrigerator, already soaked (pre-impregnated) in exactly the right amount of resin, and using a resin mix that doesn't significantly cure until it is cooked at high temperatures. Incidentally its also compressed onto the moulds while the glue is going off, conventionally by air pressure (using vacuum pumps), but at this level I wouldn't be surprised if they go even more trick than that.

At the basic level this carbon fibre stuff can be very garden shed - as the main who came across me repairing a bit of my racing boat in the street outside my house (working out of the back of my van) last week would testify - but there are levels and levels as you go onwards and upwards...

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Happy

Re: > carbon fibre isn’t heated up, bent into shape then left to cool.

Yes, the process for dealing with carbon fiber is basically the same as dealing fiberglass. The material comes in many forms, most all with fiberglass analogues. You can ground low draw components to carbon fiber though, doesn't work with fiberglass :)

We've got a big oven in the machine shop here for curing but the heat guns get used a lot as well. A nice hair dryer will work for consumer resins too.

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JDX
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15 to 16 Mb per lap

Are you sure that is supposed to be an M, not a G?

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Go

Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

That's probably correct, remember this is usually character or binary based data from the 300 odd sensors, each sensor will have different sampling rates depending on what they are.

Also, each team has(*) to organise it's own telemetry collection (they don't have Bernies eye in the skys that capture the TV footage from the cars as they are racing). Some circuits could get complete coverage for a subset of the data as the cars were whiping around the circuit with a main data dump as the car pass near the paddocks. But at others, like Monza, the trees got in the way.

*This is based on me working at a F1 team about 13 years ago, so I hope some things have changed.

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Boffin

Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

I did the first in car telemetry for Arrows (that ages it and me quite a bit!) in the days of Warwick and Cheever!

At 1200baud we could get 3 complete packets of data as the car passed on the old Silverstone pit straight - essentially the same data as the driver saw.

We also did timing beams and timing computers (Acteltime) and very naughtily used Yagi antenna’s to transmit remote speed trap data to the pits, but as the previous person mentioned trees and hills made it a little tricky (for Spa there was no point in taking any remote transmission, but just rely on end-of-day dumps of the data when the remote computers came in.)

[I took a proper IT course, digital and analogue electronics, assembler and high-level software, and telecommunications (nearly all analogue including antenna design!]

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JDX
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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

I guess 15Mb is quite a lot of data when you think about it, it's just these days you kind of expect everything to be in gigabytes as a matter of course :)

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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

I just plucked a random log from some dyno work and over 20ish minutes it came to 120MB in ASCII (and more in a proprietary format (???)), that's just a few sensors (13 I think) and this is in road car work and logged over 10/100 I think ethernet. meanwhile F1 cars have, what did the article say? 300 sensors? So assuming a super short lap of only 1 minute (Monaco is >1:10) they'd gather 320MB over 20 minutes (this is with an extreme super fast lap, the 15MB figure probably belongs to more like a 1:40 lap, Monaco is 78 and the article mentions 50), that's with 300 sensors, less than 3 times the MBs with more than 20 times the sensors. Their logging rates can't be too fast!

So now I'm thinking, just how do they transfer the data from car to garage?

I mean we know they monitor temp and pressure for tyres (*4), oil, fuel and probably intake air, temp for brakes(*4) and pressure on the hydraulic system and KERS battery temp and probably state of charge and engine speed and probably gear and brake fluid pressure and probably temperature too so that's er.. some signals being beamed to the garage. So what protocol are they using and how much could they be transferring in "near real time"?

As for the "ah, you mean 3D printers" comment. F**k off :p

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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

"So now I'm thinking, just how do they transfer the data from car to garage?"

The answer is that they don't transfer all the info - just some of it.

A few years back I had some dealings with a racing team that shall remain nameless. They were gathering more than 1 MB per second which they were storing onto NAND flash arrays for post-drive analysis. This is way more info than what they could use in real-time.

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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

So how are they reducing it? Because if you reduce the time resolution (same as reducing the sample rate) you can miss a pressure spike entirely or you can get aliasing effects or.. stuff. Although 5-6MB per lap might well be the most you can reasonably use in real time. Although next year they're going to need to measure all manner of turbo temps and pressure and waste gate position and idk.. do they already monitor knock?

This is all stuff that can give them the info they need to tell a driver to short shift or switch to mode 7 or avoid low-rpm high load or whatever.

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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

woops.. just realised when I exported my data to ascii it created multiple files (different sample rates), it's actually more like 450MB for 20 minutes, with 13 signals.

F1 think they're hi-tech :p

"they don't transfer all the data" what I mean't was how do they send what they do send!

At that rate you'd think they were using semaphore (is that what all the blokes with the flags are for??)

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Re: 15 to 16 Mb per lap

The data collected is optimised to what they can realistically be analyised within a lap before the next load of complete lap guff downloads. 13 years ago there was one analysis bod examining each car in limited detail and looking for obvious 'oh crap that widgets gonna break' details. When this happens other 'spare' analysts would step in and examine the data more closely whilst the original analyst moved into the next laps data.

Some of the sensors would be as dull as what gear is selected or gear box temps which don't need 'that' much sampling or generate that much data but things like revs or driver excuse preparation would.

As there is now a whopping amount of post race analysis I would imagine that the granularity of what is actually downloaded from the car at the end of the race is much larger than 15mb a lap that is gathered via telemetry.

The telemetry was radio woowoo that I never got to grips with.

That being said I never really liked the racing, the magic at the factory on the other hand I really do miss.

P.

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Lotus F1

Lotus F1 is just branding no matter how many Lotus you see in the parking lot. In fact there was litigation over this a few years ago. Lotus F1 is only Lotus in name.

That being said they do pretty well for a mid-budget team. Their chassis seems to be a fundamentally good design that is adaptable to most tracks. CFD is a catch 22 in that the results are only as good as the data input and the software. While Boeing is certainly an expert on airflow, the airflow on a vehicle traveling on the ground vs. in the air is considerably different.

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Re: Lotus F1

I don't believe they're getting any sponsorship money from Lotus any more either. Lotus is a more recognisable name in racing than Genii Capital...

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Avanade?

The MS / Accenture partnetship? Thought they did mobile apps

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Re: Avanade?

They do a couple of hundred mph - how much more mobile can you get ?

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Anonymous Coward

Leave them alone - they know what they're doing.

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Excellent Kimi reference !!!

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Happy

Teams have been using laser sintered gears since at least 2004.

It's interesting they go CAD --> plastic --> lost plastic casting.

BTW perhaps the author should have used the ear being laser written in "Face/Off"

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James Hunt types having a spin

Ahh the good old days!

Before the whole deal got ruined by FEA & telemetry.

Normally I'm a big fan of such things, but it has systematically torn the bollocks out of F1 over the years.

H&S gone mad is fair enough - no one enjoyed watching Senna flying headlong off this mortal coil, but the state of races the last 10 years?

James Hunt wouldn't have pissed on 'em if they were on fire.

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Re: James Hunt types having a spin

The state of races in the last 10 years? Variable.

The state of races since the introduction of DRS and Pirelli's deliberately shoddy tyres? There's sometimes so much going on the commentators and TV director can't keep up.

There was once a time when MotoGP was exciting and F1 was boring. That seems like so long ago now.

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Joke

Microsoft Racecar??

Just reboot it?

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Recently a well known IT infrastructure supplier got involved with Lotus - there were 40 pallets of kit.

Unless a team has a full size wind tunnel, they are wasting their money, these boogers don't scale.

As far as telemetry is concerned, even a sail boat had 400 measurements per second 20 years ago and it may only be going 10 miles per hour,

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Anonymous Coward

They don't scale? Damn. All this time everyone ever has been doin it rong. Someone better tell them.

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Stop

Under the regulations, 60% scale is as large as they can go for regular wind tunnel testing.

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Anonymous Coward

Just so you know, the icon you used on the front page is that of Lotus Racing, who Caterham are now. Nothing to do with Lotus F1 (Group Lotus).. I'm fairly sure that there are some extreme copyright notices against using that due to all of the court cases.

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Meh

A pedant writes... Lotus F1 Team is (more-or-less) nothing to do with Group Lotus either. The rather dogdy link there is that a few years back there was a licencing deal between Genii (company that own the F1 team previously known as Renault) and Group Lotus.

This was slap bang in the middle of the entire Lotus Racing/Team Lotus (now Caterham) vs Group Lotus mess which was caused by Dany Bahar (then head of Group Lotus) and his insane approach of using a lot of marketing to make Lotus "the British Ferrari". This involved hyping up road cars that would never be built and paying various (non-F1) race teams to put their cars in a black and gold livery and slap the word Lotus on them. Everyone said it would fail and they'd run out of money... and lo it came to pass.

Bahar was them swiftly out of a job and a lot of the licencing deals then were modified so that Group Lotus would no longer pay any money, but the teams could still go on using the Lotus name for the duration of the original contract. Such madness resulted in this year's Le Mans 24hr race having the (LMP1) Rebelliion Racing Lola B12/60 sponsored by Lotus and also the (LMP2) Lotus T128, of which neither were actually built by (Group) Lotus.

As an aside I'm a big Lotus fan, particularly the JPS-era F1 cars in the 70s and 80s. The whole Team Lotus vs Group Lotus thing left a very bad taste in my mouth, particularly the way that Group Lotus and the Chapman family seemingly changed sides in the argument. It should also be noted that the 1Malaysia Racing Team (aka Lotus Racing/Team Lotus) didn't cover themselves in glory either, and I find their acquiescing into Caterham a bit strange after all their previous bluster. I'm sure Bernie and some money was involved. As a result whilst I first welcomed the name of Lotus back into F1, I now pretty much look down on what is now Lotus and Caterham.

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well said.

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Anonymous Coward

-4% drag, -40% fuel consumption

At what speed would that be, 200mph you could see savings.

If you ever wondered why trucks in the UK have stupid flat faced designs, it's because the total length was limited. They are recently thinking about changing it so something other than a solid wall and allowing the tractor unit to extend further, it probably won't happen.

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Enstone

The Lotus factory is just outside of Enstone, look for the disused airfield on Google Earth. And have a drink at the Crown in Church Enstone, you might well be drinking with some of the engineers, just check the shirts.

Oxfordshire is full of disused airfelds with some motorsport factory adjacent taking advantage of all that tarmac.

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