back to article Lotus F1: 38°C? Sand in your Vblocks? Must be building a data center in Bahrain again

If you think your IT role is demanding, imagine needing to do a major install every couple of weeks. You only have a day to do it, you can't visit the site before, and it may be in incredibly hot, wet or dusty conditions. What you install has to deal with huge quantities of data and be 100 per cent reliable. Nine nines is not …

  1. Fullbeem
    Thumb Up

    thumbs up for the IT bod keeping another business running

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Agreed, and God knows Lotus needs to keep running the way their finances are...

      1. HildyJ
        Facepalm

        You realize it's not really Lotus

        The "Lotus" F1 car is as much a product of Lotus as my "Bugatti" cigar lighter (which I got for free) is a product of Bugatti. Lotus Cars doesn't do the chassis and the engine is a Merc. The team is owned by Genii Capital.

        As far as IT, the article is fascinating in a way that F1 ceased to be years ago.

        1. Vic

          Re: You realize it's not really Lotus

          Lotus Cars doesn't do the chassis and the engine is a Merc.

          You can tell it's not made by Lotus by the way it completes the distance without breaking down...

          Nevertheless, the GP's point was almost certainly about the financial issues faced by the F1 team, not Lotus Cars.

          Vic.

          [ Former Esprit S3 owner ]

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Fascinating technology, but no wonder F1 is so boring these days. How long before the cars are driven by standardized robots as well, to completely remove the human factor?

    1. Brenda McViking

      You say these things, but when your drivers have fan websites like hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com/ how can you say it's boring?

      I've worked with a number of engineers from F1 teams who have come to the company I work for after they've had enough of the pace of the sport, they're very good guys both personally and technically, but have all said it's a thoroughly exhausting job, chasing ever-diminishing returns. Hats off to them though! It's these types of things that give a chance to new technologies to prove themselves so that we as a wider society benefit from them in the future.

    2. zen1

      re robots

      "How long before the cars are driven by standardized robots as well, to completely remove the human factor?"

      I honestly don't believe it will happen in F1, given that a lot of the purists want to strip the ground effects, spoilers, front wings, traction control and most of the electronics, assuming they got their way. Their logic was given the rate of technology being infused into these vehicles, what does the driver do other than monitor gauges?

      The car's launch from the pit or from a dead stop is all computer controlled and only when it's moving close to speed does the driver take over.

      Personally, I hope the human element is never stripped from f1, because that's what keeps it exciting for me. I mean it's basically driver's skill and engineering efforts. Good discussion tho...

      1. Vic

        Re: re robots

        The car's launch from the pit or from a dead stop is all computer controlled and only when it's moving close to speed does the driver take over.

        That was true last season, but not this.

        Launch Control et al. are now banned. The driver has to do it manually.

        Vic.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: re robots

          Same with traction control and active (blown) ground effect - banned many many years ago.

          Still a tough job, piloting an F1 car.

          1. roytrubshaw
            Thumb Up

            Re: re robots

            ... and active (blown) ground effect

            Ahh, the Brabham BT46B.

            "Nah, guv' it's not sucking the car onto the track! It's for cooling..."

            Not sure how effective the ground-effect was, but it sure cleaned the driving line quite well, and there aren't many 200MPH vacuum cleaners in the world!

            1. J P

              Brabham BT46B.

              The main problem they had to start with was that none of their springs were stiff enough. The drivers sat in the pits, blipping the throttle, and the car flexed up and down as the fan kicked in. On the track, they just drove round the other cars in the corners.

              In practical terms it was a bit of a dead-end, since there's no off-track application for it, and taken to its extremes on track you'd have ended up with cars pulling more Gs in the corners & braking than the drivers could have coped with. But a marvellously inventive way to get round the fact that everyone else was running a V-configured engine & could do "passive" ground effect with venturis; simply not something we get to see under modern regs. (along with 6 wheelers and the like...)

  3. Ol'Peculier

    Stress?

    You think his job is stressful, Red Bull advertised for their IT guy to also act as the rear jack man

    1. Hellcat

      Re: Stress?

      Surely stress would be having your 2nd duty as front jack man.

      Stand in front of a F1 car doing 50mph and hope he stops within about an inch or two?

      YES PLEASE! (wish I lived anywhere near the UK motorsport circles).

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Stress?

        "Surely stress would be having your 2nd duty as front jack man"

        I believe around one per season is around par for jackmen being run over by the car they're supposed to be jacking up. Living on the edge

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stress?

          One of my friends (a current Indycar driver) took out 2 in one incident this year. The pits are a dangerous place to be!

    2. Zmodem

      Re: Stress?

      you can match your skills to a job at williams on https://www.randstad.co.uk/about-us/our-sponsorships/williams-racing-career-match/

      1. HPCJohn

        Re: Stress?

        Well that job match ALMOST got me right.

        I used to work in an F1 team.

        The job match has me an an Aero Mechanical Engineer - almost right, as I worked with the Aero engineers!

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Stress?

          Many years ago I worked in an F1 team, doing telemetry (HQ and test track based not travelling with the races). I got the job because I was an active radio amateur and I knew the people already there (who were also radio amateurs). We would attempt to pickup a batch of packets as the car passed the pit wall and would get them perhaps on 1 out of every 3 passes.

          Telemetry was in its infancy then, and has moved on exponentially since, gone way out of my league now.

  4. DropBear Silver badge

    "The IT department doesn't have the luxury of choosing between performance and reliability."

    Well, that only tends to become a problem when it also has to be cheap, clearly not the case here. As they say - pick any two...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    "We are fully dependent on Microsoft Dynamics"

    Oh look, it's lap 3 and the system has decided to upgrade to Windows 10

  6. IHateWearingATie

    Wonder how much of that kit has been repossessed?

    Given the number of bayliff visits recently to Enstone, no wonder they hide the IT kit in a bunker.

  7. jake Silver badge

    Whatever.

    F1 is to automobiles as religion is to the real-world.

    1. Valeyard

      Re: Whatever.

      oh jake, never change

      I read a comment and I know it's you before i even look at the name. I bet you did what could only be described as a "smirk" when you wrote that.

      back to milking your own cows with dorito-stained fingers now lad

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Whatever.

        "back to milking your own cows"

        One Jersey, at 6AM and 6PM. ~300 days per year. Have issues with that?

        "with dorito-stained fingers"

        I tasted a Dorito[tm]. Once. Never again. Simply awful.

        "lad"

        I'm pushing 60, child.

    2. nijam

      Re: Whatever.

      > F1 is to automobiles as religion is to the real-world.

      Lucky the article is about IT then.

      1. Hero Protagonist

        Re: Whatever.

        Next in the pipeline: a story on the Vatican's IT systems

        1. BrendHart

          Re: Whatever.

          Did anyone else read this and immediately start thinking about how interesting it would be to design statistical models of the demographics of the Roman Catholic Church using modern GIS techniques and general census data?

          I think I need to get out more.

          1. jake Silver badge

            @BrendHart (was: Re: Whatever.)

            "Did anyone else read this and immediately start thinking about how interesting it would be to design statistical models of the demographics of the Roman Catholic Church using modern GIS techniques and general census data?"

            You think TheRomanCatholicCorportion isn't doing that exact thing?

      2. jake Silver badge

        @nijam (was: Re: Whatever.)

        The article was about F1, primarily, and one aspect of F1 secondarily.

        Regardless, F1 is a religion. Has been for decades. F1 has absolutely zero to do with reality in the real world.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: @nijam (was: Whatever.)

          " F1 has absolutely zero to do with reality in the real world."

          Thanks for that interjection. Did somebody suggest it needs a connection to the automotive real world?

          As far as I know it's categorised as a sport and try as I might, I can't make a connection between the Triple Jump and my everyday life either.

          Funny that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @nijam (was: Whatever.)

            F1 does have a connection to the real world though. It's a proving ground for advanced automotive technologies. The efficiency gains that are sought to squeeze every tiny performance advantage out of an F1 car do eventually end up cycled out into the commercial automotive world, first in the luxury sports cars and then onward to everyone else.

            F1 is the skunkworks of automobile design.

    3. Zmodem

      Re: Whatever.

      rubbish

  8. ganymede io device

    Repetition, hesitation, deviation.

    When watching F1 most laps are exactly the same. In that spirit this really interesting quote on page 4 stood out as a repetition from page 3

    "From the car, we are looking at a range data sets from sensors, from temperatures, strain gauges, pressure sensors, displacements, RPM, and so on. Pretty much anything you can measure. For example, the upright in each wheel has a triple axis accelerometer on it, we measure brake disk and caliper temperature, brake pad displacement along with brake (hydraulic) pressure."

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Repetition, hesitation, deviation.

      "When watching F1 most laps are exactly the same"

      As is normal in motor-racing, some races are boring, some are exciting, most lie somewhere in between. Ideally you have 2-3 closely matched teams with 4-6 closely matched cars to have some excitement, but really the action is usually concentrated in a few laps with positions being stable for most of the race. MotoGP is similar except that you can get more bikes fighting each other for position at once in a smaller space. But even then a super-thriller like last weekend's in Australia is a rarity.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Repetition, hesitation, deviation.

        Go watch Vintage Racing.

        Go watch Autocross (Lydden Hill)

        Go watch Touring Cars

        go watch Banger Racing

        Anything but F1 if you want excitement.

        A heck of a lot cheaper as well plus there is overtaking as well!

        1. J P
          Go

          Re: Repetition, hesitation, deviation.

          @Steve Davies 3 - all of the above, plus you can actually wander into the paddock and talk to the crews and drivers, even sit in the cars at some events. The vintage guys do it for love, not money, and will (mostly) happily talk to an interested spectator; not something you'll be able to do at an F1 race.

  9. James Micallef Silver badge

    The cars can't run without the computer systems??

    I noticed these 2 quotes: "The cars can't run without the computer systems" and "If we haven't got the back-end systems, we can't send the car out"

    I understand that because of the huge amount of telemetry involved you'd want to have your systems up and running whenever the car is, and that some things on the car must be programmed for it to run optimally or even at all.

    But is it literally the case that it is physically impossible to start up an F1 car and drive it off without the back-end servers being online? I would seriously doubt that since for a team it's better to send out a sub-optimal* car for a qualifying or race session than keep it in the garage.

    *ie without optimal setup and no telemetry, but can run, as long as it's safe of course.

    1. J P

      Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

      Not sure if they can't run at all - but given the cost of repair if it went catastrophically wrong, would they want to?

      In a similar vein, I know that there's a whole generation of Group C Le Mans racers that are unlikely ever to turn a wheel again as they run the earliest iterations of engine management software. When the teams broke up/were sold off, the cars went in a different direction to the computer kit and no-one had the tools to get them running/remapped. A far cry from the rebuild of the BRM V16; someone went & copied the numbers off the wall of the shed where they'd been scribbled during development work before the shed got knocked down...

      1. Jay 2

        Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

        Indeed. Back in 2002 I was at Donington Park at a historic meeting where some enterprising types had got themselves Damon Hill's Arrows (F)A-18 from 1997. Unfortunately they were having a few problems getting the thing started. The engine cover was off, a laptop was connected to the car, and I recall people looking through a several inch thick manual...

        Unfortunately it didn't run at all that weekend, but I do know that it has been up and running in the past year or so.

        All this is completely at odds with a large selection of 1960-80s F1 cars where many a time it's not too far off a Cosworth DFV and Hewland 'box attached to a tub, which is a lot easier to get started and maintain.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

        What man creates, man can re-create!

        -- old racing proverb

        1. J P

          What man creates, man can re-create!

          Yes, but I think that was originally aimed at the body panels... John Wyer, team manager at Aston Martin in the 50s and 60s, subsequently confirmed that management regarded the body work as "consumables" - although they'd never actually shared that particular element of management strategy with the drivers. And indeed they're still disposable today... http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Huge-drama-dominates-Castle-Combe-Circuit-s/story-27940805-detail/story.html

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

      But is it literally the case that it is physically impossible to start up an F1 car and drive it off without the back-end servers being online?

      Of course. Didn't you notice the heave involvement of Microsoft here? You don't really expect the onboard computers to work without a license check on startup, do you? At least 50% of the cars bandwidth is reserved for patching and updates.

      Joking aside, I suspect the cars may have a "limp home" mode if for no other reason that they need to be able to get out of the way if comms break down instead of just stalling on the spot, but if I see how deep the F1 regulations go it would not surprise me if some of that data streaming is mandatory.

      Perhaps the author would care to comment?

    3. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

      The F1 rules state "Pit to car telemetry is prohibited." so I would imagine that it is possible for a car on the track to be run without the computer systems, however without computer guided pre-race set-up, and giving during the race information relayed verbally to the driver they probably wouldn't run that well.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The cars can't run without the computer systems??

      You cannot turn it on without the back-end systems being nominal and connected.

  10. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Sorry to be pedantic...

    But in my experience of being an IT bod at a large well known F1 company, the IT supplier and sponsorship arrangement wasn't just about, as you put it "making the car go faster" it was also very much about getting the equipment and funds to just keep the racing team and associated "businesses" solvent so they could build "a" car in the first place.

    1. Zmodem

      Re: Sorry to be pedantic...

      most teams have extra big logo`s on hardware, because it is donated, and not a real sponsor

  11. lawndart

    says:

    Someone in IT who never should say "Try turning it off and on again".

    1. Vinyl-Junkie
      Go

      Re: says:

      I'm struggling to remember specifics, but as far as the onboard computerisation is concerned I can think of at least two occasions this season when problems with the onboard computer systems have been rectified by doing just that; fortunately not in the middle of the race though!

      1. Zmodem

        Re: says:

        most things todo with steering wheels

  12. Jo_seph_B

    Wish I was still young

    My ideal job. F1 and IT. I'm struggling to keep control just thinking about it. Wife and Kids would't take too kindly to the overseas parts. Or even the UK based IT roles which still demand long weekend working every two weeks.

    1. Vic

      Re: Wish I was still young

      My ideal job. F1 and IT

      Probably not.

      I used to work with a guy who'd spent time as pit crew in F1. He got into the job because of his love of racing. He got out because of his love of racing. As he put it - "whenever the Grand Prix is on, you're stuck at work".

      Vic.

  13. Zmodem

    look out for lotus

    tv only keeps tracks of the first 10

    1. Valeyard

      Re: look out for lotus

      no i disagree i think. Lewis's Merc wasn't even shown 2 races back when he was in front uncontested all race, but if fighting happens at the back it gets shown, especially when you have the likes of Alonso back there, one of the best drivers in a rubbish car to throw around out of frustration, the camera goes where the excitement is and that's not usually P1 30 seconds ahead unless he's coming up on backmarkers

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: look out for lotus

        Ah, that was because the sponsors didn't give the TV director a big enough brown envelope.

        It is all down to the directors choice. There are many times when crucial action is missed because he has cut to something unintersting such as a long legged blonde in the Pits.

        I only watch the starts of F1 races. The exicting bits are the crashes. By lap 5 it is almost always a procession and boring as hell.

        YMMV

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: look out for lotus

          "Long legged blonde in the pits"?

          I thought James Hunt was dead?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a tough grind

    No matter what part of an F1 team you participate in, it is a tough 24/7 grind. Lotus may have nice computers but unfortunately they have run out of money and are being bought by Renault. Three years ago Lotus was a front runner but now they are mid-field runners. It takes about $400 million per season to operate a competitive F1 team once you have all the infrastructure in place. The IT systems are crucial to the very operations of an F1 team and they need to be top of the line hardware and software to get the necessary results.

    1. Zmodem

      Re: It's a tough grind

      not really, you just need 3 or 4 developers with a phd in computer science to make a simulator that is`nt rubbsih from a live data source and have prediction coded into all the data

      1. Big Al 23

        Re: It's a tough grind

        I think the OP means the job requirements, travel, operating environment, etc.

        1. Zmodem

          Re: It's a tough grind

          depends if your simulator is just a static cad import with thermal overlays, a 5 year old computer could process prediction

          1. Zmodem

            Re: It's a tough grind

            its what all engineering simulators are like, theres even 1 for the browser https://simscale.com/_en/

    2. channelswimmer

      Re: It's a tough grind

      That's because three years ago they got a jump on the field when they produced "the device": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_E20#.22The_Device.22

  15. Valerion

    The software must be 100% reliable and never crash!

    Maldonado on the other hand...

  16. HPCJohn

    Err- Linux?

    "This bunker is referred to as Teletubby Land: it is grassed over on top and often you can find rabbits on the roof. It was opened in 2008 to house Lotus F1's new super computer cluster. "

    Runs Linux.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Err- Linux?

      Why do you think it runs Linux?

      1. HPCJohn

        Re: Err- Linux?

        I know it runs Linux.

        The major CFD applications run by F1 teams have Linux versions, and are run on Linux clusters.

        Hint - I managed HPC systems at an F1 team.

        1. Vic

          Re: Err- Linux?

          Hint - I managed HPC systems at an F1 team.

          At Lotus?

          Because Page 1 of the article tells us :-

          The front-line computer systems are VCE Vblocks. These come ready to run with systems built by Cisco, EMC and VMware on a Windows platform

          And Page 2 claims :-

          the Microsoft Dynamics logos are a reflection that Lotus F1 is very much a Microsoft house

          So although you might be right, you are directly contradicting the article; a little evidence might be a good plan...

          Vic.

          1. HPCJohn

            Re: Err- Linux?

            Vic

            that article is mostly about the trackside systems at Lotus, which will run Windows.

            Later in the article it discusses the Mistral HPC cluster which was installed in that underground server room, for running CFD calculations. Completely different things.

            No, I didn't work at Renault but I worked with aero engineers who came from there.

            1. Vic

              Re: Err- Linux?

              Completely different things.

              Yes, I know that. But the article claims that Lotus is a Microsoft shop, and given how hard MS plugs the relationship in their TV advertising, this is entirely likely. MS would certainly be pushing for Windows to be used throughout the operation.

              And you're telling us that that isn't the case. So I asked for evidence to substantiate your position. You haven't given us any...

              Vic.

  17. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Joke

    He's crashed, he's crashed...

    there is a material change to the car every seven minutes during the season

    In the case of Lotus, usually something falling off, or getting knocked off when Grosjean hits the wall or another car...

    1. Vic

      Re: He's crashed, he's crashed...

      getting knocked off when Grosjean hits the wall or another car

      That's very unfair.

      Maldonado does his bit for ... errr ... let's call it "aerodynamic evolution".

      Vic.

    2. SEDT

      Re: He's crashed, he's crashed...

      I'm guessing that you don't follow F1, as you've misspelled Maldonado

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting IT, but I still don't get it

    F1 is so heavily regulated, it seems that races are won or lost by telemetry: Car 1 beats Car 2 because they dipped their flap by 2 degrees more. How much room is left for driver skill or significant engineering innovation?

    I stopped watching F1 a few years back because it was getting too dull. All the cars look the same, powered in the same way, running on the same tires. Wake me up when the rules say you can show up with whatever you like so long as it fits in X cubic feet and isn't going to kill anyone. You can see why da kidz prefer to go street racing, law be damned.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Interesting IT, but I still don't get it

      But then you would go back to the days of Renault when they had a new car for each circuit and an engine that lasted one race. So only a company backed by a government could compete.

    2. BrendHart

      Re: Interesting IT, but I still don't get it

      If you are interested in technology watch F1. If you are interested in driver/rider skill watch WRC or Moto GP.

  19. John Crisp

    Whats its all about....

    Most people miss the point about F1. It was always was, is, and always will be a manufacturers championship. Thats where the $$ is.

    The constructors championship is what it is all about. The drivers championship is just a side show.

    I have long said they ought to have a separate drivers championship race in the morning in equal cars. But then no one would watch the 'main event' so that will never fly.

    As I say to friends who are bemused by it 'If you want to watch cutting edge technology thrashed within an atom of its life then watch F1. If you want to watch racing then watch another formula'

    Personally I love and watch F1 for what it really is - a technological race... the only real interest is which member of a team wins as they are the only drivers really racing one another.

    To get my racing kicks I watch other stuff.

    The only positive thing to say about it is I remember going racing with a touring car team in the late 80s to Silverstone (before they ruined it) where we were support for F1. I asked the team where I should go and watch F1 qualifying for the first time and they said the inside of the old Becketts. 'And tell us what you think about F1 drivers when you get back'.

    The slow cars came out first, down Hangar straight at approaching 200mph and then hearing them lift and turn in. Impressive.

    And then the big boys came out. Flat all the way. He'll lift any second, he'll lift any sec......... errrr f*ck he never lifted. How the HELL did he do that ? And again. And faster. OMG....

    After an hour I got back somewhat shellshocked at what I had seen. 'So what do you think?' said they.

    "They are not like us.... I'm not sure if they are entirely sane"

    "Ah" said they. "Now you understand.... "

    So forget the racing. Qualifying is the best bit. One man, one ridiculous machine, one lap, balls out. Wrestling with a demon in a way that us mortals cannot possibly conceive.

    For me thats what makes F1 great :-)

  20. chris 48
    Mushroom

    100% reliable

    "It must be 100% reliable, 9 nines is not good enough" is the sort of bullshit that managers or other statistically illiterate people say. I would have though that most Register readers (and maybe even some of the writers) would know that 100% reliability is completely impossible (do you really require it to keep working through a direct meteor strike, which is a significant factor at that level of probability?)

    99.9999999% reliability for 20 races a year means one failure every 50 million years. I'd say that's good enough.

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: 100% reliable

      Except there isn't just one thing to go wrong per race, there are tens of thousands per lap.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. CrosscutSaw

    Nice article

    Even if it felt like an advertisement a lot of times.

  22. Ralph B

    A Cheap Shot

    > Lotus F1 is very much a Microsoft house

    And Lotus F1 are currently back in 6th place (out of 10 teams) in the F1 Constructors' Championship.

    Readers can draw their own conclusions / insert joke here.

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