back to article Microsoft's AI is so good it steered Renault into bottom of the F1 league

Microsoft on Sunday bragged its artificial intelligence technology is behind the, er, success of the massively underperforming Renault Formula One team. In a poorly timed bit of marketing, the Redmond software giant talked up its partnership with the racing team just as the latter finds itself sitting 433 points behind leader …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Results speak for themselves.

    The idea, says Microsoft, is to use the machine learning to perform calculations and analysis that would otherwise take up the time of a team of engineers.

    The team position is the best demonstration that this approach is still light years away from being useful.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Results speak for themselves.

      Makes you wonder how much Microsoft are allowed to mess with the engine side considering Red Bull have basically the same power plant.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Results speak for themselves.

      MS could use potty-mouth Tay for the race commentary, I'm sure that'd be equally successful.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Results speak for themselves.

      I believe that is being slightly unfair on Microsoft.

      Firstly, F1 engines are the product of many years of development. If Renault have started to use MS technology to help design their engines this year, the results will not be seen this season. In the meantime, Mercedes have, since the new engine spec rules of 3 years ago, a better engine than Ferrari or Renault*, which is why the Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams are naturally above Renault.

      Secondly, in F1 the major differentiator to a team's success is money. Ferrari and Red Bull have the resources to close the gap to the Mercedes works team. Ferrari's improved engine is now almost a match for the Merc, and Red Bull have design genius Newey who can get a super-performing car even with an underpowered engine**. Renault simply do not have the resources to close the gap.

      Renault are effectively second in a league of 5, which is about what you would expect. The phrase "... a seventh-place start is "pole position in our world"" is pretty ridiculous, but a fair assessment of the fact that ANY technology used in ANY F1 team isn't just cutting-edge, it's bleeding-edge.

      *I will not include Honda in the comparison out of pity :)

      **Even in Vettel / RBRs glory days teh Renault engine was considered les powerful than its rivals but the Red Bull chassis was so much better.

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Results speak for themselves.

        "I believe that is being slightly unfair on Microsoft."

        Par the course for El Reg forums, I'm afraid - there's still a lot of people here who are stuck in the browser wars, and another handful in Google's pocket...

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Results speak for themselves.

        "...I believe that is being slightly unfair on Microsoft..."

        Some very good points made - Ferrari in 2016 were paid around 3x that of Renault, including an additional $70m that no other team got due to being the "long standing team".

        The graphic is here: http://damcdn.autosport.com/editorial/0c8e80ce668b13dee752e8fc724f51c9.jpg

        With the full story behind it here: https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/123649/formula-1-team-payments-for-2016-revealed

        Also I believe there were actually power plant changes this season as well as the cars being bigger and faster - that is a lot for some teams to pay for and play catch up on and as you say it tends to lag a year anyway.

      3. PerlyKing

        Re: Results speak for themselves.

        @jmch said "Red Bull have design genius Newey who can get a super-performing car even with an underpowered engine"

        Adrian Newey is indeed a design genius, but although that Renault engine was down on absolute power it was reputed to be more driveable and (I think) fuel-efficient than the Mercedes and Ferrari engines. As usual, the headline numbers don't tell the whole story.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Results speak for themselves.

          " although that Renault engine was down on absolute power it was reputed to be more driveable and (I think) fuel-efficient than the Mercedes and Ferrari engines."

          True. I didn't want to go into too much F1 technical detail on a non-F1 post, as even for casual F1 fans 'driveability' is s much more complex idea than 'max power'!! If I recall the magic of that Red Bull Renault was the close collaboration between Newey and Renault, and sacrificing linear top speed for cornering speed and early-exit acceleration was a major design choice*. The close collaboration also got Renault to trim down the engine's physical size so Newey could design a tight rear end, generating a lot of downforce through the diffuser

          *It was also rumoured, maybe by Mark Webber-supporting conspiracy theorists, that the design choices were partly made to suit Vettel's driving style

          1. Oldish Git
            Devil

            Re: Results speak for themselves.

            "It was also rumoured, maybe by Mark Webber-supporting conspiracy theorists, that the design choices were partly made to suit Vettel's driving style"

            Newey would have had little to do in that case, apart from arranging a concealed RSJ across the front wing, for Vettel's "overtaking" manoeuvers.

            1. Jay 2

              Re: Results speak for themselves.

              Well if you recall Vettel's last year at RedBull when the current engine formula was ushered in, he was beaten in the drivers championship by team mate Ricciado. After finding the previous few years' chassis/engine combo to his liking (for whatever reasons), the same could not be said for that final year. I also recall that was about the time Adrian Newey took a step back from the F1 car slightly to do a few other things.

        2. lee harvey osmond

          Re: Results speak for themselves.

          " although that Renault engine was down on absolute power it was reputed to be more driveable and (I think) fuel-efficient than the Mercedes and Ferrari engines."

          False. God you must be old. That was true in 1983-5. But not any time recently.

          Do please consult https://www.grandprix247.com/2017/07/02/inside-line-why-is-the-honda-engine-so-bad/ , and read the commentards' remarks.

          Supposedly, the Mercedes F1 power unit (2014-) employs a technique 'turbulent jet injection' which, if you're good at it, affords more power (or torque, or economy, or ...) and also reduced emissions. Mercedes had a satisfactory power unit from the start of the current engine rules in 2014, Honda's power unit debuted with this technology in 2015 but the engineers haven't got it right yet, and Ferrari and Renault introduced it sometime mid-season 2015, having found out the previous year how far behind the game they were.

          I offer an observation of my own, straying a bit off-topic here: the mass-market manufacturers such as Honda are in this game to explore the technology and train engineers, and what they're interested in is petrol engines that achieve both incredible thermal efficiency and reduced pollution profiles. Honda is unlikely to quit just because they're not winning. Alonso has a reputation for changing teams in ways that sabotage his career instead of helping it; in pursuing his it's-Honda-or-me policy with his present team's management, there is scope for him to score his biggest own goal yet.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Red Bull have design genius Newey

            So what a competitor needs is some sort of Artificial Inteligence that could - "perform calculations and analysis that would otherwise take up the time of a team of engineers."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical Microsoft, always backing losers.

    1. Rajiv_Chaudri

      "Typical Microsoft, always backing losers."

      lol. The El Reg crowd is full of piss and vitriol, per usual.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >The El Reg crowd is full of piss and vitriol, per usual.

        Don't like the heat then get out of the kitchen.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More AI hype

    And now Renault will end up supplying McLaren too.

    Pity Alonso didn't take a year off and go to Indycar...

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: More AI hype

      As Red Bull shows, you can be consistently in the top ten with Renault. And the McLaren does seem to have a nice chassis. But given Alonso's judgement, Honda will ace it next year and a Torro Rosso rookie will be fighting for the championship.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: More AI hype

        McLaren decided to go with Honda because they (rightly) judged that with a Mercedes engine they could never win a championship against a Mercedes works team. It was a gamble that just didn't pay off. No one expected the Honda engine to be so dire.

        Given that they would have the same situation with Ferrari, it's logical that they go with Renault engines. It's the only decent engine supplier whose works team isn't at the front of the grid, and puts them in a straight fight with Red Bull. It would actually really be great for F1 if the Renault engines continued to improve, and we had Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren all in a straight fight for the title. Potential championship-winning cars for Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo (even Verstappen) and Alonso? Mmmmm, tasty!

  4. Dwarf Silver badge
    Trollface

    I'd guess Its probably because of all the downtime required to apply those essential updates when it decides the time is right. There is probably an issue relating to patchy wifi coverage that makes that voice assistant thing decide it can't do what you want as it can't talk to the mothership.

    Go,

    Go,

    Left a bit

    Stop !

    Stop !

  5. Andy Non
    Coat

    Microsoft has always had problems with

    drivers.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft has always had problems with

      Could be why they wear so many patches. ;-/

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Microsoft has always had problems with

        Yep, they're the pits

    2. kmac499

      Re: Microsoft has always had problems with

      Could be worse; they could have installed the Vettel driver.. crashes straight outta the box..

  6. M. B.

    So was it MS-AI that told them to leave the Hulk out an extra lap so the grid could bunch up behind the safety car instead of boxing when Ricciardo did to maintain track position?

  7. Bob Vistakin
    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Not for the first time

      Gosh, another five-year old link in a desperate attempt to give an otherwise unrelated article from last month some relevance...

      How very Eadon of you.

      Back under your bridge.

  8. defiler Silver badge

    It looks like you're trying to drive in circles

    Fuck off, Clippy!!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shocker

    Microsoft saying one thing and the reality is very different...

    Pretty much everything Microsoft touches these days turns to shittles...

  10. JassMan Silver badge
    Trollface

    It'll never work

    If the AI sits on Win10, it will never have time to collect input data from thousands of channels because it will be continually checking to see if someone has deleted the local administrator account.

    Either that or it will keep trying to upload gigabytes of Renault's highly confidential realtime performance data back to Redmond over the first unsecured WiFi it can find so that they can improve the user experience.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: It'll never work

      Renault: "What? When you said 'telemetry' we thought you would get useful car data, not our files and what emojis our drivers use!"

    2. really_adf

      Re: It'll never work

      You forgot all the gaps in the data due to the required reboot after (seemingly) almost every update...

      1. kurkosdr

        Re: It'll never work

        Every OS needs to reboot to apply OS updates, because no modern OS can replace code running in-memory (they can replace code on disk), so a reboot is the only way to not have existing running processes running old code.

        To give you a sense of what a massive undertaking a no-reboot OS would be, if the OS is executing such instruction in the program text with such state, the update has to provide a way to go to the equivalent instruction in the new program text and a way to convert state.

        The problem with Windows is that reboots take so long, that they are practically holding the system hostage (for 15 minutes or so). When the Windows 8.1 update rolled, I clocked a full 35 mins of downtime on some systems (for an update marked as important).

        But anyway, I am sure Renault has at least a pair of systems, and they run them in a highly available fashion aka when one is rebooting, the other is still up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll never work

          > Every OS needs to reboot to apply OS updates, because no modern OS can replace code running in-memory ...

          Please step away from the computer, and leave IT to the professionals. Hot patching of running kernels and upgrading userland has been a feature of several mainstream (non-Windows) OS's for years.

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: It'll never work

            ... or was, until systemd took hold.....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It'll never work

            Hot patching of a kernel is far more complex and dangerous than you think. It can be made, especially for simpler kernels, but becomes more and more more complex and dangerous as the kernel becomes too. For example the more complex the memory used by the kernel is (think about data structures needing to be updated, memory pointers that are no longer valid, etc.), the more difficult it becomes. The tricky part is not replacing some files, it's fixing whatever is already in memory.

            That's why Linux doesn't default to hot patching, nor many other OS. Yes, leave computers to IT professionals, reading some internet pages is not enough, believe me.

  11. De Facto

    Human Intelligence Needed

    Obviously company that markets its AI supposed to win humans, must have tried its AI first on it's own products, right? That's why I would not trust my business to Microsoft AI. Take Windows 10 - it has been turned into a data slurping business brutally ignoring PC users needs for basic privacy. Their AI algorithm perhaps now treats Windows customers in the same way than telemetry loaded Renault F1 cars. After a couple of years of epic struggles with Windows 10 marketshare anemic growth and Renault lagging at the bottom line of F1 racing, Microsoft folks seem to be still unable to understand how their own AI method works. Could that explain their frustrated massive marketing of AI as "a magic bullet" trying to find believers into their software supremacy, despite evident facts around us telling other story? Is Microsoft in the denial, that human intelligence and human needs are what actually matter? Could it be that Microsoft is run not by its CEO now, but by some evil AI? Did a well-informed Elon Musk warned us about this coming?

  12. AMBxx Silver badge

    Dear Microsoft

    Stop pissing about with the latest fad and concentrate on making Windows 10 better and Azure more reliable. At the same time, kill Cortana and get Windows Phone updated.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Dear Microsoft

      Yes, except for the windows phone bit. It's not your core expertise, it never will be. You apparently can't even buy in mobile expertise and integrate it usefully. Just drop it and concentrate on what you're good at. Or at least, what you can make money at.

  13. hplasm Silver badge
    Holmes

    "It will be a completely brand new experience for the fans."

    But not, I suspect, a very satisfying one...

    1. steelpillow Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "It will be a completely brand new experience for the fans."

      Bringing BSOD to everywhere you look.

  14. Uberseehandel

    Actually Microsoft and Formula 1 have a lot in common - pointless complications and mammothly underwhelming.

    And they treat the punters as numpties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Microsoft and Formula 1 have a lot in common

      But unless I missed the good bits of PDC only one involves Nazi themed orgies

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Hard to believe this was the company that introduced 1000hp turbo chargers to F1

    Renault, not Microsoft of course.

  16. Psy-Q

    They need an AI to tell them what mood the driver is in? Can't you just, err, tell?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Can't you just, err, tell?

      After all, the drivers would never say "shut up and just let me drive" would they?

      Oh..

  17. wolfetone Silver badge

    Red Bull, using the Renault engine, are 3rd in the constructors. The works Renault team are languishing down the field, but you have to remember it's the evolution of the piss poor Lotus F1 car that Renault bought a few years ago.

    As with everything in F1* there are a number of factors involved to make a car successful. You can't just blame Microsoft for it.

    *except for McLaren where it's painfully obvious Honda are delivery an engine capable of blocking a large toilet by being a complete expensive turd.

    1. alexmcm

      "it's the evolution of the piss poor Lotus F1 car that Renault bought a few years ago."

      Yep piss poor Lotus F1 team, in the financial sense only. They couldn't afford to keep Raikkonen for the whole of 2014, but in 2013.

      Lotus finished 4th in constructors championship 2013, and Raikkonen won in Australia

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_FIA_Formula_One_World_Championship

      Then they started running out of money for 2014 and 15 and were bought by Renault. How are Renault/Microsoft doing these days? Last year 9th, this year 7th so far.

  18. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Facepalm

    You couldn't make it up...

    a seventh-place start is "pole position in our world"

    Life shot Microsoft in the foot... so they went and used a bazooka on the other one.

  19. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge
    Joke

    If Microsoft did F1....

    We'd have a press release about how Renault beat Mercedes in a secret test which later turned out to be a race between Renault F1 and an old lady driving a Merc A160. (Readers may have forgotten the infamous MS "benchmarks" showing how a heavily optimised Windows system could outperform a vanilla Red Bull ^h^h^h Hat server)

    Meanwhile Informix sues the lot of them for having aerodynamic Wingz.....

    1. mrfill

      Re: If Microsoft did F1....

      Ironically, the Mercedes A160 actually uses a Renault engine.

  20. brakepad

    Success in F1

    Appreciate the sentiment, but 7th place in the Constructors' Championship is no mean feat, and on current form Renault have probably the 4th fastest car on the grid. Whether the MS technology is giving them an advantage or not, they could well overhaul Williams for 5th by the end of the year, which isn't bad given the lack of funding prior to the Renault buyout.

    I don't think any of the current 10 teams should be considered failures - certainly not in comparison to some recent entrants that never even made it (US F1), or were always hopelessly off the pace (HRT, Caterham), but somebody has to come last. Many of the current grid have some sort of handicap (poor engine, an underperforming driver, relative lack of funding), and with a tight midfield battle the few available points are spread pretty thinly.

    No I don't work for Renault or MS.

  21. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Eh what

    "You can imagine people in the grandstand each wearing a HoloLens headset and getting information, like what is the driver's mood – is he feeling aggressive or defensive?"

    Why go to the track, why not just stay at home if you are going to slap a display on to your face?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Eh what

      You do realise the majority of snooker fans have those earpieces to hear the TV commentary when at the Crucible?

      The point is to offer additional stuff to complement the live experience, not detract from it. They already put of big screens to let you watch the TV feed and so on, so if augmented reality ever takes off this is quite a good use-case. Watch a car go past and be told who it is, what their position is, what tyres they're on and how many laps they've done, yada yada

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Eh what

        To be honest every time I go to see Classic Car racing, BTCC, etc... I can't hear anything over the PA speakers. I just go to watch noisy cars as I could not tell you who won unless its for instant a drag strip.

  22. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Linux

    A Modest Suggestion

    The graphic.....it should have been engulfed in flames.

  23. MrKrotos

    :P

    Just a shame when the W10 "updates" hit during a pit-stop ::P

  24. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    It's the singer, not the song

    Drivers make racing teams. And I don't mean the software types. The reason Hamilton keeps winning probably has more to do with his talent than with any technological advantage Mercedes may have.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's the singer, not the song

      In practice ITYF that the driver talent pairs up with the best car/engine combination. Except for Alonzo unfortunately.

    2. EnviableOne Bronze badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: It's the singer, not the song

      not anymore its not, and it hasnt been for a while.

      Put Hamilton in a McLaren Honda and he'd be doing just as bad as Alonso

      Put him in a Manor or Sauber, and he'd be lucky to hit the top10 in qualifying.

      Going back in the day, you think Coulthard would have had any sort of career if he hadn't lucked into Senna's seat at williams? the last back marker to challenge was Hill in an arrows at hungary in 1997 and cars have come a long way since then.

      its more important to put a newey aero pack and a performing power unit in the car. If you have those, Joleon Palmer could win races!

    3. Jay 2

      Re: It's the singer, not the song

      No, they also need a fairly decent car. Just look at Schumacher's near misses in the late 90s. I'm not the biggest fan of his, but he could really hustle a car when he needed to. One of best example was the 1996 Ferrari F310 which was a real disaster and he still managed to grab some wins in it. In fact I have heard that in his collection of F1 cars that he's driven, that one is noticably absent!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I just say...

    Despite the vitriol, this story+thread is still better F1 coverage than you get from the BBC these days.

  26. RedCardinal

    >>steered Renault into bottom of the F1 league

    >>the Renault team – running 7th out of 10 in the 2017 Formula One Constructor Standings

    So which is it? Or to put it another way, does no one double-check your articles before publication?

  27. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Boffin

    New Drivers

    Drivers are not supported for your system.

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