How a TV gadget became F1's latest secret weapon

How a TV gadget became F1’s latest secret weapon

Smedley observes that the “opponents” of F1’s use of the pioneering technology have become noticeably silent as the sport now experiences the fastest growth spurt in the sport’s history. ESPN is so confident about the rise of F1 that it has agreed to increase its US television rights deal with Liberty Media by 1,500%. Silverstone is also home to new riches, having hosted a record 402,000 for the sold-out British GP, even with ticket prices exceeding £250.

Skyrocketing profits have been turbocharged by the Drive to Survive TV craze, which attracted tens of millions of new fans. However, as Smedley explains, Netflix only did half the job of bringing in the new audience in the first place. Viewers once depended on Murray Walker’s often-risky predictions, but now, in the era of fan-obsessed Liberty, the sport has found a way to maintain attention spans by providing accurate predictions of drama. coming. Even the elusive Gen Z target audience remains glued to the screen on a Sunday afternoon, Smedley says. “We want to keep the DNA of F1 but we want to keep moving it, we want to keep refreshing ourselves,” he added. “We have to bring in a fresher audience. You have to be brave with things and you have to push through no matter what the skeptics say.”

F1’s irresistible rise to world domination begins with 300 tiny computer sensors on every car. Smedley, a very experienced ex-engineer at Williams, Ferrari and Jordan, came up with the idea of ​​harvesting information that each team gets to make the whole show more engaging.

Five years ago, Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest cloud computing company, was recruited to turn data into easy-to-understand television innovations. Battle predictions, predicting when a pursuing driver is within striking distance of the car ahead, and a myriad of pit strategy insights, helping to predict the drama to come in a race, have been introduced. “We believe we’ve fundamentally improved the fan experience based on the insights we’ve provided,” said Darren Hardman, Managing Director, AWS UK & Ireland. The technology has even helped put an end to a hill-old debate – its aggregated data shows Ayrton Senna is officially F1’s fastest in 40 years, followed by Michael Schumacher and then Hamilton. Hardman is very excited about the future, however, as “we’ve also made racing more competitive this year.”

To achieve this, F1 harnessed the increased power provided by AWS to create a new car that offers more wheel-to-wheel racing. The days of wind tunnels to determine a car’s aerodynamics seem long gone, with F1 now using a Computational Fluid Dynamics design system on AWS’ computing platform that cuts simulation time by 80%, from from 60 a.m. to 12 p.m. With their new ability to run complex simulations visualizing car wake turbulence and the impact on subsequent drivers, the base car design used by all teams this year is able to compete much more closely than ever before. .

“Running its CFD platform on AWS, F1 has designed a car that reduces downforce loss in wheel-to-wheel races from 50% to 15%, so a car is much less affected by slipstream. of the car in front of her,” explains Formula 1 Technical Director Pat Symonds.

Above all, when it comes to the boffins, the pilots are impressed. Hamilton said last Sunday “felt a lot like the days of karting” after being at the heart of an exhilarating tussle for podium places at Silverstone.

As Carlos Sainz opened up a four-second lead, Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Pérez battled furiously for position around lap 46 before the Briton finally secured third place. “I think this is Formula 1 at its best,” Hamilton said after the race. “The fact that we were able to follow and dice like that, lap after lap, is a testament to the direction I think we’re in now. I was just grateful to be in the battle. Because I wasn’t in this fight for a while.”

The buzz in the sport hadn’t been lost on Ferrari either, who have now become the first team to team up with the tech company to give themselves an extra edge. The Italian giant, which invited Telegraph Sport to its paddock at Silverstone last week, says AWS backing has become a secret weapon in challenging Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

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