Imagine offering a race driver 25 per cent more power and imagine the impact that could make to their performance. That's exactly what McLaren's technology partner NTT Communications is delivering to the team's F1 race strategists, and the gains are impressive.
Two seconds to decide
It sounds far-fetched but at many races Randeep Singh, Head of Race Strategy, McLaren Racing, has less than five seconds and sometimes much less to decide whether to bring in either car after the deployment of the safety car. Analysing and sharing as much information as possible means the drivers recognise the value it brings to racing an F1 car.
The Enterprise Cloud is providing processing power equivalent to 1,000 machines, enabling McLaren's advanced machine learning software, MORSE, to process 25 per cent more simulations in the same amount of time. It's ensuring McLaren has class-leading in-race simulations that – coupled with a talented engineering line-up, giving the team the ability to react with confidence to critical situations in seconds.
F1 provides one of the most data-intense environments to demonstrate the ability of cloud computing. An F1 car is equipped with over 400 sensors, there are 200 on the battery alone – with these sensors measuring everything from tyre carcass temperature to driver's steering input angle. Engineers are presented with a myriad of data streams that are generated to optimise performance. Interpreting these correctly, identifying trends, and understanding how the race is playing out for each competitor minimises incorrect strategy decisions that could be the difference between finishing in the points or not.
"Analysing and sharing as much information as possible means the drivers recognise the value it brings to racing an F1 car. "What we see and feel on track is important, but simulation data is critical for our continually developing race strategy, even mid-race," says Fernando Alonso. "Time and again, we have used this to our advantage and scored a better result than we could have expected. It's a critical part of our approach."
Maximising the opportunities
Eliminating the risks and maximising the opportunities ultimately falls to Singh. Making the call to pit both Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso with just a few seconds notice is a typical scenario Singh and his team of several engineer's face in the heat of the battle.
To make decisions with confidence, Singh relies on analysing simulations of multiple scenarios of how the race will play out. The volume of possible simulations is astounding; it's not millions. but billions of billions. "We have more strategy permutations than there are electrons in the universe," calmly claims Singh.
To run this level of data reliably and securely with access from race tracks all over the globe, McLaren trusts the NTT Communications Enterprise Cloud that is also used by a range of businesses as diverse as software companies, airlines, chemical production plants, and the insurance industry.
Drawing on the high-performance computer power via NTT Communications Enterprise Cloud, ensures Singh and his team can simulate multiple scenarios around the weather, safety car interventions, traffic, and even the strategies of other teams. "Our planning starts just over three months before an event," explains Singh.
"This is when we nominate tyres for a particular race. We add in our data from previous races, stretching back more than 20 years, with figures from the current car and our rivals. In the cloud, our MORSE simulation software then starts processing the simulations and that will continue until long after the chequered flag has fallen. That's because it's equally vital to review a race or qualifying and learn. Motorsport is about continuously improving; the ability to do this after a session has finished is worth so much to us."
Low maintenance, high efficiency, maximum security
One of the attractions of the NTT Communications Enterprise Cloud for businesses, is how painless it is to operate. "Enterprise Cloud is ideal as there is no maintenance and it is always there for us" states Singh. "We have our own compute in-house but if we have a fire alarm, they have to be shut down, causing downtime and disruption. You might think it's rare to have a fire alarm, but this very thing hit us during the Australian Grand Prix in 2017 and that was painful. Now, with the Enterprise Cloud we can keep on working with added confidence."
To analyse or process and act upon the data, McLaren stations engineers trackside at each of the 21 Grands Prix, who are supported by a team of 32 engineers at ‘Mission Control' within the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking. "Regulations restrict the number of engineers we can have at the track, so we have to share data with the team back at base," adds Singh. "Relying on the network provided by NTT Communications and MORSE, we can share valuable content such as video footage in real time, enabling us to make the best calls.
Some tracks such as Sakhir in Bahrain, are very isolated and others such as Monaco, are temporary circuits. Each infrastructure is different but nonetheless, wherever we are, we need to run reliable simulations and communicate with Mission Control," says Singh.
"The cloud offers a robust solution we can count on."
Saturday night simulation
With parc fermé restrictions preventing teams from working on the cars after qualifying, McLaren's engineers and strategists use their Saturday nights to run a simulation of the following day's race. "We each take a role in the race, be that as a strategist for McLaren or any other team or driver, and run a Grand Prix, using Enterprise Cloud at up to eight times the speed of the actual race," says Singh.
"It's important for us to prepare for any eventuality and come up with scenarios that challenge us further." The team, both in ‘Mission Control' at MTC and trackside, also uses the session to inject more unpredictability into the simulations. "I like to throw in a safety car right at the toughest time and see how it plays out," jokes Singh.
"It's part game, part tactics but we find it's a great way for the engineers to get race fit, and the practice is invaluable."
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