Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Computer Networking Delivers Performace to Formula One Racing

Throughout Europe and the rest of the world the most recognizable name in motor racing is the Formula 1 Grand Prix. If you follow Formula 1 racing then you know that last weekend the teams came back from their summer break. Now they are at a turning point in their strategy. It’s time for the teams to decide where to focus their development efforts. Should they focus on winning points this year, or on designing a car that will win next year? With the rewriting of the rules for car design for 2014 this decision is especially difficult. You may be wondering what this means for Juniper and for networking. The answer is quite a lot. Juniper provides networking equipment to the Lotus F1 Team and their driver Kimi Raikkonen was 2nd in the driver’s championship running until last Sunday’s race in Belgium. Data analysis and computer aided design are keys to determining a winning strategy and to building a winning car.

Winning Requires Constant Improvement
Unfortunately in last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, a brake failure due to overheating forced Raikkonen out of a race for the first time in 39 Grands Prix and he dropped to 4th place in the standings. Another retirement will likely end his chances for a driver's championship this year. The team needs to analyze the data and discover ways to avoid any kind of failure for the rest of the season and they need to keep the car competitive with eight races to go. These F1 race cars are not static in design. The teams develop the car all though out the season. The pace of innovation can be daunting. The car can be up to 5% different each race according to the rules. Development is a tricky matter of resource allocation that is similar to high tech product development where a product’s life cycle could be shorter than its development cycle.

To learn how to avoid damage or failures to the cars or to determine a strategy for continuing a race after something has gone wrong the teams examine data from up to 200 sensors on the car using telemetry. The data is transmitted over wireless to a series of antennas that line the track. A huge amount of data is processed by each team during a race. Lotus F1 collects about 15MB of data per lap from the car. This creates about 1,000 data points for every lap. This data is transferred to their race engineers for analysis and decision making. There are banks of computers in the garage, with engineers looking at data on site at the race track. There are also engineers in the factory analyzing the data once it is sent back by satellite. This data can tell about impacts and damage and can determine the outcome of race results as it is used to make strategy decisions even during the race.

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This is a Telemetry Sheet from the Belgian Grand Prix. Line 1 in red shows the RPM, line 2 in blue line is car's speed, line 3 in green is lateral acceleration, line 4 in purple is the gear position, line 5 in orange line is the throttle pedal position and lne 6 in brown line is the brake pedal position.

Next Years Car Design Starts Now
As if it wasn’t enough to deal with staying competitive during the season and in the running at each race the 2014 season will bring big changes to the technical regulations that the teams must start to deal with now. They will be changing the engine from a 2.4 Liter V8 to an all new 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engine. It’s like we’re going back to the mid-80s when turbos ruled during the era of Senna and Prost. But that’s not all, there are also changes in many other areas. The gearboxes will be redesigned with eight forward ratios. The energy recovery systems will play a bigger role as it will be required to recover energy both under braking and from the waste heat coming from the turbo. Unlike the current system, which gives the drivers an extra 80bhp for six seconds per lap, the new system will be designed to give drivers around 160bhp for 33 seconds per lap. There will also be changes to the on board fuel limits for the race, and to the exhaust, nose height and front and rear wings. Recently the goal is fuel economy improvement but the biggest improvement in today’s cars is safety. Modern designs provide protection that was unheard of in the early days and although crashes occur injuries are infrequent


This is Kimi Raikkonen in the current Team Lotus F1 car courtesy of the team.

All of this design work for the new car requires a powerful network at the design center. To meet the challenge the Lotus F1 Team has built a new network infrastructure using Juniper's portfolio of switching, security, wireless LAN, routing and application software solutions. They have deployed Juniper’s QFabric technology in their two data centers to reduce network latency and improve application performance. To improve flexibility they have created a private cloud environment incorporating servers and storage connected by the Juniper network. The LAN connectivity across the team's campus provides a high-performance fixed and wireless network platform to connect everyone together and to connect them to the data center that will power the data-intensive work that will go in to the new car design. In all the infrastructure also includes Juniper’s EX Series Ethernet Switches in the data centers; SRX Series Services Gateways for security in the core network; WLA Series LAN Access Points, WLC Wireless LAN Controllers and WLM Wireless LAN Management for secure wireless access; MAG Series Junos Pulse Gateways for secure remote and mobile access; and Junos Space to simplify and automate management of its Juniper devices.

Building On Tradition to Win
All of this telemetry and computer aided design is a far cry from the days when I first started going to the F1 races. In the 70s the original Team Lotus was run by Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus cars. He was trained as an aeronautical engineer in the 50’s and designed his cars using drafting paper, pens and other manual tools. There we no computers, and no sensors. The only feedback was what the driver reported. This was so called “seat-of-the-pants” input. This didn’t stop Lotus from building a remarkable car and winning races however. Chapman's efforts produced one of the most remarkable and successful designs in F1 history. The Lotus 72 featured inboard brakes, side mounted radiators, and an overhead air intake. The wedge like shape was innovative too and made higher speeds possible. A combination of stressed engine layout and advanced aerodynamics produced a car that won 3 Constructors Championships between 1970 and 1973.


This is Ronnie Peterson in the Lotus 77 from 1973 taken by me. You can see the similar design principals to the current F1 car but the degree of refinement over the four decades is astonishing.

The current Team Lotus F1’s carries on this race winning tradition. In 1986 the team was known as Benetton Formula 1, and 7 times world champion Michael Schumacher got his start with them winning the drivers' championship in both 1994 and 1995. They were later known as Renault F1 and in both 2005 and 2006 Fernando Alonso won the drivers' championship with them. Today they are partly owned by Renault who provides the engines and by Lotus Cars, who make some really nice sports cars that you may have seen in the James Bond movies over the years. Team Lotus F1 started out the current season with a win in the first race in Australia and have been a front runner ever since. Kimi still has a chance at the driver’s championship so it will be exciting. I hope that you will be watching the next race that will be at  Monza in Italy this coming weekend and join in the thrill of world class racing that is made possible by great teams and great computer networking.

See this Video for a look at the Lotus F1 car in action.

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