Formula 1 | The ‘operating room’: a shadow weapon in modern F1

Strategies in F1, the choice of configuration, are not decided only in the garage of the circuit equipment, at each Grand Prix. Far from it.

Over the past few years, teams have developed “operating rooms” or virtual garages.

During each Grand Prix, the engineers present at the factory thus follow “live” and from a distance the progress of operations, providing advice based on a number of assets: the data of course, but also the heat of the quiet circuit and distant. The goal is to become the third eye of the racing team, help them see what they can’t see, and react with more retrospect or reactivity.

After Mercedes (see our article), Red Bull said a little more about its Milton Keynes-based operating room. A room full of screens, engineers replacing merchants.

Organized as a small theater or auditorium, the room is dominated by a huge 4K TV screen where engineers can follow the evolution of the Grand Prix. The television, specifies Red Bull, broadcasts 12 channels, among which are the on-board cameras of the two Red Bulls but also of the rivals. In front of them, each person has two screens where personalized information is displayed, according to their function.

The operating room is divided into several rows of seats. Each row is assigned to a group: the group of engineers in charge of the performance, the group of aerodynamics, the group of strategists, etc. The chief strategist of the race, in the middle of the room, tries to coordinate this beautiful world.

One of these strategists was able to speak for Red Bull:

“When you have your headphones on, you can’t hear anything else, but there’s a lot of talk on the radio, so it’s anything but quiet. »

“When pilots talk, we all tend to shut up and listen to make sure we hear if something is needed.”

“Most departments have internal channels that can be divided. There is one channel for each department, one wider channel and one channel for the operating room. There are usually four or five stages, where each channel involves more and more people. »

But is this operating room really useful? The chief operating officer strategist obviously believes this and set an example that goes back to the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix.

“A good example is in EL1. Something broke one of the Renault cars in the pits and we detected it about 20 seconds before the TV cameras showed it. Our riders were on the track and we were able to send a message to the team instantly to warn them so they could avoid it. »

“After the classification, when the cars are in the Parc Tancat, we can’t make any more changes, so the aerodynamic team is not here, which gives more space to the strategy team for Sunday. »

This, of course, requires quality data: it would only take 300 milliseconds for data to arrive from the Milton Keynes base in the UK, in Melbourne in Australia for example. A VPN network operated by AT&T is used for the occasion.

Such a social use

But this room isn’t just for work: a member of the Red Bull team explains how the room quickly found another use in the summer of 2018!

“During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we lit a screen to watch the England match, while the French Grand Prix was being held. That people have to work on the weekends does not mean that it is they have to lose everything. ”

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