Smedley: We’re trying to tell hidden story of F1 with AWS

smedley 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix start

Formula 1 director of data systems Rob Smedley has said that the sport is using Amazon Web Services to tell the “hidden story” behind each race.

When each car generates more than a million data points per second, teams need serious computing power to trawl through the data to help them make split-second decisions.

Enter AWS, whose complex algorithms convert data to produce relevant information, which is now being presented to racing enthusiasts tuning in so they can delve into various insights in what is essentially a data-driven sport.

“What we’re trying to do with AWS insights is to tell some part of the hidden story of Formula 1, use the data to tell that technical back story which fans never get to see,” Rob Smedley, F1’s director of data systems, told Reuters.

“If you take the most powerful laptops available on the market today, each car will fill about 22 to 25 laptops of data, and that’s just car data. Then we’ve got timing data, video imagery and tyre data from Pirelli.

“So we’ve got lots of disparate sources of data and what we’ve been working with AWS over the past year is a full data delivery system that packages them neatly… puts them in data packets the algorithms can get to very, very quickly.”

The result is a real-time deep dive into race strategy and comparative analysis of drivers, their cars and their crew, educating fans about what goes on behind the pit wall.

For example, a new insight called Braking Performance will show fans how different drivers negotiate a corner by analysing their top speed on the approach, their braking style, their acceleration at the apex and the G-forces they undergo.

Other insights set to be unveiled this season include Start Analysis which measures which drivers are quickest off the line and Pitlane Performance which takes into account not only stationary stop times but also a driver’s entry and exit.

The undercut — a strategy where a chasing driver pits first for fresh tyres and improved lap time to overtake a car yet to pit — has often kept fans on the edge of their seats.

AWS will debut an insight this season called Undercut Threat which anticipates which driver is at risk of being overtaken in such scenarios, using key parameters such as tyre degradation and the gap between cars.

“It’s anticipating a story, it’s not trying to predict something and tell you the the answer before the event’s happened,” Smedley said.

“What it’s doing is it’s saying to F1 fans, ‘Get ready’ because there’s going to be some stories unfolding here with driver pairings around the track.”

While too much data can be overwhelming for fans craving nothing but wheel-to-wheel action, Smedley said they owed it to hardcore followers who demand more information during races.

“When we’re talking about the live broadcast, the general viewer wants data, so it’s got to be something that informs them and engages them,” Smedley said.

“It’s about getting that balance right. It’s offering different products to different demographics and making sure that we’ve got all the bases covered.”