Judging by his second place finish on Sunday in his first start under the Panasonic banner, it will be a fruitful partnership.
Technically Speaking: F1 cars are essentially the fastest computers on earth outside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and while the drivers and engineers get all the glory when the team wins, a grand prix team’s Information Technology departments also play a key role in winning and losing.
Not only do the IT guys develop software tools to manage and analyse the incredible amounts of data coming from the car – about 150 sensors create roughly 25 Megabytes of data per lap – but they also make sure the engineers have the right custom applications they need to set up, simulate and optimise the car for races.
“It’s all about turning data into information and providing more insight to be able to make business-based decisions, but the key here is that time is the challenge,” said Michael Taylor, IT director for the Lotus F1 Team.
“It’s not a decision on something that’s going to happen in a month’s time, it’s going to happen in the next minute.”
The IT group also plays a central role in the efficiency and success of the teams’ computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel programmes, as well as the manufacturing processes.
Lotus gets lots of help on this front from its technical partner Avanade, which supplies 20 of the 36 personnel in the team’s IT department. This group designs bespoke applications at an incredible rate, topping 2,000 software releases in 2013. The team is well on its way to far exceeding that number this year, Taylor said.
In the end, it’s all about shaving seconds, both on and off the track.
“It’s about freeing up people’s time to be more creative and innovative,” Taylor said. “If we can save each of our designers one minute of admin time per week, when you multiply that by 150 times over the course of a year, it’s a significant amount of time saving that they can spend on designing parts and components to make the car go faster.”
Quote of the Week: “It’s difficult to explain how I feel right now. That was the best champagne I’ve ever tasted. All the hard work that the team puts in shows in moments like this.”
– Williams F1 driver Valtteri Bottas after scoring his first career podium in 27 grand prix starts in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. Bottas, of Finland, finished third.
The Last Word: If the ride with Penske’s Nationwide team on Saturday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., were an audition for Lachenaie, Que.’s, Alex Tagliani, he should get the role of the outfit’s lead driver. Although Tagliani has driven for Penske previously in Montreal’s now defunct NASCAR Nationwide race, he never got into the No. 22 car, widely known to be the top ride the outfit has to offer. Given the chance on Saturday at Road America, he didn’t disappoint.
Tagliani was the class of the field on the challenging wet road course, leading 19 laps and looking to be on his way to an easy win when things went horribly wrong. A miscalculation on fuel saw him run out of gas during a caution period with three laps to go and it looked like all was lost.
After getting a push back to the pits and swapping his rain tires for slicks, Tagliani was 22nd on the last restart after NASCAR added two laps back on the clock making it five to the end. The road racing ace put on a passing clinic in the final few laps on a drying track, scything through the field to finish second. Tagliani’s next start in Nationwide is at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August.
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