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Data Analytics Platforms and Motorsports

Some 44 zettabytes of data are currently available in the world today and counting. That’s 44 sextillion bytes, which is a number so large it’s difficult to even comprehend. By way of measure, that’s 40 times more bytes than there are stars in our observable universe.

Enterprises of all shapes and sizes are striving to take advantage of this proliferation of data to drive decision-making. This can take many forms, including reducing operational inefficiencies, shoring up supply chains, reducing errors, identifying new revenue streams, analyzing customer behavior and etc. However, there are even more nuanced ways organizations are taking advantage of the data at their disposal to improve performance — many of which may not be immediately obvious to people.

Case in point — data analytics platforms have changed motorsports as we know it.

Harnessing Real-Time Race Data

The Internet of Things (IoT) is fueling real-time racing analytics. As Gartner cites, a Formula 1 car has more than 200 sensors on board capable of producing approximately 400 gigabytes of data throughout a single race — at under 300 milliseconds of latency. This means decision-makers have near real-time access to information about the vehicle and the driver, as well as other sources pertaining to competitors and track conditions.

The ability to access relevant data in the heat of the moment allows teams to make smarter decisions, like when to make pit stops, which tire compounds to use and how hard to push the cars.

According to one Toyota Racing Development (TRD) director for Forbes, data analytics helps TRD quickly answer questions like:

  • Which competitors are fast?
  • What pace is the leader setting?
  • How will it look if they keep that pace for the duration of the race?
  • Should our team adjust our strategy in response to competitors?

As important as driver skill and instinct are in motorsports, the ability to analyze data in real-time is increasingly influencing the outcome of races.

Creating a Winning Motorsports Data Strategy

In-race analytics is a very important piece of the puzzle. But the benefits of data-driven decisions start well before vehicles get to the starting line. The CTO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport notes there’s a need for data visualizations and insights “during practice, qualifying and on race day.”

This encompasses data related to car configurations, simulations, engine tests, complex fluid dynamics, wind tunnel aerodynamics and much more. The results of various trials help engineers make effective tweaks and improvements to the vehicles for a given race during practice sessions, as well as for future events.

Bringing together data from a diverse range of sources in a digestible, accessible and user-friendly manner — no matter the exact application of said data — depends on the data analytics platform in use. After all, an engineer could have access to all the telemetry and historical race data in the world, but without a platform that helps them pull relevant insights and format them in understandable ways, it will be impossible to make sound choices.

Motorsports organizations use data to power all kinds of decisions, from how many tires to change per pit stop to how fast to go per lap. The data is there, but channeling it into measurable positive outcomes hinges on having the right platform.