Formula One is the pinnacle championship of the international racing scene of open-wheel single-seater cars, and with this comes an extremely competitive season as 10 teams and 20 drivers compete for points over a season to be named Driver and Constructors Champions. F1 is built around creating the fastest possible car, within the regulations, and as a result, teams invest hundreds of millions in the development process which has led to one of the most effective global Research and development industries to date. Through this blog episode, I will be exploring Formula One and its history along with its current position as a means of building a deeper understanding of Artificial Intelligence in different aspects of our lives, Formula One is a leader in the innovation of new technologies and is a prime example of predicting how Artificial Intelligence will implicate our future culture in the 5, 10 or 50 years!
“Our Business is all about speed, it’s about speed of innovation, speed of production, speed of delivery and reliability.”Toto Wolff, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team – Project Pitlane
History of Formula One Development
Motorsport racing dates to 1894 almost as long as the time cars have been invented, however during these formative years it was more regarded as a showcase rather than a competitive regulated competition with a set of rules, this was only established during the interwar period in which the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) created the first world championship under the ruleset of ‘Formula One’ with the first race taking place in Britain at the Silverstone Grand Prix on May 13th, 1950. Since this first recognised Formula One race we have had a total of 72 Championships, and 1,061 Grand Prixs (WCE) in 34 separate countries.
With the success that Formula One has achieved, it became the centre stage for European viewers along with the rich and famous sparking a large interest in investing in building the fastest car in the championship, which as a result sparked one of the most important Research and Development Industries in the world.
Modern-day Formula One – Research & Development Industry
Formula One is an extremely expensive venture for any party taking part in the operations of this sport often referred to as a global circus as they travel between 20 different countries throughout the year. The cost of managing an F1 team can be up to 460 Million dollars annually for the higher echelon teams like Mercedes F1, or Red Bull Racing, these funds come from deals surrounding supplying engines, sponsorships, F1 Prize Pools, and F1 Funding, Paid Drivers, along with teams VIP Clubs.
The majority of this funding is sent to the Research and Development stage of the F1 World Championship season, in which teams of automotive and mechanical engineers and the sorts all work towards a goal of making the fastest car possible, this is done by streamlining all aspects of the car as an attempt to gain as much capacity out of the car as possible. Alongside the expected improvements surrounding things like aerodynamics and engine capabilities, F1 Research and Development also affects other aspects of automobiles in regards to fuel efficiency and occupant safety which are often adapted into modern-day road cars due to their application in making everyday drivers safer for example Traction Control, Anti-lock braking system (ABS) and Active Suspension.
Operation Pitlane was a collective response of Formula One’s R&D Industry in a reaction to support the efforts of combating the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this Operation, F1 Teams united under a unified banner and showcased to the world the capabilities of the industry as a whole as they rapidly: “adapt, innovate and deliver” (Formula One, 2020). Seven Teams based out of England supported the NHS in manufacturing and designing state-of-the-art ventilators, along with Mercedes AMG F1 working along the University College London to reverse engineer a breathing device in under 10 days as means of being able to mass-produce the device for frontline workers. Ferrari an Italian F1 Team also developed an open-source ventilator for use across the globe accessible by and for anyone, which showcased how effective F1 teams are at responding quickly and being able to innovate and deliver on-demand.
Artificial Intelligence and the Future Implications on Motorsports
In all aspects of Formula One data is plentiful and is a large component of the workload no matter what aspect of F1 you are a part of may, it be the pit wall receiving driver data, the garage receiving vehicle telemetry data, the production team receiving live footage, or the apart of the DHL team that transports F1 around the year across 5 continents. With F1 being such a high-tech and competitive championship, it’s vital that teams utilise all possible technological advancements as a means of gaining a strategic advantage over their rivals, and that brings us to the topic of Artificial Intelligence.
The Implications of Artificial Intelligence on the Formula One Industry will be felt not only within the F1 Circuit but also in the wider industry of car manufacturing. Formula One has become a testing ground for all groundbreaking technologies and this will continue into the future of 5, 10, or even 50 years as the sport continues to grow and become widely accepted across the globe.
“AI processes improve operational efficiency, increase insights, and enhance the decision accuracy of complex problems at the strategic level” (Al-Surmi, 2020) as seen in Operations Research and as the field of AI continues to grow with the backing of major companies and industries like Formula One the bounds of this technology are essentially endless as we continue to move ever closer to the advanced image of the future portrayed in our favorite movies.