A sense of anticipation builds in the paddock
Sunrise over the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. And with it, the dawn of a new era for Formula One, as 2017 pre-season testing begins. The pain of a regular Monday morning far from mind, as a sense of anticipation builds in the paddock.
Glistening in the Spanish sun, the all-new Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ roars into life and takes its first tentative steps out onto the track at the hands of Valtteri Bottas – the Finn taking the reins for his first official day of on-track duty with the Silver Arrows.
Photographers, cameramen and journalists alike swarm around the car as it returns from its install run. All keen to catch a glimpse of the intricate details which have had engineers and designers working through the night for months and months, seeking every last scrap of performance.
F1 is back with a bang
The curvature of the front wing, the mean angles of the rear wing, the lower, wider, more aggressive stance of the car, coupled with countless aerodynamic flicks and tricks… F1 is back with a bang. And looking better than ever.
While the public eye gazes upon the aerodynamic wonders along the pit lane, many of those on the pit wall focus on each corner of these spectacular new beasts and those beefed-up Pirelli tyres. Bigger, fatter, wider… shades of a bygone era reincarnated to give the massive grip levels required under an aerodynamic formula designed to intensify cornering speeds and shatter lap records.
Aesthetics are one thing – but really understanding these new tyres, from grip levels to durability and all in between, will be critical in 2017. Ground-breaking times over a single lap might wow the crowds – but sustaining that pace over 300km of wheel-to-wheel racing is a different challenge. And with limited track time outside of the Grand Prix calendar, maximising every moment could mean the difference between success and failure.
High-speed concept laboratory for Qualcomm
The pursuit of any conceivable advantage in this vital area of car performance is what first brought the team together with Technology Partner Qualcomm. Now, a little over two years later, that partnership has expanded to become both an integral part of race weekend engineering operations for the team and a high-speed concept laboratory for Qualcomm.
Following the success of initial testing conducted during the 2016 United States Grand Prix, where tyre data was pulled from the car wirelessly utilizing thermal cameras, plans are now in place to continue technology development and conduct additional trials during this year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July.
During these field trials, Silver Arrows race engineers will utilize both 5 GHz 802.11ac and Multi-gigabit 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology, which operates in the millimeter wave (mmWave) 60GHz band, to gather data directly from the W08 while in, or approaching the garage.
More data intensive telemetry in a shorter timescale
The goal of the trial is to accelerate how quickly and efficiently data can be pulled from the car. Through the increased throughput provided by the 60 GHz connection, engineers will be provided with more data intensive telemetry in a shorter timescale, enabling them to make better-informed decisions. And with evaluation of the 2017 Pirelli tyres high on the priority list, that could prove critical.
During in-garage testing of download speeds during free practice in Austin last year, robust and reliable connections of over 2 Gbps were established while race engineers undertook normal activity on the car between runs. This additional download capacity created opportunities to gather more data from sensors around the car, helping the engineers to optimise performance whilst simultaneously giving the drivers more time on the track:
“It has already been a rewarding journey to work with Qualcomm to develop technology that helps the team improve performance on track and could ultimately have a big impact on people’s lives,” said Toto Wolff. “Following a successful field trial in Austin last year, the target is to have the 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology running on-car during Friday practice from the 2017 US Grand Prix onwards. Qualcomm’s leadership in vehicle connectivity is advancing wireless technology in our race garages and accelerating progress in the wider automotive industry.”
Next phase of innovation already in the pipeline
“Today’s rate of innovation in automotive is unprecedented, in both raceways and freeways, demanding increasing levels of performance in connectivity,” added Derek Aberle, president of Qualcomm Incorporated. “We look forward to continuing this trial with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport as it will help us learn how we can accelerate bringing the benefits of 802.11ad to these everyday use cases, as well as evolve towards 5G connectivity.”
As the seconds tick by in Barcelona this week, every lap provides another opportunity to find those final milliseconds of performance that could ultimately dictate the fate of a fascinating World Championship battle.
With Qualcomm technology on board, those opportunities are not only maximised – but increased in number. And with the next phase of innovation already in the pipeline, things are only getting faster in the Silver Arrows garage for 2017 and beyond…