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The new Formula 1 season has just got underway. Computing technology from Amazon Web Services (AWS) is providing the power to make the sport more exciting than ever before. AWS partnered with Formula 1 to create the new design specs for the 2022 racing cars.

Rob Smedley, Formula 1’s Director of Data Systems, explains to Auto Futures the design changes and what they mean for racing fans. The season started at Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2022, and was won by Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. It continues throughout the year.

Rob Smedley studied mathematics and mechanical engineering at the UK’s Loughborough University. After completing a Master’s degree, he started work in the motorsport industry. He started at Peugeot as a suspension design engineer.

His Formula 1 career began with the Jordan Grand Prix team. From there, he moved to Ferrari. He then moved to Williams F1 as Head of Vehicle Performance. More recently, he became Director of Data Systems for Formula One Management Ltd.

“AWS and Formula 1 partnered in 2018 to make Formula 1 the most technologically driven sport on the planet,” says Smedley.

F1 is fast becoming a data-driven sport. Each F1 race car has 300 onboard sensors generating more than 1.1 million data points per second transmitted from the cars to the pit.

Last year, AWS and Formula 1 launched F1 Insights. The data widgets help fans understand in more detail what’s going on in a Formula 1. This year, AWS high-performance computing enabled a new design.

“With Formula 1 fans, the fan base is growing all the time. We’re very customer-focused. And I think that that’s a really clear part of both AWS and Formula 1 DNA. We’re focused on what the customer wants. Fans asked for more wheel-to-wheel action on the track, and we’ve put in a lot of time collecting and analysing data to make that happen,” he says.

Rob At Reinvent

Increasing Formula 1’s Wheel-to-Wheel Action

The AWS Cloud enabled massive fast computations through computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The CFD Car Simulation campaign used AWS Cloud and its high-performance computing (HPC) technology.

“Using the elasticity of the AWS Cloud, it gives us the ability to spin up many more cores, and basically get through the simulations much quicker. So on average, we’re up to two and a half thousand cores per design iteration. We went from 40 hours down to seven hours. So the time reduction and efficiency increase was huge. At times, we’re running up to 7000 cores, trying to calculate 2.4 billion cells, computing 2.4 billion single instances of Navier-Stokes equations.” 

The end result is dramatic, with additions that include new over-wheel winglets and a redesigned front wing, to direct air around rather than under the car. The previous car loses 35% of its downforce when 20 metres behind the lead car, which rises to 47% when only 10 metres away.

By contrast, the newly redesigned car loses just 4% at 20 metres and only 18% at 10 metres. So, the goal of wheel-to-wheel racing could be in sight, reports Smedley.

He says just looking at the car from last year vs this year, you can see a difference. The front wing design has clear aesthetic differences. The cars will race with 18-inch wheels, instead of 13-inch wheels. The sidewall reduction will also be visible, more closely resembling a road car.

The front wing endplates can now create much less vorticity and less of an out washing front-wheel wake. This in itself creates significantly less turbulence to the car behind. The introduction of the wheel arches will help with the front wheel wake control to ensure less disturbance for the car behind.

The same is true for the wheel discs that are making a return to F1 after an absence of some years, says Smedley.

For those who are not technically skilled, we asked Smedley to explain the new design as if it were to a child or grandmother.

He summed up the changes this way, “We used data to design a car that we believe will increase the wheel-to-wheel action, meaning the head-to-head competition, against others on the track.”

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