Tech Talk: Formula 1 telemetry explained


8 August 2014 by TF1T Staff | M
          

When a driver says "I'm going to study my data and my team-mates to see where we can improve", it doesn't exactly tell us a lot. The world of Formula 1 telemetry is a confusing one to the untrained eye.

So with the help of Kimi Raikkonen's data engineer, Giuliano Salve, and some data provided by Ferrari from 2013, we're going to try our best to explain what all those squiggly lines actually mean.

The first telemetry graphic shows a single driver's lap, whilst the second has an overlay of their team-mates.

The Parameters: Before explaining the comparison graphic (click to enlarge) lets look at what parameters are covered on the sole driver graphic.

The first line from the top relates to gears, showing which one is engaged. As you can see on the graphic above, sixth gear is engaged as the driver crosses the start/finish line and then he almost immediately shifts up to seventh.

The second shows steering: when it’s stable it means the driver is travelling in a straight line. When the line peaks downwards, the driver is turning right and vice versa.

The third line indicates the use of DRS, the rear wing flap that can be opened in qualifying and the race when the car in front is less than one second ahead. As can be seen on the graphic, the track in use features a DRS area on the main straight and another after the first corner on a slight left-hander as shown by the steering line.

The fourth line shows use of the throttle pedal: it features a double line as it shows both the input from the driver and that from the electronic control system. In this particular case, it can be seen that both cars start the lap with full throttle because they are on the straight. Then one can see that the power curve from the engine drops and hits the rev limiter. This occurs when an electronic mapping cuts the power, independently of any action from the driver, in order to protect the engine.

Complementary Lines: Still looking at the graphic, one can see two lines that are more or less complementary, in that when one goes up the other goes down and vice versa. These relate to speed and braking input. In the second part of the lap one can see some points when the curve of the speed line is not as steep as at others.

Now lets go to the lower part of the graphic, where other important information can be found. The serrated line indicates a load cell, a reference point that is useful especially when making comparisons to understand the difference between the trajectories of the two drivers and thus correct any aspects that could be slowing the lap.

The black line shows wind direction, which has to be constantly monitored so that the car can be set up according to whether the wind is head on or lateral, while the green line shows a load cell, monitoring if the plank, made of wood and positioned under the car, is touching the ground.

The final line relates to KERS, a device which mutated into ERS in 2014, although now it is no longer under the direct control of the driver. With this graphic, one can follow its use and when it is being recharged, thus supplying a further 80 horsepower for a few seconds each lap.

The Comparison: In the comparison graphic (click to enlarge), one can see the different driving styles of the two drivers. The blue and the red driver display minimal differences over a lap, producing almost identical graphics, but if one looks deeper into the management of the throttle and brake and look at the speed graph, one can spot interesting differences.

Looking at the first part of the speed and brake line, one can see that the red driver is harder on the brakes, but quicker to get back on the throttle, as soon as he’s passed the apex of the corner. On the other hand, the blue driver has a more gentle style, braking slightly earlier but with less force, which results in him scrubbing off less speed under braking. In fact, in the throttle and brake graphic there is an extra line, a comparison of the lap time of both drivers. The engineers continuously compare the efforts of both drivers to try and get the best possible result. It’s all down to thousandths of a second, but that’s how one improves, closing gaps that might even be measured in seconds and help a driver get to the top.

Telemetry provided by Ferrari.

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