INTERVIEW: Graeme Hackland has helped Williams F1 get the most from its data, now the team is looking towards automation to stay competitive
“I have rather wisely or unwisely decided that [by] 2020, the driver will be called in to pit by an artificial intelligence.”
That is the bold claim of Williams F1 CIO Graeme Hackland and demonstrates the continued importance of data analytics in the most technologically advanced of all sports.
In Motorsport Valley, an area of Oxfordshire and Midlands where the majority of teams are based, it is said that Formula One was doing big data before the term was even coined.
Hackland boasts that Williams even created the world’s first connected car, capable of gathering data that could be analysed later on to improve performance. Back then, the vehicle had a 64kb data logger and it took 20 minutes to download.
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In 2016, things are a bit more sophisticated. Up to 10GB of data is collected from a practice session alone, and 70-80GB of other data such as video analysis for pit stops must also be sent back from anywhere in the world to the team’s base in Grove.
Hackland has been in F1 for 20 years, first at Benneton, which became Renault, and now Williams. He was brought to the team by Claire Williams in 2013, tasked with making the most of this data as possible.
Unlike Mercedes, Red Bull or McLaren, Williams does not have the same financial clout and therefore technology is seen as a way of levelling the playing field.
“I was asked to look at the technology piece,” Hackland tells Silicon. “We have limited funding. The two main criteria are a winning F1 car and the performance of Williams advanced Engineering business because that has an impact [on the former].
“The nice thing about F1 … is it’s always been at the forefront of technology. We ware early adopters of 3D printing technology, probably a bit behind aerospace. We’ve always tried to drive things that have given us a quick turnaround or something that can make the car quicker.”
On the right track
Analysing this data can optimise races strategies and help the team of engineers construct parts. Simulating wind tunnel performance can keep the cost of making components down and help Williams stay competitive.
This is all the more important for the 2017 when the race regulations will change dramatically, as they do every couple of years. Teams receive details with very little notice before the season so any advantage is welcome.