Telemetry Data Journey F1


Compare your data journey with Formula 1 telemetry


How will we make our data count? This simple question brings forth a huge number of considerations for an effective telemetry data journey. In Formula 1 these include a wide variety of parameters:

  • Intense pressure for real time analysis and response
  • Huge data rates
  • Available frequencies and acceptable latency
  • System reliability in hostile environments
  • Regulatory constraints


How is the telemetry data acquired?

Each car has 120+ sensors. These measure everything from oil, water, exhaust and tyre temperatures to speed, engine revs per minute (RPM), clutch fluid pressure, G-force and even the driver’s heartbeat.

The number of sensors isn’t exact because from track to track and from practice to race they are added or removed depending on need.

Data is collected in the Electronic Control Unit which is ‘the brain’ of the car, it also acts as the primary logger recording more than 500 parameters. The data is sent via the telemetry antenna back to the pits in real time.

The cars also have a high performance logger with 1Gb memory taking up to 200 channels at a maximum sample rate of 1KHz per channel.

The most recent data is buffered, so if communication fails, the car keeps retrying until it is completed.

Telemetry data is also combined with radio and video footage and transmitted in a separate feed for media coverage, administrative and safety requirements.

In addition, the cars have a separate telemetry system that provides race control with the GPS location of the cars on the track. This allows them improve safety by reducing the response time to send flag signals to the different parts of the circuit.






How communications work

Data is sent from the car to rf receivers placed around the circuit to give full coverage. The system uses between 1,000 and 2,000 wireless telemetry channels, at 1.5 GHz frequency or similar, as allowed by the host city’s authorities. The typical transmission delay is just 2 milliseconds.

For each race the amount of collected data is in the range of 1.5 billion of samples. Since they also collect the same amount for each training day, the total amount of collected data is in the range of the 5 billion samples. During a 90 minute session the team will collect between 5 and 6 gigabytes of raw compressed format data from the one car.

The data is then decoded and converted into a signal that can be understood by a PC. It goes through a data server system, one for each team, called ATLAS (Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System, developed by McLaren Electronic Systems).

The dataserver operates as a central server of the decoded data to distribute it over the team’s local ethernet network. Any appropriately configured PC computer, running ATLAS software, can simply connect to the network and receive data from the telemetry receiver server.

The simple ethernet architecture of the data distribution network also lends itself to an ease of sending the live telemetry back to the factory to engineers and strategists. Data is referred to in two forms; “Telemetry” is live data, and “Historic” is logged data or also backfilled telemetry.


How the data is presented

In the pits the data is studied by a team of data engineers who relay any important information they discover to the race engineer who relays it to the driver. Race strategy is computed with dedicated software performing several thousands of whole-race simulations per lap for each car.

The data is also sent in real time to engineers at the team HQ. These engineers include aerodynamicists, design engineers, hydrologists, and electronics and structural engineers.

The User Interface has to take into account the needs of the high pressure real time nature of race day and the deep analysis required in the following weeks and months. As a result there are a number of displays and interfaces. These include:

  • Waveform: shows several parameters as waveforms in an oscilloscope format.
  • Circuit: shows the location of the car on a map of the circuit. Can be customised to show data at various selected points on the track.
  • Scatter: shows the relationship of pairs of parameters in a cross plot.
  • Loadmap: shows a 3D plot of one parameter against another. The third dimension is indicated by a colour and shows the proportion of time spent with both parameters in the specified ranges.
  • Histogram: shows the distribution of a parameter against time
  • Summary: shows statistics on selected parameters for the whole session arranged by lap, section or segment
  • FFT: performs frequency analyses on the data. The results can be shown as Fast Fourier transforms, Transfer functions or Correlations
  • Map: shows logged data superimposed on a 3D wire frame of a 2D map
  • InPlace: allows ActiveX controls to run within the ATLAS environment.








sauber steering wheel


What automatic feedback system is there to the Engine Management System?

Until 2008 engineers could make adjustments to the cars set up directly during the race. However, to preserve the integrity of ‘driver racing’ all adjustments have since had to be made by the driver.

This is why the steering wheels have gone from a wheel with maybe two buttons on it (for the radio and additional boost), to a control panel with multiple dials buttons and displays which also happens to control the front wheels.

Engineers are currently allowed to relay certain information to the driver by radio to aid his selection of adjustments.

However, there is one area of telemetry feedback to the car. It is for activating the DRS (Drag Reduction System).

To aid overtaking DRS was introduced in 2011. It allows the driver to adjust the rear wing to reduce drag and increase top speed.

The system can only be deployed in certain circumstances, communicated by telemetry.

When two or more cars pass over  timing loops in the surface of the track (typically at the beginning of a straight), if the following car is less than one second behind, then it will be sent an encrypted signal  that allows the driver to deploy DRS.

Is your telemetry data journey like Formula 1’s? I thought not,but like Formula 1 we suspect you believe in continuous improvement, so do we, so why not talk to us about how we could help improve your data journey.