Tag Archives: Technology

Formula One: Arm the Sprinklers!

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Formula One returns to Paul Ricard this weekend for the first French Grand Prix in twenty years. The legendary circuit redeveloped in the early 2000’s under the guidance of former CEO Phillipe Gurdjian, has in recent years become a venue of choice for Formula One tyre development testing and was the logical home for the return of Formula One to its spiritual home of France.

Redevelopment of the Paul Ricard circuit was initially focused on the venue hosting racing testing and development programmes. Succesful completion of this objective came in the form of the FIA awarded the circuit as First Centre of Excellence for Motor Sport Safety. This recognition comes in part due to the layout of the circuit, it’s approach to run off areas and ability to sustainably simulate dynamic weather situations. As mentioned in an early article here on JWGP available here.

Whilst the venue’s approach to vehicle safety, through large tarmac covered run-off areas, perfectly lends itself to performance testing, minimising the risk of a driver being penalised for on-track errors and will likely lead to teams pushing the boundaries of track limits throughout the Grand Prix weekend. Coupled with this, the current philosophy surrounding Formula One aerodynamics have left many well informed observers to suggest overtaking will be somewhat of a challenge through the race:

With this in mind Formula One is at risk of a fourth successive event in which on track excitement looks set to be minimal. But worry not, there is a solution! As mentioned the Paul Ricard HTTT (High Tech Test Track) has a visionary trick up its sleeve, under the guidance of previous circuit owner Bernie Ecclestone and more recently his ex-wife Slavica, the circuit has an inbuilt sprinkler system.

The system is capable of simulating a multitude of wet weather scenarios at the touch of a button. Formula One returning to France and Paul Ricard offers owners Liberty Media the ability to bring to life the long-promised proposal from Mr Ecclestone to spice up Formula One through the use of sprinklers! (check out some of  his other proposals here)

Of course, with no announcement of such trial being made prior to the race weekend, Liberty Media will have to manufacture a scenario in which the magic sprinkler system can be activated by mistake thus creating global media coverage for an otherwise uninspiring event.  Winne Harlow, what are you up to this weekend? 😉

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Formula One: KangarooTV Returns!

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In 2006, incredibly over a decade ago, I travelled to the Italian Grand Prix with my then girlfriend, now wife, her sister and my future best man. Alongside watching Lewis Hamilton secure his GP2 title and Michael Schumacher retire for the first time, we experienced technology which we felt was going to revolutionise Formula One for the race attending fan. KangarooTV!

KangarooTV offered race attending fans a service in which you were able to rent a handheld device from onsite vendors which received the FOM world feed and commentary via transmitters located around the circuit. In the seasons following Kangaroo TV which went on to become FanVision and became a stable of our Grand Prix experiences. As geeks, we happily wasted a Friday walking through the forests surrounding Spa to test the strength of the transmission. When KangarooTV FanVision’s agreement with FOM was not extended, from memory 3-4 years after the introduction, We were extremely disappointed.

Seeing the Formula One press release yesterday announcing the return of FanVision created mixed emotions. On the one hand, this is fantastic for the race attending fan. The service enables fans at the race a way in which to follow the race, without needing to watch a repeat when they get home, but the technology is over 12 years old! Formula One is meant to present the Pinnacle of Motorsport, this by definition means the product offering should be at the forefront of technological advances.

I expected the 2018 FanVision to be a device agnostic solution. FanVision should be a service race attending fans can access via their phones through the ticket in their eWallet. Long range wireless charging should encompass the circuit on a 5G Network. All of this should be sponsored by the leading telecommunications provider of the country the race is located. FanVision should be a tool for technology leaders to bring to life the latest tech aimed at improving our day to day lives.

So with the formal announcement of the return of FanVision, I’m calling out longterm F1 partners Tata Communications, and team partners; Qualcomm, Microsoft, AMD, IBM, Acronis, Kaspersky.  As a lifelong fan of F1 and a bit of Technology Geek, I expected more!

To Sean Bratches & Albert Goma, “Engineered Insanity” is not reintroducing decade old tech. Formula One should do better than this, and to be honest, Formula E would do better than this.

For more on the return of FanVision in F1 or to hire a unit for your own Grand Prix plans this season head to Discover Grand Prix via this link

Formula One: Hamilton talks to the fans

A relaxed Lewis Hamilton took part in a Facebook Live event hosted by Mercedes AMG Petronas sponsor Epson earlier today. During the session Lewis took live questions from followers across social media.

Sharing insights on his favourite circuit, Macau and the Nordscheife, details on how a mistake in qualifying in Brazil 2015 cost him pole, and how he values having an input in the team look, it could be suggested the session was of higher quality than interviews conducted by professional elements of the media of late.

With the FIA calling Lewis Hamilton to the Thursday drivers press conference for the second race in succession it will be interesting to see if the media can extract a similar level of engagement.

Formula E: Qualcomm on the perfect partnership

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With the second season of Formula E having concluded around the tight and twisty confides of Battersea Park, JWGP sat down with Graeme Davison, VIP of Technology for Qualcomm Europe, to discuss Qualcomm’s involvement with the sport and intriguing plans for the future.

Qualcomm are a founding partner to Formula E. Qualcomm operate as series investors, sponsors and technology providers. They are committed to the success of Formula E. The first engagement between Qualcomm and Formula E took place 4 years ago through a meeting in which Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag presented the concept of the series to Graeme in a meeting in San Diego. For Qualcomm, Formula E ticked a number of boxes they saw as crucial to their own development plans. The series offers a strong Sustainability and Environmental message, it creates a platform to make EV (Electric Vehicle) technology fun and interesting, and it brings motor racing to the City Centre, putting it in the hand of a more technology savvy younger audience.

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Through Graeme, Qualcomm act as a virtual technology officer for the series, providing support on technology challenges far beyond the remit of solutions Qualcomm are actively involved in.

Graeme speaks with great pride over the achievements he has seen in the first two seasons of Formula E, reflecting on the first day of testing for the series

I’ve seen it since the first laps of testing in Donnington in which the only car to complete a lap was the rescue truck. Now we find ourselves at the end of the second season, with the championship so closely contented. It’s been fantastic”

On the success of the series Graeme continues:

“The uptake from fans and OEMS (original equipment manufacturers, e.g. Renault, Citroen) coming to the series and looking at how Formula E can act as a showcase for their EV technology and development. Quality of sponsors coming in is amazing. The championship has gone from strength to strength to strength, It has been amazing”

We went on to explore what it is about Formula E that is attracting so many premium sponsors to the sport:

“As a new series, partners can make more of a mark, a unique name and stance coming to the sport than they can coming to F1. Sponsors look for different things from different partnerships. With Formula E they see a different age group, different emphasis on Technology possibly closer to that you might expect to see with the end user.”

Qualcomm are involved in both Formula E and Formula One, using each platform in different ways. They see a clear advantage to being involved in both categories. When discussing who Qualcomm are looking to appeal to with their Formula E involvement Graeme commented:

“The Formula E demographic is a younger audience. The series is targeting the city dweller that wants to walk or use public transport to come to a race. Fanboost proves social interaction works, it’s very much a marmite topic, you either love it or hate it. When teams first started communicating on Fanboost it would be a tweet in Friday before the race, now you see teams running competitions, fan days, complete fan team immersion. What the teams are seeing is that the audience receptive to this engagement are generally the younger markets. That being said, if you take a look around a event today what you find is a complete cross section of followers form the hard-core racing fan, to the younger generation. “

So what do Qualcomm actually do in Formula E, and how is it developing?

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The Qualcomm Formula E relationship is at an event level so it’ about changing the event experience. What’s in it for the fan’s the sponsor’s, for everybody watching worldwide.

Since the inception of the series, Qualcomm have developed and supplied wireless charging solutions for the BMW i8 Safety car, through season 2 and into season 3 they will continue to work on the development of the safety car arena and the wireless charging. BMW are looking at making some changes on the car, Qualcomm implemented power changes between season 1 & 2, increasing the amount of energy being transferred across. A complete charge takes around 60 minutes, with BMW increasing the power and battery size of the safety car in season 2 Qualcomm increased the amount of energy transfer to maintain the charge time.

Qualcomm are working with Formula E on a number of other topics, but at this time were not in a position to disclose too much information on the projects.

One area Graeme was able to discuss was that of wireless charging in the pitlane

“We are looking at what’s involved in putting wireless charging on the race cars. Many factors must be considered to achieve this including; new materials, space requirements, weight requirements and costs. The added complexity when working with an entire series is that you are working with 10 teams, and working to ensure solutions are built into rules and regulations

It’s more than a technology thing, it’s understanding the entire picture. We have completed analysis on the car and what could be done from a technology stand point. We now need to continue the conversation with Formula E on how and when we do it.  Then you have the question of where does it fit in the series? Do we put it in the pit lane so cars can charge while they are parked outside, which wouldn’t be possible under current safety regulations, but would attractive for fans and sponsors, with the cars being on display for greater periods of time”

Thought is clearly being taken into not only finding a technology solution, but ensuring the application is positive for the series.

To round out our conversation JWGP asked Graeme about the ultimate boyhood gamer dream, Mario kart style boosts around a Formula E circuit:

“When Alexandro first came to Qualcomm he asked the question if they could ever have a fully electric track, so you could do a 24hr race. They question is not if but when!

Finally, a question on Roborace and autonomous driving in general

The relationship between Formula E and Roborace is a caretaker tenant relationship. Similar to the Porsche Supercup and F1. Formula E holdings have an asset of a track at events which they want to get more utilisation from to give fans a longer more diverse experience, do more with the track. Roborace is one of those things.

Wireless charging is fundamental to autonomous driving. An autonomous car has to use wireless charging; you can’t expect the technology to find a way to plug itself in.  Qualcomm can support this requirement, It forms part of the Qualcomm autonomous technology toolbox, with automotive snapdragon processor chips, neural networking learning chips, censoring technology that sits on the car, image recognition and computer vision, they are all research programmes that Qualcomm talk about regularly, then the connectivity challenge. Autonomous cars will require 4G and 5G connectivity to function so Qualcomm are looking at ways to support this. Qualcomm can provide these tools to the automotive manufacturers bringing this to the road or to activities such as Roborace. We provide the fundamental building blocks for autonomy, the car manufacturer comes along to utilise the ingredients to make the finished product.

My thanks to Qualcomm and Graeme Davison for taking the time to talk to JWGP on Formula E and the future of Qualcomm within the series.

You can follow Qualcomm on Twitter here and Graeme here.

I look forward to reconnecting with Graeme and the Qualcomm team in the near future to discuss in more detail plans for season 3 of Formula E.