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An Inside Look into Formula One Race Strategy

Blog: The Tibco Blog

Each week, we tune in to see 20 drivers from 10 different teams battle it out on the Formula One™ race track. Each track is different, as are the race conditions from week to week. In light of changing race conditions, F1 drivers and teams need to constantly expect the unexpected, which is where race strategy comes into play. We sat down with Chief Strategist of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, James Vowles, to get an inside look into the team’s race strategy.

According to Vowles, race strategy is a task that is completed by a team of people with a mathematics or engineering background who look at a race in a probabilistic manner. With the vast amounts of data coming in, it is up to the race strategists to formulate every possible scenario that could happen in a race in order to prepare for what is to come.

Race strategy is made by both a team on the pit wall and back at the factory, analyzing information during a race. With the fast-paced nature of F1 racing, decisions sometimes have to be made in a matter of milliseconds. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport race strategists have a number of complex simulations and models that help them make the best decisions possible.

Vowles and the other strategists use the data that is available to understand what outcomes are realistic, what the team is fighting for, and what the stretch goal is. Because the data applied at one race track won’t apply at another, this makes it difficult to have a consistent race strategy throughout the season.

Multiple channels of data are taken into consideration to build the race strategy: engine, audio, video, GPS, and much more. Vowles and his team take close to 15 different sources of information into account to build a picture of what they are doing and how the competition is doing. This amounts to 250 gigabytes of data transmitted per car per race weekend. There is no single metric that the team aims for; their goal is to create systems that allow them to break down the data and construct data systems to understand how they are performing and what they need to change to improve.

An F1 team’s race strategy is ultimately predictive analytics; the race strategy team works to predict a winning outcome from raw data. With a team of experts across all areas, insights from the data are disseminated, allowing the team to move forward.

Read our full Q&A with James Vowles, Chief Strategist of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to gain more insight into F1 race strategy.


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