All eyes are on Miami this weekend as the international glitterati arrives for the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. The European racing event has attracted American fans in droves, thanks to the “Netflix effect” of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” — the successful franchise that’s spurred some of the most captivating rivalries in modern streaming and just been renewed for seasons 5 and 6.
That in turn has attracted a new class of tech sponsors, including Google, Amazon, Dell and Oracle, that can use their computing power to analyze the 100,000 data points these $20 million machines generate per second. That means the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is not only a celebration of speed, but the triumph of math, science and data each weekend from February through November.
Plus, the technology tested on the track — continually evolving due to the governing body’s ever-changing regulations — tends to trickle down into passenger cars, so what’s showcased today could be in showrooms tomorrow.
Here is the best tech we spotted at the Miami International Autodrome around Hard Rock Stadium this weekend.
McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 team benefits from partnerships with Google and Dell this year. Google put its mark on the MCL36 driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo with logos for Android and Chrome, whose primary colors spin around its wheel covers, which have returned to F1 cars for the first time since 2009 due to new regulations this season.
But the multiyear partnership goes deeper.
“This collaboration has the potential to solve big and complex engineering challenges — from improving the team’s telemetry and design capabilities through AI, to speeding up decision-making and safeguarding team communications using Android 5G,” Nicholas Drake, Google’s VP of marketing, wrote in to blog post.
The McLaren team also uses Android connected phones, tablets and earbuds to monitor performance from the pit, as well as Dell’s prototyping and simulation software.
“We’re in a constant state of rapid prototyping of our cars to make them go faster with data-driven engineering changes, on average about every 20 minutes,” Edward Green, principal digital architect at McLaren Racing, said in a statement.
Among the top five cars on the circuit, the margin between the fastest and slowest cars can be a razor-thin 0.15%, making the simulation power Dell provides integral to the team’s performance.
Red Bull Racing’s car may have the cure that will allow the team and driver Max Verstappen to defend the world title: Oracle Cloud software from its title sponsor that uses machine learning to analyze race-day variables, from when to make a pit stop to which kind of tires to use.
The software will analyze data points from Friday and Saturday’s practice laps at Hard Rock Stadium to simulate runs and decide the best course for Sunday. That’s especially important at new race tracks such as Hard Rock Stadium’s temporary, 19-turn F1 circuit where historical data doesn’t exist.
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez said that surface conditions in Miami Gardens were challenging. “There isn’t much grip off the racing line on this track,” Perez said after trailing in Friday’s practice sessions, “and it feels very seriously out there, too.”
The computing expertise also may help Red Bull solve a challenge facing most teams so far this season: a phenomenon called “porpoising” for the bouncing effect it produces as the cars travel at top speed on long straightaways. It’s an effect of the FIA rule changes for the 2022 season that give teams greater reign over underfloor dynamics to generate downforce.
Red Bull’s solution is a metal strip that adds stiffness and rigidity to the floor of the team’s RB18 race car. This “ice skate” design also acts as a skid that reduces flex once the underfloor has touched the track.
Mercedes AMG Petronas
After a disappointing start to the 2022 season, the long-dominant Mercedes team is debuting updates to its front and rear wings for the race in Miami.
FIA regulations that changed the design of the front and rear wings for 2022 and reintroduced a beam wing after a nine-year hiatus forced teams to reengineer their aerodynamic systems, especially for the front wing, which serves as the crucial first point of contact that directs air flow across the body. Mercedes’ upgrades intend to improve efficiency and reduce drag on the W13 race car driven by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
Russell led Friday afternoon’s second practice round, giving the team and its fans hope that Mercedes has worked out the kinks. Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Hamilton received a temporary exemption for the weekend to wear jewelry that he can’t remove easily, including a platinum nose ring, so the team can proceed full speed ahead.