How Top Teams Handle Power Distribution In A Formula One Garage
With the racing season well underway, Britain is all geared up for the start of Formula One. And while it’s undeniably thrilling to see cars racing their way round the track, what you don’t always see is the massive amount of power and data that goes into that. At Rubber Box, our electrical distribution equipment has been chosen by several top Formula One teams for race days, so we have some idea of the expectations demanded of them.
What Gets Power In A Formula One Team’s Garage?
Out of everything that needs on-site power in a Formula One garage, by far the biggest demand for effective power distribution is the team’s mobile datacentre. When you’re watching the marvel of engineering that is a Formula One car whizzing round a hairpin bend, it can be easy to forget the massive amount of computing power it takes to make that possible.
The job of the datacentre is to provide engineers and analysts reams upon reams of data, statistics and telemetry to help them draw every last scrap of engineering power from that car to optimise its performance to the absolute highest level. In a sport where even a fraction of a second can make the difference between winning or losing, data is everything, and the pressure of on-site adjustments mean that those datacentres have to deal with massive quantities of information and run at top speed and at nothing less than 100% reliability. It’s no wonder that even smaller F1 teams manage daily processing power that outstrips even large corporations.
The datacentres themselves comprise stacks upon stacks of computers and processors, with whole walls of the garage usually covered completely in monitors. The exact specifications and measurements of the garage are sent to the team before they hit the site on race day (they don’t get to visit beforehand), so they’ve got time to lay out how they’re going to set it all up, using power distribution systems to build their complete infrastructure from the ground up in a matter of just a few hours. It’s amazing, when you think about it.
What Kind Of Demands Do Our Power Distros Have To Withstand?
To give you an idea of the sort of pressure on the electrical distribution equipment (including ours!) that goes into building these datacentres, one leading team estimated they have at least 200 sensors and cameras on one of their cars. Some of the data from these is stored and taken back to analyse later, but most of it is used and acted upon during the course of the race itself. The datacentres make millions of calculations in the course of a single race, keeping engineers posted on the state of temperatures, strain gauges, pressure sensors, fluid levels, and much, much more.
That means a need for low latency and flawless reliability from the systems – and by extension, the power distros – themselves. During a race weekend, it’s estimated that a single team collects more than 80GB of data; and through completely standard hardware (apart from the occasional military-spec connectors). There just isn’t room for even the smallest of outages – as one senior engineer said recently in an interview: “if we haven’t got the back end systems, we just can’t send the car out onto the track”.
Remember, everything the engineers do is about optimising performance – whether it’s windy, rainy, dry, hot, humid or storming. That means constantly adjusting and re-adjusting, as well as the pressure of modifying their cars to stay ahead of all the other teams also trying to do exactly that. Some commentators have noted that all this competitive pressure creates a technical side of F1 racing that’s on a par with the mobile phone sector – one of the fastest-moving industries in the world. Therefore scalability for their electrical distribution equipment is a must, as they continually upgrade their datacentres alongside their cars.
What’s more, as is the case with music festivals, once the event is over teams are given very little time to pack up their equipment and vacate the garage. That means mobility of their equipment is equally important; after a Sunday afternoon race, the garage is left completely gutted and empty by midnight. That’s some serious organisational power!
At Rubber Box, we’re proud to have had our products feature heavily in the setups of several major F1 teams. As you can see, not many industries get more demanding than this, and the success they’ve had in meeting the demand just goes to show the quality and versatility of the power distribution systems in our product range.
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