Seeing and hearing a Formula 1 car screaming its way to victory raises the pulse rate of the sport’s many fans. Yet the telematics systems that enable race teams to get the very best performance from their cars and drivers, such as newly crowned F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, are helping to make driving safer and more efficient for everyone. Transport journalist Andrew Wills says we should be grateful.
When Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in fifth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend, he won sufficient race points to claim victory in the drivers’ championship, thereby becoming the youngest World Champion in Formula One motor racing history.
He left things very late. Driving into the final corner, he was in sixth place – insufficient to give him the points needed to win the drivers’ championship. In the circumstances he could have been forgiven for trying some rash maneuver in order to gain the points needed, but thanks to telematics Hamilton and his race team knew exactly what they were doing.
The McLaren race team had detailed telematics reports of the progress of each of the cars in the race. Hundreds of computerised sensors inside and outside the F1 car constantly deliver a stream of data, via trackside wireless technology, to the race engineers studying the banks of monitor screens on the pit wall.
They soon realized that Timo Glock was struggling to keep control in the wet conditions, because his Toyota Formula One car was still fitted with dry tyres. Through a radio link to Hamilton’s car they were able to keep him fully informed of what he needed to do.
Though Glock was several seconds ahead of Hamilton at the start of the final lap, the British driver soon caught up with him and was able to choose his time to overtake when Glock was forced through lack of grip to run wide on the final corner.
Now it could be argued that such technology removes some of the magic and mystery from the sport, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the skill and bravery of the drivers, who continue to perform incredible feats that are beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of us mere motorists.
For us comes the reassurance that many of the telematics systems that play such a key role in modern motor racing are paving the way for telematics systems that make more mundane driving safer, easier and less stressful.
Make no mistake, we are today only seeing the start of what telematics will one day provide for modern motorists. My guess is that many of the innovations we will see in future are beyond the imagination of most of us today – after all, who would have guessed 20 years ago that cars would one day become WiFi hotpots providing internet access to everything from traffic data to the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
One thing is for sure. The hot-house atmosphere of modern motor racing will continue to provide a fertile source of ideas and an unrivalled proving ground for tomorrow’s telematics developments.
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