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IBM HPC Gives Red Bull Racing the Competitive Edge

IBM Spectrum Suite helps Aston Martin Red Bull Racing test car adjustments and plan for contigencies.

Alexander Albon of Thailand drives the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Sept. 1 in Spa, Belgium.

Alexander Albon of Thailand drives the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Sept. 1 in Spa, Belgium., Image by Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Watching the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Formula One (F1) Racing Team—either at a track on or television—it’s easy to focus on the car, driver and pit crew. However, more than 700 people make up the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team, and most of them never see the track on race day. 

Instead, they work at the Milton Keynes factory designing car updates, building components, analyzing data, creating simulations and determining race strategy. 

A Data-Driven Team 

“Throughout the racing season, the engineers at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing focus on optimizing the design of the car to ensure maximum performance at each circuit,” says Douglas O’Flaherty, director of IBM Storage product marketing. Data analysis drives this process and software from IBM’s Spectrum* Suite supports key parts of the process.

The design process begins as parts are modelled using computer aided design (CAD) tools; then computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulates air flow. Because of F1 regulations limiting on-track testing time, testing in the digital world (rather than on track) has become the main focus of car development. The regulations also limit the amount of wind tunnel testing time and compute that can be used for CFD. This means that teams must efficiently use the resources they have, including access to large amounts of real-time and historical data. To ensure that the team has access to both the data and insights at any given time, data is always at the core of the team’s processes and decisions.   

Gathering Data With Every Lap

The CFD process has been automated using IBM Spectrum LSF, enabling the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team to increase CFD workflows by 30%. 

When these new parts hit the track for the first time during the practice sessions on the Friday of a race weekend, the team receives performance data from the car. This data enables comparison back to the original lap and CFD simulations, which allow the team to optimize car build and race set up.   

All of this data—whether if it’s CFD simulations or lap simulations—needs to be stored. By using the IBM Spectrum Tools, Spectrum Scale and Protect, the team’s storage is intelligently shaped for the best use of available resources. Engineers can then focus on car design and race strategy instead of the management of its high-performance computing (HPC) environment.

Every race, there are literally millions of race simulations that must be run—both before and during the race. The data helps the humans make the best decisions.
Douglas O'Flaherty, director of IBM Storage product marketing

Making Data-Based Decisions 

Alongside preparing the car for the race, the team is also busy creating the right strategy for each driver. IBM Spectrum Symphony* manages the millions of race “what-if” simulations to ensure the race strategists have the right data. However, a multitude of parameters feed into this—none more important than the weather. The Weather Company, an IBM business, provides hyper-local forecasting to support the team’s race engineers and to influence key race decisions, such as when to pit stop and tire compound choices.

During Sunday’s finals, the team uses distributed HPC-like computing to power predictive intelligence to make split-second decisions based on what’s happening on the track at that exact moment—in the car, with other competitors and the weather. The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team has access to not only broad local forecasts from The Weather Channel, but also to micro-level information, such as the movement of local rain cells. 

“Every race, there are literally millions of race simulations that must be run—both before and during the race. The data helps the humans make the best decisions,” says O’Flaherty.

A Model for Creating a Data-Centered Business 

In many ways, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team itself is a microcosm for a data-driven business in any industry. O’Flaherty says that the team is, first and foremost, a top-end manufacturing and logistics company that has to make critical business decisions—analytical, budgetary, competitive and regulatory to be prepared for each of the season’s 21 races.

“While it’s easy to assume that the team’s success lies on the speed of the car, the culture of the team makes race day success possible. As the team is so data driven, it’s crucial that they leverage the expertise of Innovation Partners like IBM to have the right tools for success,” O’Flaherty says. 

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