India’s relationship with Formula One goes beyond Sahara Force India. A surprising, and quite crucial national connect forms the backbone of Formula 1 and how it functions on a day-to-day basis.
Now in their fourth year as F1’s official communications partners, Tata Communications have a stronger presence in the sport than ever.
Sportskeeda spoke to Mehul Kapadia, Managing Director of F1 Business at Tata Communications in an interview, where he spoke about what really goes on behind the scenes.
Vijay Mallya-owned Force India are now an established F1 team, and they continue what has been a solid season for the team this year. Currently in fifth position among the constructors, the team will look to consolidate their 5th place and finish the year midway through the standings.
Although the team did not have a good showing at the recently concluded Singapore Grand Prix, with neither making it to Q3 and Nico Hulkenberg crashing out of the race, Sergio Perez finished in P7 today to keep Force India 5th among the constructors with 69 points, broadening their lead over Lotus, who are now at 50 as Grosjean retired, while Maldonado finished outside the points at the race.
Essential to the sport is telemetry – the collection and transfer of crucial data that teams need to consolidate and understand performances. It provides an insight into issues with vehicles and how they can be improved in subsequent races.
Earlier this month, McLaren estimated at least 100GB of data being transferred per race for each team. That, multipled tenfold across every team, in addition to race data requires connectivity that is both quick and reliable.
Tata are responsible for all of Formula 1’s connectivity, keeping their website running and transfer high resolution images live in race-time to viewers. Most crucial, however, is the real-time transfer of predictive data, or telemetry. It’s used in aviation, space exploration, aeronautics and across motorsport.
Telemetry helps teams determine, understand and better alter their already-existing pit-stop strategy to suit the needs of the race, drivers and accomodate several other factors into understanding it.
Data collection is so precise that teams can use the information to calculate the expected lap time of a car given nearly every mitigating factor. This data then helps drivers meet the targets they need to in order to keep their race pace and look for potential wins or podium spots.
Temperatures are another crucial part of telemetry, and data shows even the smallest rise in engine or track temperature, the latter of which could significantly alter a team’s pit strategy depending on changes to tyre degradation. There are entire teams dedicated to the curation, handling and analysis of this data, and although FIA regulations do not permit this information to be relayed back to the driver, team bosses can then alter strategy or give drivers changed instructions for the race.
Drivers are subject to g-forces whilst on track, which result when cars change direction while at high speed, and every single byte of this information needs to be relayed to teams instantly – requiring immense bandwidth to do so. It’s often also instantly relayed to team headquarters – in their home countries. This posed an extra challenge in the isolated island-nation of Singapore, but Kapadia says they were able to surmount this obstacle, too.
They currently also provide connectivity to Mexico and Russia, which will play host to two of the six remaining Grands Prix this year, with only two races until Sochi hosts Formula One.
With fans’ best interests at heart, Tata are also looking at crowdsourcing solutions to improve Formula One connectivity. Viewers and F1 enthusiasts can make their issues felt, and these concerns will be addressed by their communications team – who have been working closely with some of the biggest names in Formula One – among them reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, former drivers David Coulthard, Martin Brundle and John Morrison, who is the Chief Technical Officer at Formula One Management (FOM).
Iconic F1 engineer Paddy Lowe also works closely with the communications team in addition to being the executive director of Mercedes AMG Petronas.
“We’re trying to get information and data out there,” says Kapadia. “The idea is to pass the data on to the consumer – whether it’s on the cellphone, or a tablet, or any other device they wish to use. We want to tap into network capabilities and get consumers what they need.”
Viewers who do not have television access to Formula One races could perhaps have positive news – Kapadia says that they could, in the future, view Formula One on their personal devices as Tata look to utilise all networks have to offer to bring the race to more people worldwide.
With a significant move away from traditional media to handheld personal devices, this looks to be a positive step.
“India could be one of our biggest F1 markets,” says Kapadia. Although F1 has a fan following in the country, it is eclipsed, as are many other sports, by cricket. “Cricket’s huge, but we hope Formula One will be bigger here too,” he tells us.