Finding ‘Glitches’ in the Matrix

4.9 mins

The highly anticipated third season of the Formula 4 South East Asia (F4 SEA) Championship – fueled by Petron – is gearing up for an amazing kick-off on July 8th and 9th 2018. The Sepang circuit will come alive as young drivers from all over the world prepare to battle each other.  F4SEA provides expert guidance from skilled coaches and engineers who use the in-built data acquisition systems to help drivers progress. Let’s investigate further.

For a driver’s lap time to be diagnosed, engineers need to first download and process the data from the F4 car’s central ‘brain’ or Data Logger. “Oil temperature, coolant temperature, oil pressure, fuel pressure, battery voltage, air compressor pressure, gear shifter pressure and engine speed (RPM) are some of the data points we get from sensors placed all over the car. These inputs help engineers to coach drivers and diagnose any problems,” explained Azizul Azfar, F4 SEA data engineer. 

For example, while the driver is out on the track, the car is constantly logging numerous vital data points on-the-fly. When the driver pulls in and the data has been downloaded, he can check his performance, right down to the millisecond. Engineers are able to communicate to drivers the best places to brake, accelerate, turn and shift gears.

This graph is what F4 SEA’s data engineers see when they retrieve data from the car.

“The sensors on the car give engineers the data, which can be plotted on a graph such as the one pictured above. These will tell you all your temperatures and pressures. However, there is another set of inputs we look at as well. These are the driver inputs such as steering angle, brake force (pressure) and throttle positioning, which allow us to see everything that happens in the car. For example if the coolant temperature is low, then the driver is not making enough power. So we can tell the driver that he needs to throttle up and push harder” explains Tan Lip Han, F4 SEA data engineer.

However the real issue comes when for example, a driver is simultaneously braking and accelerating. This driving style can and will cause irreversible damage to the race car’s drivetrain and might cause a driver to miss a race.

For any driver facing difficulty with their lap times, engineers can access yet another graph which shows performance based on steering angles, brake pressure, acceleration and so on. They can then compare the weaker driver’s lap statistics with that of a faster driver; this allows novice drivers to pinpoint their mistakes and take action. Thus, the less experienced drivers can learn from the fastest, and develop their racecraft.

Data engineers and the information collected from the cars are crucial to victory and advancement. In other areas of the sport, data is one of the most well-guarded secrets in the industry. In the realm of Formula One, such data is highly classified, and any loss or leakage could mean millions of dollars and podiums down the drain. However, F4 SEA employs an Open-Data policy which means that all drivers can view and analyse the data of all the others. This is an advantage unique to F4 SEA – the premier junior driver development championship in Asia.

Be sure to catch all the non-stop action from F4 SEA’s young racers as they take on event 1 come the 8th to 9th July 2018. Follow the various social media platforms of F4 SEA to get up to speed with the 2018 season.