Formula 1 and HANA: How F1 Racing is Pioneering Big Data Analytics

Jeremy Stierwalt Car

By Trey Morrow
Practice Director, SAP Analytics Architecture
Optimal Solutions an NTT Data Company

 Over the past two years, Formula 1 has taken the US by storm. Shortly before its introduction in Austin, TX in 2012, I began following it with a passion. Watching those machines accelerate from 0-100 MPH and back to 0 in mere seconds is a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. Formula 1 is at the automotive forefront and many of the advanced engineering technologies realized in Formula 1 work their way down to the cars you and I drive daily; leading to drastic improvements in fuel efficiency and safety. Until recently, I did not realize that Formula 1 not only trail blazes the world of automotive technology, but is at the cutting edge of Big Data and Analytics and that those knowledge gains are expanding to completely different industries.

Upon attending my first race in 2012 I was immediately drawn to the behavior of the Race Teams and Engineers.  The Team’s Crew Chiefs and Engineers were all huddled in their respective pit areas around multiple computer screens, right there track side. Of course my immediate though was “I’ll bet we could do some serious analytics with that data!” Every time the cars would pass by at 200+ MPH I caught myself thinking about the vast amounts performance data available to the Race Teams: acceleration, G-forces, body roll, down force, RPMs, oil pressures, fuel consumption, horsepower numbers, torque numbers, tire pressures, track temperatures….my head started to spin….and then I smiled.  It was right there in front of my eyes; Analytics on the fly at 200+ MPH…. Yes please.

What I hadn’t realized is that the game was already afoot. Red Bull and Red Bull Racing were ramp-up customers for SAP HANA. They were already using BW on HANA for global real-time cost analysis and Red Bull was actually the first SAP BW on HANA customer to go live. In fact, they went live within 48 hours of its release. Similarly, Red Bull Racing has been using SAP HANA to capture live data from Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber’s Formula 1 cars.  Each car has over 100 telemetry sensors that continually feed live data to the Race and Engineering Teams. At the Red Bull Racing headquarters in the UK, additional members of the Race and Engineering Teams are actually engaged in live analytics not only during track testing, but time trials and during the actual race itself. The specific data that is actually being captured is a trade secret for Red Bull Racing, but they are definitely doing it right given Vettel’s dominance in the sport in recent years.

Evidence of the true value of Big Data and rapid Analytics in practice is abound.  One such case in point occurred during the first lap of the Brazilian Championship in 2012. Vettel’s car sustained damage on the first lap of the race. Immediately analyzing the telemetry, the Race and Engineering Teams were able to determine the extent of the damage and not only were they able to quickly determine the car could continue racing, the Race Team was further able to determine the full extent of the damage.  So rapid was this analysis that the required replacement parts were identified and quickly made available to the Pit Crew, ready to be installed on Vettel’s upcoming pit stop just minutes later. Vettel was able to move his way up to 6th (from last place) and retain his world championship points status. That, my friends is the power of Analytics and live data.

Similarly, The McLaren Race Team deploys over 160 telemetry sensors in each car which feed in excess of 1GB of live telemetry data into an SAP HANA database during each race. In addition to analyzing the data as the race progresses, the Race Team is able to run advanced analytics on the performance characteristics of specific parts in a tested environment. Lessons learned from each race are rapidly determined, allowing the McLaren Race Team to implement changes for the next race in the circuit.

Taking Big Data and Analytics to the next level, McLaren has applied the knowledge gained from SAP HANA and telemetry and created a business model which is being applied to completely different industries. McLaren is currently working with GlaxoSmithKline on human telemetry projects.  One such project of the joint venture is the monitoring ICU patients in hospital settings and is leading to increased response times to emergency situations. This model has also recently been deployed at Birmingham hospital in the UK (link below). McLaren has also built a telemetry system for San Francisco’s BART rail system, providing engineers with live analysis and performance data for the city’s transit system.

Jeremy stierwalt 2


I was simply amazed at how Big Data and Analytics were revolutionizing the racing industry.  In a world where just tenths of a second can be the difference a win and watching the podium finishers from the sidelines SAP HANA is leading the way.  Upon realizing these same analytics were not only leading to race victories but being modeled to improve rapid transit safety and saving the lives of ICU patients I was just as agape as I was the first time I saw that Formula 1 machine pass by me at 200+ MPH.


Formula 1 sells it’s big data knowhow:
Red Bull’s 2012 SAPPHIRE presentation- BW on HANA:
Mclaren’s High Speed Data Analytics Formula 1 Advantage:
Mclaren’s SAP HANA Human Telemetry:

Leave a Reply