Riedel Communications have been delivering Formula 1 trackside communications for over 25 years. But as racing car technology complexity has developed, Riedel have kept ahead of the curve, simplified workflows, and built networks that deliver security and ease of use.
To shave every fraction of a second off lap times, modern F1 cars harbor complex computer control and monitor systems to help drivers and their crews achieve optimum operating performance. Hundreds of sensors fitted around the car relay real-time information back to the pits where split second decisions win races.
Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA) govern Formula 1, set, and enforce the rules and regulations for the race. The current sporting and technical regulations consist of 175 pages of documents specifying everything from how to overtake during the race to the housing used for a cars on-board camera’s.
Car Telemetry IP Network
Each driver communicates with their team using encrypted RF transceivers and strict rules define who can speak to the driver. In addition, each car has over four hundred sensors that actively monitor aspects of the car including the engine, transmission, and tire performance, all generating continuous data every second.
Changes to the FIA rules in 2003 witnessed the end of two-way telemetry where teams could remotely adjust and change how the car performed during the race. To maintain healthy competition, the FIA stopped two-way telemetry but allowed one-way live monitoring to relay data from the car back to the team.
Positional information of the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals are sampled and stored to help the FIA resolve driver and team complaints. A driver may be accused of a dangerous maneuver or the FIA may need to understand who was responsible for an accident. All telemetry data is received and recorded from every car during the race.
In addition to the radio communications and telemetry data, strict rules are enforced in the pit garages. Once a car has completed qualifying and adjudication, the cars cannot be altered or changed prior to the race. Again, the FIA enforce these rules without compromise.
Teams are limited to sixty people at the race-track. This includes drivers, engineering, operations, organizers, and PR. But many more people and computer analysis systems are required to monitor the performance of each car during testing, qualifying, and the race itself. Consequently, all the live monitoring data is sent back in real-time to the team’s workshop in their country of origin.
Diagram 1 – Riedel provide a local secure low-latency network to allow teams to communicate and monitor telemetry locally, as well as making it available to the team’s factory. Only the FIA can see and access all team data. And the network is so secure, Riedel provide trackside roving reporter audio and comms back to the studio using the Bolero system.
With twenty cars and ten constructor teams all generating live monitoring data every second, data integrity and communication is clearly a mammoth task. Chaos would soon ensue if each team was to provide their own RF communications, telemetry, and network back to their base. And guaranteeing network security would be an impossible task as the FIA needs access to all live and stored data for each team.
25 Years of Experience
To overcome this, the FIA selected Riedel Communications to provide a highly secure IP network, pooled RF communications system, and facilities for locally and remotely recording telemetry data for each team. Riedel have been providing radio communications for F1 for twenty-five years and for the past ten years have been delivering telemetry over their network for the FIA.
The core of Riedel’s solution is their secure IP network. Providing connectivity for the teams, host workshops, and the FIA, the IP network provides critical infrastructure for the whole race.
To guarantee connectivity to each constructor’s garage, Riedel’s crews install over 6km (3.7 miles) of fiber to each garage at every race location a week ahead of the event. A portable data center, installed in a secure and robust shipping-type container, is delivered before the race and installed close to the pit garages. A second Riedel crew connects the fiber to the data center and configures the network. After the race, a third Riedel crew de-rigs the fiber, tests, and stores it for next year’s race.
These three teams leapfrog each other during the Formula 1 season to provide highly reliable secure IP networks and communications for the race teams and FIA.
Each team has its own range of IP addresses and subnets. Their colleagues back at the factory can share their subnet to give them secure, low-latency access to all real-time and stored monitoring information from their team car as well as pit cameras and audio communications.
Photo 1 – Riedel streams and records live HD video from cameras situated above the car at each garage for FIA adjudication and to allow engineers to monitor the progress of the pit stop and analyze for future improvement.
HD cameras situated above the pit area give the whole team a real-time view of the car during a pit stop. In addition, this data is recorded locally by Riedel as well as at their factory in Wuppertal, Germany. As a service to the FIA, all data is backed up to offline storage and kept for seven years.
Secure FIA Network Access
During the race the FIA requires access to all video, audio, and monitoring data from all teams. And this demonstrates the genius of the security behind the Riedel network. To provide FIA with this facility, all subnets must be available to them simultaneously but at the same time guaranteeing they are separated from each team. Imagine what would happen if Ferrari suddenly started receiving the monitoring data from a Mercedes car.
So confident are Riedel in their network security and design that they actively encourage engineers from the F1 teams to stress and test their network during the build-up.
A TETRA (Trans-European Trunked Radio) system using TDMA (time-division multiple access) provides the backbone of Riedel’s RF solution. Drivers, teams and support staff all communicate using TETRA devices with each team requiring up to sixty handsets. Careful spectrum planning and administration is needed for every venue as each country requires its own RF clearance, again, all administered by Riedel.
Using an ingenious motion detection solution, Riedel have built a dynamic CCTV system to monitor the cars in the garages. Ceiling mounted cameras constantly record the work of the mechanics during the build-up and can detect anybody tampering with the car during the scheduled lock-out times where FIA impose no adjustment before the race.
Drivers spend much of their time managing tires to optimize performance, that is provide the maximum race-track adhesion with minimum drag. Each team is allocated 120 tires for the qualifiers and race, and a narrow temperature band maintains this optimized level.
Safety Car Comms
If a crash occurs the safety and medical cars are deployed using high performance Mercedes AMG road cars. The safety car reaches speeds over 300km/h to help the drivers maintain their optimal tire performance. The medical car has a similar performance and both cars have complex radio and data communications systems provided by Riedel.
The co-driver for each car has a dash-board mounted computer display that conveys real-time track data showing where each driver is located. Using Riedel’s network to communicate directly with FIA officials, trauma doctors and medics can get to the location of the crash quickly saving valuable seconds potentially needed to help save a driver’s life.
Photo 2 – The safety car maintains high track speeds to keep the racing car tires at optimal temperature during an incident. Riedel supply comms and live car position data from their local IP network to allow the driver and co-driver to communicate with FIA officials and maintain track safety.
Riedel has built secure subnets into the race-track network to facilitate access with their Bolero communications systems, granting the quality expected form the users.
Using battery powered Bolero belt-packs and microphones, Riedel provide six, bi-directional, broadcast specification audio channels to roving reporters.
Trackside Commentary and Reporting
BBC use Bolero and the Riedel’s F1 network so their track-side reporters can send live interviews and reports back to the studio in London. There’s no need to book circuits or allocate bandwidth, the audio circuits and signaling from Bolero is available throughout the duration of the race week.
Simplifying operation, Bolero provides the network interface and routing between the reporter and studio at the touch of a button. The reporter at the race-track and the producer at the studio may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart but communicate as if they were in the room next door.
Riedel is expanding this facility to combine their highly efficient secure network and low latency connectivity to other broadcasters who want to provide track-side commentary and reporting.
Broadcast Manufacturer Diversity
As cars get faster and reaction times of drivers improve, more is demanded from the communications and network systems that underpin Formula 1 racing, both for the entertainment of the viewers and safety of the drivers. Riedel’s partnership with the FIA demonstrates how broadcast manufacturers can diversify and leverage COTS IT technology to build secure low latency networks with protected storage available 24/7 at the touch of a button.
Tony Orme’s latest book, "Broadcast for IT" is a 20-chapter treatise on IT systems, video and audio technology, and practical guidance in making the technologies play nice with each other. More information and how to buy - click here
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