Did You Know Supercomputers Basically Power Formula 1?

By Sam Gibbs on at

Have you ever wondered how Formula 1 teams improve their cars, from minor tweaks to full-on design revolutions? A supercomputer is behind it all. Well, there are teams of guys who do the simulations, of course, but the 40 Tflop computers do the crunching. Here's what they look like and how it all works.

Aerodynamics is such a massive part of F1 -- it's basically make or break when it comes to winning races. Making tweaks and analysing the performance must be such an arduous task, even with a number cruncher going full pelt; the simulations must be incredible to map out all aspects of a race.

It's not just aero that needs serious processing power, though. I know, for instance, that McLaren have an absolutely enormous computing centre back at home base, constantly crunching the data from the races in real time, linked through the pits. It's strange, then, that you can't send data back to the car to remotely control and modify its performance. Yes, teams can get the driver to enter in changes and corrections, but it seems such a backward way of doing things in such a technologically advanced sport.

Maybe one day we'll have purely remotely controlled cars, where the drivers sit in a connected simulator driving them by wire. Perhaps that would ruin the human element of F1, and somehow I think the sport would be much worse off if that genuinely happened. Then again, automated cars might well be able to kick an F1 driver's arse very soon. [BBC]