Saturday, September 1, 2012

Telemetry Analysis of Lewis Hamilton

I must admit as an Formula One fan , the science and hard data of the sport entices me as much the noise , beauty and blistering speed. The harmony between the science and the passion is what makes me love it more anything else. To see numbers coming to life on the track as pure speed takes my breath away.

All credit to McLaren to enunciate this in no better way than to share some good hard data on Spa, Silverstone and Monaco of no other than Lewis Hamilton.

What is telemetry?

Telemetry is basically the system by which engineers in the garage or control center of a team can monitor the various elements of the car during a race or test session. Sensors on the car are used to detect Speed, G -forces , Engine RPM , Usage of the brakes and throttle , Gear Shifts , Steering input , temperature gauges , suspension and wheel displacement etc.

All these elements are usually plotted on a graph against the lap-time which makes it easy to read for the team and the drivers. The software used for creating this graphical analysis is Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System or ATLAS . Due to all teams using the FIA mandated McLaren Engine Control unit as a means to standardize data gathering and to avoid teams masking the use of banned devices such as traction control and two way telemetry(where the changes on the car can be made while it is racing on the track) , the use of ATLAS has been standardized as well.

Telemetry between team-mates is compared at times ; especially where a slower driver is losing time. It also plays a vital role in the setup of the car , hence gaining such data from any team is a real treat. The systems working on the car for the purpose of telemetry have become so advanced that a team can predict a lap time based on it. The FIA can adjure telemetry on any driver in the case of a collision or accident to rule out driver error. Telemetry data was used to implicate Renault in the Crash-Gate saga of 2008 at the Singapore Grand Prix.

The graph usually has time increasing as a component on the X axis. The data shared by McLaren has the following traces which increase with the Y - axis :

Purple (Top)
Shows us the Engine RPM.

Red (Stepped)
The stepped binary graph-like trace show the gear the car is travelling in. A down step means a downshift , an up-step means an upshift. Formula One cars have a 7 speed gearbox .
Its interesting to note the small fluctuations which are caused by the gearshifts when the RPM drops ever so slightly.
Traces the steering input of the driver , this is probably the most interesting bit if we have to compare driving styles between drivers . Driver coaches usually use this to discuss unwanted spikes and corrections to improve a drivers skill behind the wheel. McLaren have declared the data belongs to Lewis. It'll be interesting to notice the subtle corrections and habits in his driving style.
Up = Right. Down = Left.

Throttle Input of the driver is measure here. Full throttle is achieved when the trace reaches the uppermost flat line . This is another key aspect of deciphering a driver's driving style.

Car Speed, very interesting to note the mid-corner speed . This would have been useful to compare different styles as well since some drivers who tend to be on the smoother side usually carry lesser speed into the corner and focus on a better exit speed while others focus on a higher mid-corner speed losing a bit on the exit.

The bottom purple line indicates the brake input.

Eau Rouge(Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps) 

The Racing Line picked up by the telemetry through Eau Rouge.
The Purple line indicates the position of the car and the black lines show us the confines of the track.

Eau Rouge : Seems easy.
"How hard can it be ?"

The data starts on the entry to Eau Rouge , Lewis here shifts to 7th gear(Bump in the Top Red line) . Usually a driver would use 6th to get more torque up the hill and then change to 7th as he exits but this can change due to a variety of factors such as wind speed or even saving the tyres and engine. As he shifts up there is no drop in speed ( a seamless shift , testament to modern F1 cars), the revs drop a bit.

A quick look at the racing line taken here by Lewis shows us perfection , he has minimized the time taken and maximized the speed , ensuring a good exit speed as well. He's taken a large chunk of the inside kerb was taken by steering left , Hamilton does this to straighten the car as much as possible for the next corner within the limits of the track  so as to use lesser steering angle. Any speed unnecessarily lost here due to an excess lateral load on the tires or excess scrub will obviously hurt the top speed attained at the end of the following straight . This is how tenths are gained. He's hit the inside apex of Eau Rouge and is steady with his approach through the right hand kink and smoothly kisses the exit apex of Radillion. All this while he is flat out as indicated by the bottom red line in other graph.

His speed and RPM does drop a little every though he in on full throttle you may ask. This is due to the sheer steepness of Eau Rouge , even though its easy flat it does take some revs off.

Did I mention that this telemetry would probably be of a length of only 2 seconds and he's doing all this while being succumbed to 5G !

Massenet and Casino (Circuit de Monaco)

Racing line through Massenet and Casino. 

Negotiating the most "on the limit" corners of Formula One.

Things get a little crazy here. On the approach to the quick left hander , Massenet he shifts up till 7th gear , gaining speed and on full throttle. We can then notice his breaking as the first green circle from your left ; Lewis leaves the throttle , dabs on the breaks the speeds plummet ( that's a drop of around 100 kmph in 1 second)  , he downshifts to 4th, he now is easing off the breaks gradually , feeling the grip on the car till he has the confidence to get back on the power again. He is very steady with his throttle increase (mark of a skilled driver).

We then notice inside the Golden Circle a significant anomaly to Lewis's smooth throttle input, a valley of sorts. If we correlate this with the blue line highlighted inside the golden circle we can deduce that he might have been a micro-second of a correction. The steering angle suddenly goes static even though he was going to turn right.

The speed increases slightly until Lewis is on the breaks again for the entry of Casino , steering now on quite some lock as he turns right.
Another anomaly is the sudden rise in revs as he exits Casino ( Red Circle) , this was caused by a bump at the exit of Casino , correlating with the steering trace we see a another nice oversteer-moment.

Two things really astonish me here .

Firstly, I've highlighted his throttle and brake inputs in the green circle. There is absolutely no lag in getting off the throttle and getting on the breaks , seems easier said than done since we're talking microseconds here. He's losing no time in reducing speed as he comes off the throttle, making even inch count on the track.

Secondly, look at the apexes he hits through Massenet and Casino. We're talking about Monaco here, there area no run off areas. He's brushing the barriers here at 240 kph , lap after lap . A momentary loss of concentration here and there is no coming back.

Becketts (Silverstone)

This is where crowds usually come to see a Formula One car in full force . The high speed complex of  Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone is another favorite of drivers. These corners are taken at 280-300 kph. This is where downforce really makes a ton of a difference.

McLaren claim that Lewis’s approach is to send the car in as fast as he can, then deal with it later. If he’s got the grip, he’s away; if he hasn’t, he’s got the talent to deal with it. It’s a win-win situation for him. 

That's typical Lewis Hamilton for you and that's what makes him a great racing driver. To be able to take those risks and those speeds ,being subjected to 5G lap after lap is just sheer brilliance.
Through Maggots , then Becketts and the exit through Chapel onto the Hangar Straight

As he enters Maggots reaching a peak speed of 295 kph , he has a "mini" lift with which he drops about 20 kph itself with that showing just how much downforce these cars carry. He's full throttle for the next mini left hander and then for Becketts he lifts of completely and just feathers the brakes , he does to counter the lateral loads on the car,stabilizing it to avoid any nasty surprises. He's communicating with the car , telling it to prepare itself for the next fast right hander as he comes off the throttle once again and then quickly straightens the car up quickly, shifts up through the gears to 7th and steadily reaches full throttle. Again here he tries not to scrub off any speed which may affect his top speed at the end of the Hangar straight which follows consequently.

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