Caterham F1 and GE push big data performance in 2014

Posted on 29 Jan 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Caterham F1 bosses hope big data technology through a partnership with GE will "worry the team in front".

The Leafield-based team unveiled their 2014 Formula One car yesterday at the opening winter test at Jerez, Spain.

While many of the new cars have split fans and media over their appearance, particularly the new lowered nose cone, the Caterham team’s 2014 racer – the CT05 – was no different, with the team unveiling quite possibly the oddest looking of the pack.

However team driver Marcus Ericsson was quick to state that it was not how the car looks, but how it performs that matters. And if anything is going to help the team, which finished at the back of the pack last season, it will be the amount of technology that has been packed into the 2014 challenger.

With more than 150 sensors capable of streaming over 800 channels of live data and the ability to create 20GB of data per car per race weekend, John Iley, performance director at Caterham, hopes this will help the team to develop through “understanding, building and improving”.

Caterham and General Electric have been collaborating in the development of the F1 car since 2011. Elliot Dason-Barber, Caterham’s head of research and development, said:

“We started off by trying to establish how two different companies with very different functions could help each other. We found four areas that we wanted to develop further, those were: sensors; thermals; composites; and data analytics.”

Matt Nielson, a scientist from GE’s global research headquarters told The Manufacturer:

“It’s really about trying to handle the velocity of data, we are collecting more and more data at a faster speed, there is a variety of data from many different sensors, and we strive to develop new tools and technology to extract all the data and form information from it.

“So part of the research programme is to develop those relationship tools that form the backbone of how the data is captured, stored and retrieved.

“It’s a really exciting project, one that we think will help Elliot makes sense before, during and after the race, as well as in the off season.”

Despite the recent developments, the Caterham team have not been without their challenges. Dason-Barber added:

“There have been many challenges for us, in particular, on the thermal side. To get the maximum cooling out of the engine so that it generates more power. However, to cool the engine you have to pass air through it, which produces drag and the more drag the slower you go. So there is a direct conflict of cooling verses aerodynamic drag.

“We have been doing some simulation on dealing with this and we won’t know how effective it has been until we start running the car.”

Marcus Ericsson prepares to take to the track at the first day of testing in Jerez, Spain. Image courtesy of Caterham F1 Flickr, copyright Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic.

Caterham is currently ranked at the back of the grid but is proud of the progress it is making. Dason-Barber said:

“We have had some really interesting results with the fiber-sensing project. If this project works, it could unlock a whole area of focus and interest for us, where we are able to directly measure aerodynamic forces on the car.

“As far as I am aware, on the track, I don’t think anyone else is doing this, so that’s one thing that I have a lot of hope for in the future.”

The organisation moved to its Leafield headquarters in Oxfordshire in August 2012 and is united in one mission to “grow, evolve and increase capacity”.

Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson will be the Caterham F1 drivers for the 2014 season, with Robin Frijns and Alexander Rossi in reserve.