F1 teams using own cameras in ingenious ways
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Oct 2012   |  4:35 pm GMT  |  62 comments

If you watch free practice sessions on Fridays at Grands Prix, you could be forgiven for thinking that there are a lot of onboard cameras on the cars. And you’d be half right.

But they are not all TV cameras, placed there by Formula One Management. The teams are allowed special dispensation to place their own cameras on the cars during practice to show how their latest updates are working.

Most of the teams do it, but Red Bull have an infrared or thermographic camera, mounted on the right side of the engine cover, which can film the exhaust gas flow as it exits the exhausts and passes down into the diffuser, measuring and observing the Coanda effect.

It’s not obvious, it looks like a slightly more bulbous version of the standard FOM camera mounting, but it’s providing vital information on the way the highly sophisticated exhaust blows.

FOM rules prohibit the use of video cameras in the circuit from non-TV rights holders, but there is a dispensation for teams on Friday mornings so they can gather data.

Some teams use a simple GoPro, camera, like Mercedes did today, with a GoPro mounted on the left side of the rear wing endplate during FP1, pointing at the rear bodywork of the car.

It all goes to show the lengths that teams will go to to fine tune details of their innovations.

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The Italian TV coverage this weekend showed Red Bull changing what they termed ‘the third element’ of the front suspension which had what looked like a pressure inlet connection possibly to alter the suspension geometry. Have you seen or heard anything?


I have a go pro hero2 and use it on my Dallara we have had it rear facing on the rear of the car and have found it useful … Ihad a high speed off two weeks ago and it proved useful determing what had happened…


I have been thinking about a comment Fernando Alonso made after qualifying in India. He said he not only fighting Vettle but he also fighting Newey.

I have been also thinking how the teams keep bringing new up dated part design through out the year to make their car faster or better.

At the beginning of the year Red Bull had a dog of a car now they have a great car no one can touch in less it has a part failure.

This is my feelings maybe a new rule you can not add new designed or modified parts to cars through out the year. the car the team designs is with the design their stuck with for the whole season.

But in trade the constructors of the car could start development of the car at the beginning of the last four races of the previous season.

Allow the testing of the next seasons car by the test drivers or potential new drivers candidates only of the team twice a month for period of 4 days each test period during the last four races.

After the season ends unlimited testing of the car by test drivers,race drivers,new drivers till season begins to work out all the bugs in the car before the season begins and then testing stops altogether. The design and parts of that car are locked in for the rest of the season. No changes or updates to the car.

This will solve four problems cut the cost of running a formula one team.

#!Allow test driver to become more proficient as drivers because they are doing the job they were hired to do as a test driver or as reserve driver. Allow the race drivers to help develop the car to work for them.

Also the team gets to screen new potential drivers to drive for their team next year.It also give the new drivers more time to learn how to drive a formula one car and working in a formula one team. Less new driver mistakes during next seasons races.

The race season will be fair to every team because the car design is locked in for the whole season.



Speaking of cameras, when is the helmet camera going to return?

It’s appeared twice in the last four years and is for me becoming a symbol of F1’s reluctance to embrace new technology.


More interesting to me is that teams use a simple GoPro camera… in formula one!

Just curious: the rules state that they are only allowed to mount cameras on the car in practise, would it be allowed to mount one e.g. on the back of the drivers’ helmet?

Also, would it be allowed to use a custom designed car in practise? As I gather, it does not have to be race-legal, so would be allowed to run a test-bed car rather than a race one, and use it in practise (maybe there is no point)?


The teams are only allowed by regulation to bring two cars to a race. They can bring a spare chassis but it is not allowed to be built up, so no, they cannot use a T-car as in the old days.


What would be really ingenious would be for others to to intercept and decode that exhaust video, if Red Bull is transmitting it while running.


Thank you! I’ve been puzzling over these strange looking Friday-only components were for some time!!


Very good way of seeing how the developments are progressing, often wonder about the red bull nose vent is it really for driver cooling, the driver must really feel the air coming into the cockpit


As for where cameras are put, I believe all cars have the moldings built in to the car where the rules state and its just a matter of placing a camera in that spot.


Is there a reason they don’t use wide angle lenses on the FOM TV camera’s?


The footage from the GoPro’s look so much better than the standard camera’s, even if they couldn’t do a live feed, releasing the footage of say the Jenson/Vettel crash at Spa 2010 from the nose of the Red Bull would have looked incredible/added ratings.


Ingenious definetley!

Although I think its pointless that all cars have to carry the various “blank” cameras as most of the positions are not used anymore by FOM (nose-cam, cockpit facing, mirror-cams), Only the T-cam and cockpit side cams ever get used anymore, and the cockpit-side cams are only ever used on the same cars i.e vettel, alonso & hamilton.


Good article as always James. Just when I thought I knew most stuff about F1.

It would be interesting to know more about how the paint works as well.


Funny you should say that. They skin the cars nowadays, and I’ve been working on a story about that for this Innovation section


I too would love to know how the aero paint works – I would have expected any data to be irrelevant at the end of a lap, given corners would blow the paint in different directions


Ah.. May this be something in relation to shark skin? I saw a documentary one time about research they have done with sharks, where they found out the sharks have some small “holes” in their skin which makes the water flow better aroound their bodies.

Airplane companies started researching this and found they could save quite a bit of fuel if they covered their planes in synthetic shark skin.

I immediately thought of F1 and how they could use it there.


The golf balls are built using the same principle.


Allegedly doing it on submarines, too. But I dont remember it as being “holes.” AFAIK the sharks’ skin looks like microscopic sharks *teeth.


They’ve been using similar texture on the hulls of racing yachts for years. With Newey being into yachts I’m sure he’s trying to find a way implement something like this if he ses a benefit to it.


Red Bull (once again) find a more advanced and better way of doing something even as simple as using a camera, while Mercedes have a nice basic little camera to match their car.

It makes me wonder what is going on with all the other teams in F1. Is it really just Newey? Red Bull are always pushing the extremes and finding creative ways of developing their cars. The difference is when Red Bull try something creative it usually works.

I feel as though this team is simply relentless. Relentless in the money they’ll spend to achieve success, relentless in the man hours they’ll work, and relentless in the advanced developments they’ll come up with.

Red Bull are making all the other teams look a bit silly.


I thought “Relentless” was another “fizzy drinks company” 😉


Just to be clear, Mercedes may well have thermo cameras too, the GoPro was serving a specific purpose on the day.

But the RBR thermal camera was interesting..

Bring Back Murray

Well that pretty much sums up why they’ve been up and above the others in recent years (not withstanding other teams shooting themselves in the foot on a regular basis)


Red Bull is like the Microsoft of 1990s, Google of early 2000s and Apple of recent past. High on innovation, owners pride, neighbours envy.

Vettel is just a lucky lad to be in that family. I bet even someone like Kovalienen could have won in that car and team structure.


Look what has been Weber’s performance in comparison, you’ll realize that the combination of Seb and RBR makes it great. I don’t doubt that Alonso would have gotten similar results but not many more drivers (Lewis and Kimi maybe, but probably not JB as he lacks ultimate qualifying pace).

Kind of the situation with Mansell and Patrese at Williams…


Kovalainen could have won in that car and team structure ? – quite possibly, as far as races go.

Kovalainen could have achieved the same level of success that Vettel has, to date ? – highly questionable.


I’m not so sure. Don’t underestimate Vettel or his ability to deliver under pressure.

Also it’s a top driver’s job to get a team working at its best level for him, as Senna, Prost and Schumacher used to do. He stands comparison with them in that sense even if you don’t like him for whatever reason.


I have to admit, though I have a dislike for Vettel’s persona, I kind of think the the beginning of this year, where he was racing back in the pack and doing pretty well, was the beginning of the making of a complete Vettel. I think unfortunately he (and certainly F1) could have done with a whole season like it, rather than a half.


Yes, I would agree James. However, it does make it a lot easier when one arrives in a team with an engineer of Newey’s standing already established in the team as Vettel did. I think he has been very fortunate. From all the insight that we glean from yourself, Alonso works just as hard or even harder than Vettel in that regard, yet he is unable to get the result as Ferrari DO NOT have an engineer of Newey’s standing. That is palpably obvious.

I reflect how quickly Hakkinen was able to gain an advantage in McLaren with Newey on board, and how quickly McLaren lost the initiative when Newey left.

It is very obvious to me that any team fortunate enough to have Newey on board is indeed very fortunate. Mansell in 92 falls in that category. As brilliantly as he delivered, a lot of the credit really fell to Newey, even if Mansell would have it the other way.

Thanks for a great blog.


as long as it is legal in FP1 I do not see why you are calling it ingenious,sound only an attractive title to your article ,not use to that in on your blog


Because it’s clever! Ingenious has nothing to do with legality, it has to do with clever ideas….


I misread and misunderstood the word ingenious so my apology to you james


Other teams should mount one of those camera’s facing forward, and follow the RedBull’s around!


You need to be able to keep up 🙂

Which isn’t that hard with light fuel.


And Phill brings up a great point. What keeps other teams from filming all the cars with their own HD IR cameras? You could basically see how every team is blowing their diffuser. All you need is about $20K USD, which is well withing a team’s budget. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?


I suspect the teams are limited to fitting cameras to their cars and that they aren’t allowed to put up fixed cameras around the circuit to monitor other cars. The team would also want to correlate this information with throttle position, since the benefit applies all through the braking and cornering.


IR cameras are small these days. It would be easy to sit someone up in the stands at strategic locations and have competitors cars filmed. No one would be the wiser. It would look like someone just taking a video.


Brilliant! Considering that you could theoretically tune the camera’s filters to the wavelengths of the components of the exhaust gases, and thereby actually SEE the exhaust gases, I am surprised we don’t see more of this. It’s a great idea!



That’s easier said than done. IR Cameras are very broadband so while they can be used to image materials/gases emitting IR radiation, they do not have much spectral specificity. While you can use filters, they still do not have the narrow spectral linewidths to resolve gas emission lines which are needed to fingerprint and “see” the exhaust gases.

For this application, I don’t think they care as much about the mix of the exhaust gas ratios, but rather how the total exhaust gas mixture flows around the body work. The IR camera is well suited for this purpose.


We use tuned IR cameras to detect gas leaks all the time. Technically, you do not see the gas. The specific wavelength is absorbed by the gas. You see the gas’s “shadow,” or an absence of reflected light at that wavelength. You would just need the proper filter and you could see the actual exhaust gas, in real time, which would be more useful than just seeing what portions of bodywork are being heated by gas flowing over it. I too am an engineer, I have some know how in this tiny brain of mine.


Michael, is the intent of your comment to clarify that the heated air includes both exhaust gas and ambient air, i.e. the total flow to the diffuser, i.e. the effectiveness of their exhaust design and its ability to generate the coanda effect and direct the resulting air stream? Isn’t that implied by everyone commenting on James’ article?

I have to say you are insulting my intelligence. Maybe you just like to hear your own voice, sorry, “see” your own internal monologue.

To expand on my comment, or more clearly stated, to help you understand my comment; why stop at seeing indirect evidence of exhaust flow, a standard IR camera, when you could have a tuned IR camera and actually see the exhaust flow? If the option was available I would be much more interested in having a real world visualization of my CFD model than indirect evidence.

I’ve had a lot of coffee, and this has been a rough morning.


I’m not sure the purpose is to see which parts are heated by the exhaust flow but to see where the hot gases are flowing when they exit the exhaust and join the airflow.

The benefit is they can “see” what effect on the exhaust gas + airflow direction and flow as they change and tune the exhuast outlets. Therefore can ensure it goes where they want it to for max downforce.


I feel for the little cameraman who has to hold on!


Do they have any sensors / camera’s to measure the tyre degradation ?


I’d love to see some footage from one of those thermographic cameras, but then again so would the engineers from all the other teams I would guess!


speaking of cameras, who decides where TV cameras are placed on the cars? surely some camera positions are aerodynamically more favourable than others. do the teams just have to do what they are told?


My understanding is the general location is in the rules, but the exact placement is up to the teams. Hence there has been some rubbish camera angles over the years, most notably (in my opinion) on the 1994/95 Benetton where the camera was pointed straight at the wing mirror, totally obstructing the view.


I’m no expert but I’m not sure if the camera positioning was in the rules back in 1994.


You might be right, nevertheless I do suspect the team was allowed to pick the specific camera location back then, because no tv director would have deliberately placed them there…


I’m not sure on the exact ruling. But take front wing cameras as an example, i think they have to be placed within an “Area” but the teams decide where exactly. Some teams have their front wing camera mounted inside of the wing mounts, others on the nose tips

interesting stuff.


I don’t know about all of them but I believe the FIA/FOM dictate the positions, such as the usual one sticking out either side of the airbox. All teams have to have that protrusion, even if some of the teams have ‘dummy’ (empty) attachments.


There are set positions identical on all the cars. Any unused mounts carry dummy cameras of the same weight as an FOM on-board camera. So no advantage/disadvantages.


I believe the location and FOM camera specs are in the regs


Interesting. Would love to see those infra red videos. Having read a lot about the exhaust gas in the last few years, it will be interesting to watch it in action.


RedBull, far ahead of the pack in terms of innovation and development.


And spending, I would suggest.


At least they are not wasting time making fake promises in the media like McLaren and Ferrari.


If Hamilton drove for them, you’d just have to follow his Twitter feed. You DO follow his Twitter feed don’t you??



You are disrespectful towards Hamilton if you don’t!


Expect to see it released sometime around 2032! 😉

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