F1 fans come up with innovative ideas in F1 Connectivity Innovation challenge
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Jul 2014   |  10:49 pm GMT  |  28 comments

There are still a few days to go until the closing date for the first of the three “F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize” challenges and already thousands of people have gone to the Competition Website to check out the rules and a good number have made an entry.

The first challenge is to demonstrate new and insightful information that can be derived from Formula One Management’s live data timing pages and to propose how this new information could be visually packaged in order to add suspense and excitement to the audience experience.

The competition, backed by Tata Communications, Formula One Management and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, is to encourage F1 fans who want to get closer to the sport and engage in some behind the scenes real world F1 issues.

The ultimate prize is a cash award of $50,000 and there are further prizes, which will see the winners go behind the scenes at next year’s Monaco Grands Prix.

There is a lot that can theoretically be predicted from crunching the numbers of the timing data from Free Practice, qualifying and the race. The Free Practice in particular is very useful for predicting what will happen in the race; all the team strategists use the information they get from Free Practice 2 and the long runs to set their strategies for Sunday’s race, for example.

Part of the challenge invites people to find a way to present the lime time data in a different way, to package up the crucial information on a single screen, ideally, which works for media and teams at the track as well as fans all over the world.

Something I’d love to see as a live broadcaster, for example, is a screen which overlays information from the timing pages on track temperature and other weather conditions with the lap times to see trends there. I’d also love to see something that has a fuel consumption value per lap set, and which therefore shows the cars’ actual pace and tyre degradation in real time. I think a lot of fans would like that too, especially the ones who like to second guess the strategies and see if they can do better than the teams!

Darren Heath

One reader, NZ Idol, gave this thoughts on what might work well in this competition:

“Even with just these basic pieces of information you can do some interesting calculations, just adding the 3 fastest individual sectors of a driver gives you a theoretical fastest lap. Collecting a series of lap-times when they do a tyre run is one aspect but if you let the user add the expected fuel use per lap and the expected fuel weight penalty you can get more insight in the real tyre deg by doing a simple calculation.

If you look into the actual protocol file it is very optimized to display a screen of laptimes, it is not a complete record of actual cars passing actual control lines, so part of any solution should be a redesign of this protocol to get something smarter but still allow for unstable connections and minimal server load.

But when you make the assumption the message timestamp is closely related the actual time the car passed the timing line you can easily calculate the distance between 2 drivers and understand why a specific lap may not be representative of actual performance. When you have those distances between drivers you can create the screen that the teams use to see where you enter the traffic after a pit-stop and if an undercut could work. Seeing if you can make better strategic decisions as the teams is half the fun of watching the timing screens. Yes GPS would add more actual detail and precision but you would need a lot more bandwidth to send all the data. When you have the 3 sector times and the track information with expected corner and top speeds you can estimate position on track and generate an animation.

Another aspect is converting the time into percentages of the fastest lap (the one’s JA provides after the race) to understand tyre deg but also getting an understanding of how the cars evolve through the season, not just at a single race.

What we probably really need is a team “0″ at every race that has the same facilities as the other teams but collects data for the community, and a few open source projects to visualize the information throw in some social media channels and you create a great following in no time.”


JA writes: There are some interesting ideas here, but we need to be careful, because there is also a wrong assumption about car data; the rules make it clear this is about timing data, not car data. If you start adding in car data then the thing becomes overly complicated for a competition such as this. That’s not to say that won’t come in the future, but it’s not for today.

I like his idea of “getting an understanding of how the cars evolve through the season, not just at a single race” – this is called “trending”, and it charts the evolution of performance of a car through a season and would be really interesting to have at one’s fingertips via the timing screen or on the F1 app.

For example, Ferrari were 1.27% off the pace of the Mercedes in Bahrain, but for the last two races they have been 0.76% and 0.78% off Mercedes, showing a clear (improving) trend.

Entries for the first challenge close at 16-00GMT on Friday 18th July

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How about giving the app away, but charging for the data connection. Then we could all write our own apps, but people that used them (including us), would still pay for the connection, so no loss of revenue for the FIA. Surely that is a way to get the most innovation from that data stream?

Of course, for us to do it, they’d have to have a test server giving us streaming data to code to, so this will prolly never happen.


The ergast API publishes historical datasets that include a lot of the same information that can be gleaned from the timing data for the race (laptimes, pit details) as well as positions for each lap.

Some time ago I produced a simple visual explorer over some of this data which can be found via here:

http://blog.ouseful.info/2012/12/04/more-shiny-goodness-tinkering-with-the-ergast-motor-racing-data-api/ A link to the R code is also available.

I started trying to pull a script together to generate datafiles that are similar in kind to the data files we can scrape from the FIA media centre timing sheets (does the sample data provided for the competition comes from Spain this year? From a quick glance, it looked as if the race data at least might do?) which can be found at https://github.com/psychemedia/tata-f1

At the current time, it gets most of the laptimes (I think – there are still a few issues to work out), weather data, pit data. I haven’t had a chance to look at qualifying and practice yet (I was hoping to get a solution out before the competition closed but I had other commitments:-( However, the race notebook acts as a model, though not necessarily the best one (I’m not that strong a Python programmer…)

Finally, I started writing a book on using R to wrangle F1 data (written in RStudio using R markdown/Rmd) but that stalled too… Still, if anything in there is of use to anyone… https://github.com/psychemedia/wranglingf1datawithr/


[mod]I just want to see exciting racing. I can see what tyres they are on and can work out quite easily what they still have to use. If I am bombarded with data it will be a distraction (albeit welcome when nothing much is happening on the track) but also take away the anticipation of the remaining race unfolding as if I know that the driver in second is using up fuel too quickly I know he won’t be in a position to fight for the win so I can switch off early and do something else. Leave something to the imagination and speculation as the event unfolds otherwise it will be even more boring – unless you are a budding Adrian Newey. I’m not – I enjoy fast, close exciting racing and the game of trying to second-guess what teams and drivers are going to do and enjoy the surprise when they do something completely different.


Agreed – which is why I don’t use apps like this either – but there are some out there that feel compelled to know every little facet and bit of data whether it’s before, during or after the race so I guess everyone’s different 🙂

Could be worse, there was a guy on here a while back that actually wanted to check out who finished where before he watched the race – that one I still don’t understand! 😉


I find the app handy when I want to monitor a driver who may not be getting any air time for what ever reason. I can watch the lap and sector times, and the gap to car in front and behind. Without this, I have to wait for the rolling times on the screen to be displayed, which are never enough. Also helps at the end of a race when the camera switches to the guy who is leading by 40 seconds by himself from the exciting finish for other places. Surely they can manage this better by football like mini replay screens, which would allow is to watch both.


Hi James,

Unfortunately your request for fuel-corrected laptimes might not fit within the competition specification :

“Submissions must exclusively be based on these parameters using the sample dataset provided on the Offfcial Website.”

There is perhaps scope for users to enter their own data for fuel correction (rather than it being obtained from a specified source) though. Ideally the timing data would be made available at every race for consumption by third-party applications to provide this sort of data-crunching, but that would probably hurt the sales of their £10/year mobile apps 😉

I have done some of my own analysis of the practice times and while the 1/10th second resolution does impact the results, some conclusions could probably be drawn from it regarding tyre degradation. It doesn’t help that the sample set is from FP3 though – there are no long runs to attempt to analyse!

Cheers for all the great content you continue to provide,



Only just found these pages, http://www.infiniti-redbullracing.com/article/stat-centre-british-grand-prix also shows nice screen lay-outs you may want in real-tine. Luckily Austrians are also excluded from the competition….


I think this misses the issue. The issue here is about how to attract new viewers to F1, especially a younger demographic. As a seasoned long term fan I welcome and look forward to these idea, but they’re not going to prevent the sport from dwindling.

The question should be along the lines of what attracted us to the sport in the first place. It wasn’t the technical complexity of the cars, the quality of the timing data or who was sponsoring who. Clearly we never want to see bad accidents again, but we need to inject some excitement into the racing again. There have been some pretty good ones so far this year, but it needs to go further. Having one team dominate turns off hardened race fans, so it’s positively never going to attract anyone new.

I’l like to see maybe something like the weight penalty they apply to Jockeys, when they are running away with it, that would work well in FI. What happened to that rear wing they were touting a few years back (CGW?), let’s have that to encourage wheel to wheel racing, not silly DRS zones.

Love the way the new regs have really shaken it up, let’s do that more. Maybe even mid season, so teams that reacted quicker, could think with their guts on their feet would be able to take on the big boys.

I know this isn’t the answer, way to simple, or that the big players in F1 would ever jeopardise their advantage, but we need to do something for the racing. As long as the sport thinks of itself as a “show”, then it’s going to be more WWF than football, in term of followers…


Will FOM be providing an API for this data? I imagine if the data was freely available and easily accessible numerous interesting web sites would start cropping up, there are tons of great developers out there. Although I’m not one of them I’d love to have a play with the data!

Just for starters all the stats could be provided in a more reader-friendly graphical formats and that would just be the tip of the iceberg.


I have a suggestion for Formula One Management’s live data timing.

How about start by returning their website’s live timing page to it’s former self?

It annoys and frustrates me every time I see those damn dots where the sector times used to be.

I don’t have, or particularly want a smart phone, so for years F1.com live timing has been my go to, must have accessory to the broadcast….besides the fact that I prefer the screen size of my laptop.

Of course I understand the money making aspect of an app, but think it’s a shame FOM this year decided to remove a simple but significant feature to encourage the sale of apps.

Surely it what would make more sense to leave the free page as it was (splits,pitstops etc) and charge for upgrades to access more detailed info/data.

Personally I’d like to see live timing on this site…if you compare the evolution rate of JAonF.com to F1.com, this site leaves FOM for dead.

Mercedes v Marussia



Here is a list of things I’d like to see everywhere(website, apps):

1. put the sector timings back on the website

2. show tires used – current and previous stint

3. show fuel used

4. allow multiple sign-ins if you have paid for the app. Currently I cannot use the app on my tablet(bigger screen) to follow the race because I made the mistake of buying it on my phone.


I bought mine on one device, but run it on another. Check you don’t have a different isue.


Hear hear!

Are they winding us up? First taking away the data we had and now asking what we woud like to see.
It was pretty useful as it was thanks, plead put it back. The sector times, the gap the weather tab and the lap chart tab. All this happened when the production went to Biggin Hill. WE DO NOTICE and WE DO NOT LIKE IT. The apparent loss of all the sound engineers has not helped either, maybe another consequence of Biggin Hill.

The whole country (uk) is being dumbed down, it seems quite deliberately and determinedly, [mod]


Bang On !

Taking away the live sector times was just a mean trick.

It shows what FOM really thinks of us dedicated F1 affectionadoes.


Hi James, or anyone else, Is it possible to get a spreadsheet with all of the lap times from the last (or any other) grand prix? I’m struggling to find it on the internet anywhere. The graph that you make for the race report shows that you must have this information somewhere. It would be great to make a mock up of my solution as a visual example and do some number crunching.


You can get the times on FIA.com under Timing Information in F1 section for each GP

As for getting in on an Excel sheet, well…. that’s not easy. Williams kindly supply me with the graph


@James Allen –

If you want access to charts, then it wouldn’t take much to tweak this application – http://glimmer.rstudio.com/psychemedia/f1ergastdemo/ – so that it pulls data from the ergast api directly for the current season’s races (data appears on there quite quickly after the race I think?)



That was useful thanks James – Fortunately someone sent me this link which gives me the ability to query all of the data from the race and I imagine other people on here would enjoy poking around with all of the data from all the races since 2011.



This has been quite a fun competition and has really got my creative juices flowing. When I read the article above I initially thought damn I’m out of my depth but the more I think about it the more confidence I have in my idea as I genuinely think my idea would add ‘excitement’.

Unfortunately the biggest challenge has been the 1000 word limit. This has forced me to cut out some of my ideas. I understand that they need to limit the size of the entries so that they can actually get through all of the entries in a reasonable amount of time but 1000 words is nothing….


Slightly off topic, but had an idea after reading, for a relative air speed indicator for the driver. Aerodynamic loads in the braking zone can influence the braking point, but the driver only knows from experience where he can start braking based on the car’s ground speed.

A head or tail wind will change the point slightly and this might lead to locking or suboptimal brake application. Feeding the driver information from the pitot tube that’s already on the car might help him decide where best to apply the brakes.

An example embodiment might be a vertical LED strip on the steering wheel (not too different to the gear shift lights) that indicates track minus airspeed to the driver. It’s just about the driver being able to make a more informed decision.


On the one hand that’s a very good and clever idea.

On the other hand if the drivers can’t figure out when to brake for a corner then what are they doing in an F1 car in the first place?


Virtual “braking line” indicator like in a video game? Neat idea, but there would be too many other variables to affect braking performance (track temperature, surface condition, brake temp and brake degradation, other cars) although all of these factors can be calculated of course.

I would rather watch a racing driver work it out though, then a server in the garage…


6 billion people on the planet

500M F1 fans

10M read about F1 on the net

100K know about the competition

1K care enough, and bright enough to try to enter, (a fantastic, very valuable pool of ideas in there)

Unfortunately the vast majority of potential entrants, like myself, will not be computer programmers, so will be ineligible by default, as you have to know how to extrapolate the data to even enter. Good odds for the guys that can, but it means a lot of good creative ideas will never be contributed….


One way that lets you try out ideas is to copy the data from a timing screen at a single point in time into a spreadsheet, and then create other sheets that use data from the timing screen sheet in interesting ways.

Using custom cell highlighting, or rearranging the positioning or ordering of cells, and then doing things with them, you can create new takes on the timing screen in new worksheets.



Quick update: There’s a smidge over 7 billion people on the planet now 😉

Anyway, they’re looking for ideas, not algorithms, and as far as I’m concerned one truly creative person is easily worth ten programmers any day of the week.

If you have a good idea give it a go 🙂



This is open to anyone. There are also two more challenges (September and November) and one of them is really for anyone and everyone to come up with top line ideas.

Horacio Alvarez

It’s been 5 months since FOM made available the timing & scoring app on the Apple store, yet it is not available in my country’s store. Since they could care less if I use the app or not, I only watch the race on reruns. Oh, I forgot, it’s a European series run on different countries around the world, I am not located in Europe, I should of have understood their preference viewing audience, I am not that valuable to them.

Christopher Cathles

“Posted By: James Allen | 14 Jul 2014 | 10:49 pm GMT “

I see I’m not the only night owl!

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