Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Race Control, Monza

I was lucky enough to be invited into race control just before the start of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Here's a few notes from my visit:

  • Race Director Charlie Whiting and his deputy, Herbie Blash (Race Observer) are responsible for overseeing the race; including incidents, behaviour of cars etc and reporting matters to the stewards. Colin Haywood (Race Control Operator) would deputise for either Charlie or Herbie if necessary.
  • The FIA takes their own control desk to each of the GPs, supplementing the permanent equipment of the circuit. Monza is one of the older style rooms, with around 25 small screens; Japan (he didn't say whether it was Fuji or Suzuka, I assume the former) has 36/37 large widescreen TVs.
  • The FIA provides three feeds to each of the desks (Charlie, Herbie, Colin) namely the standard camera feed, sector timing and the "Page 3" screen which contains relevant messages. Messages include "Car 5 cut the chicane at Turn 4/5: 14:23:07", "Blue flag shown to Car 21 at 15:12:54" etc
  • All radio channels between car and pit are monitored, and lights on the control desk show when each of the drivers is speaking to the team
  • Similar lights show contact between pit wall and race control. The teams also have a channel to the FIA, for example to clarify a regulation, or so that teams can be asked a question, warned of investigation etc.
  • The FIA are happy to provide clarification - but it is the team's responsibility to know and understand regulations (eg Liegate - McLaren asked for clarification whether Lewis should let Trulli past, but Charlie was busy sorting out the incident that caused the SC to be deployed in the first place)
  • Email is used to communicate to the teams, and each of the race directors also has personal mail.
  • The position of each car on the track is displayed on a map of the circuit. Certain sections can be enlarged (e.g. chicanes) and the accuracy is sufficient to easily determine whether a car is on the left or right side of the road, or off it. So this is useful for analysis of items such as cutting chicanes, weaving to prevent being overtaken ("more than one move") and overtaking under SC situations.
  • The FIA also times all cars between the two safety car lines (at Monza they are located before the first chicane and after the Parabolica). This information is used, for example, during qualifying to ensure that cars are not moving too slowly on the circuit. A minimum time for this part of the track is published prior to Qualifying.
  • Until now, records have been held for about two years, but it is safe to assume that all information from now on will be permanently kept.

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