Formula 1 is a fascinating sports. I mean those cars are FAST! Did you know that the unofficial speed record for F1 car is 413 km/h? Not bad. F1 – like Ecofleet Mileage Log – relies heavily on tracking the car and analyzing location and timing data. While Ecofleet Mileage Log uses GPS technology to position all kinds of vehicles, Formula 1 cars have a bit different ways for the same task.
For Formula 1 cars the most important thing about tracking them is knowing how many laps each car has completed and exact time on checkpoints that is accurate to 1/1000th of a second. GPS might not be that accurate, so there’s a different kind of technology handling this.
Each car has a transponder unit (well probably two units – one is a backup) fitted to it and it will transmit the car ID when the unit is energized by passing over a timing loop buried in the track surface. These transponders allow the timekeepers to record every lap time of every car throughout the weekend. The timing loop is basically just two bits of wire that run across the track and back, something like an antenna (read: it is an antenna).
Transponders transmit their code constantly when energized. The signal is relatively weak and requires that the transponder is not higher than a fixed height above the surface, usually not more than around 60 cm. Every antenna loop goes to a receiver with a decoder which decodes the unique ID of the transponder and sends it to the timing software on a main computer.
As soon as the start is given, the software is activated and when each car passes over the start/finish line loop for the first time, time starts counting till it crosses the sector loops and the start/finish one, the latter giving the total lap time.
As a backup system there are infra-red photo-cells on the start line that identify and register each car, permitting control-center staff to maintain essential timing information even if the transponder system breaks down. And, as a last resort, there are timer-linked video cameras on the start line to provide the same information.
So there’s some high tech wizardry going on there, just like in Ecofleet Mileage Log! Next time you are watching Formula 1 race with your friends you can share this awesome knowledge.