Behind the thrill of the F1 racetrack, a range of high-end networking and communications technology helps make the high-octane sport a reality. Riedel Communications, the German network and broadcast specialist, provides a range of technology for each of the races in the F1 calendar.
The company took Digital Studio on a tour of the track in Bahrain to explain how the company’s technology is used.
Richard Serschen, manager motorsport solutions, Riedel Communications, explained that the company provides a range of solutions for F1 based on a fibre backbone, which Riedel itself installs at the venue prior to each race. “We bring our own fibre infrastructure which is produced at our headquarters in Germany,” he said. “The fibre backbone is laid down and put in place by ourselves. The F1 organisers require this kind of fibre because of the high specifications that are needed in such an environment. Everything needs to be robust and ruggedised and we need to make sure that everything works to perfection.”
The fibre backbone is deployed in the ‘pitwall’ which is the area where all of the crucial pit-stop activities take place. “The key people are all there. There are other services run from there and we have to cover things from this side,” Serschen says.
The fibre network also runs through the teams’ garages, allowing vital data to be relayed from the pits to the engineers in the garages. It also connects to the race control tower and the TV compound. “The length of a circuit means there will be around 12-18 km of fibre which will be installed the week before the race and will be de-installed after the race with a dedicated crew of Riedel employees,” Serschen says.
As Digital Studio toured the track two days before the main Bahrain F1 race, a team from Riedel was preparing to go to Russia in one week’s time to begin installing the network.
Via Riedel Networks, a 100% enterprise of Riedel Communications, the company also connects F1 race tracks around the world back to its main hub in Frankfurt, Germany. From there, data is rerouted to the locations required by the race teams. This is vital, Serschen explains, as only the majority of F1 teams’ support staff work off-site. The network ensures that each of the F1 teams gets access to all of the data, in real-time, that they need. “The teams have more employees back home than they have trackside, so all the data needs to go home in real time,” he says.
The fibre backbone is also used for voice, data and video for staff within the venue. Riedel uses the network to provide wired and wireless communication with its Artist system, which is available in three different node sizes – 32, 64 and 128 ports. “All this is available at the track. It just depends what the customer wants. There’s a couple of nodes with each team for different types of connection - for example for the pitwall, garage and hospitality areas.”
Riedel’s digital radio communication system used at the track is based on Tetra technology and it provides more than 1500 radios for each race weekend to the customers, teams, suppliers, governing bodies and almost everyone involved in the organisation of the event.
Riedel’s intercom system also enables people working at the F1 teams’ headquarters and factories to have direct communication and data transfer with their team mates at the track.
The intercom system mainly consists of Riedel panels, whether that’s the classic 1000 LED series, the premium 1100 OLED series or the new 2300 SmartPanel series. “We are currently using the latest spec of SmartPanels of course, and we also use 1000 series, of which we have two types - we have an LED series which is normally used when outside in bright sunshine, while if you are in the engineer’s room you use the 1100 OLED series,” Serschen says.
Aside from all of this technology which allows for the transfer of voice and data, Riedel also has a video solution in place at the track. These cameras are for the use of the race teams, mainly at the pit-stops and in the garages, and also on the track for monitoring and judging purposes. “We set up a lot of cameras into a bigger system, so first of all we get the CCTV cameras from each circuit and we put this into our system,” Serschen says.
Riedel installs cameras inside the pit lane and on the pit boxes so the team can see when a car is coming in for a pit-stop. It also installs overhead cameras to capture the team performing the pit-stop. This allows each team to gain a better understanding of where improvements can be made and mistakes avoided.
“We also have cameras in the garages above the cars because when the cars are parked after qualifying, for a certain time nobody is allowed to touch a car.
“It will be covered and sealed and that will be recorded into a video system which is used for judging,” Serschen adds.