Weather is crucial in Formula 1 as it can determine a car’s performance. Let’s explore how F1 teams monitor and utilize weather conditions on the track.
In F1, teams travel across continents, experiencing different weather conditions each time. Temperatures can change from one session to another. How many times have we seen dry asphalt during free practice and wet conditions during qualifying?
Weather can affect the wind, tire temperatures, and many other factors that ultimately influence the car’s performance.
For this reason, F1 teams need to be constantly informed about the weather, with minute-by-minute updates to optimize their on-track performance.
Wind is a natural force not to be underestimated in Formula 1, as it can significantly impact a car, reducing its power and making it dangerous on the track. Teams must control it well to understand its speed, direction, and temperature.
There are many parameters that all teams must monitor. Every second can be precious to understand current conditions and predict future weather changes.
Teams have means to measure these parameters, such as the Weather Station, a kind of fan above the pit wall. The system is simple and allows engineers to monitor weather, measure pressure and temperature, and especially wind power. It also detects rain and its intensity. The faster the fan moves, the stronger the wind.
The only problem is that there is only one of these devices. That’s why, in recent years, teams have been trying to position as many fans as possible in every corner of the circuit to have a broader view.
Engineers also use an infrared sensor that detects the temperature of the asphalt. However, there remains an issue: teams have only one data point available since it is impossible to control temperatures across the entire track, including turns and straights (they would have to walk to check!).
All Teams Must Have the Same Data
In recent years, the FIA has mandated that all teams must have the same weather data. Despite having their own equipment, teams also rely on Meteo France, a weather forecasting service that provides devices (which are then positioned in different areas of the circuit) for more specific temperature information.
Knowing what is happening when it rains is important. Knowing what will happen next is another. Is a storm coming? Or is it just light rain? Meteo France has installed a massive one-meter radar on a hotel, 7 kilometers from the track. The image it transmits is what we see on the pit wall radars. At that distance, the device can predict whether rain is coming and when it will start to wet the circuit.
Weather information is then transmitted to Meteo France, which forwards it to all teams. When we hear the race director announce, “Rain coming in 20 minutes,” now we know how it works.
To measure the wind and its direction, there is a sensor that teams place on the car’s nose. At the end of the session, engineers can collect and analyze the data to understand how the car behaves.