Vincent Gaillardot has been involved in auto racing for close to 40 years, as an engineer for various teams in Formula 1 and now Formula-E. He currently serves as the project leader for the Renault e-dams team in the Formula-E series. Gaillardot’s main focus as project leader is to find the most efficient version of the Renault cars for drivers to use, because, as he says, efficiency is what Formula-E teams are fighting on.
“In Formula-E, unlike Formula 1, we’re not trying to get the most power out of the car,” said Gaillardot at a press event prior to the Formula-E season finale in New York last week. “Power is capped on our circuit, so the main difference between teams is the efficiency of the car.”
How do teams make tweaks in efficiency? By studying the data collected from the car during the course of practice and qualifying laps. The data recorded includes information on basically every system within the car, from the powertrain to the brake pressure the driver exerts and everything in between. Gaillardot and his team analyze that data for small changes that either they or the driver himself can make in order to get the best performance out of the car.
“The driver that wins the race is generally the one who manages his energy reserve the best over the course of the race,” said Gaillardot.
However, the amount of data collected can be staggering, as cars generate petabytes (1 petabyte equals 1,024 terabytes) of data during the course of each race. The sheer scale and enormity of the amount of data collected and transmitted has been streamlined by Renault’s partnership with data-security and storage company Acronis.
For Gaillardot, he views the partnership as hugely beneficial because of the tight turnaround of a race weekend in Formula-E. Teams run qualifying, practice laps and the race all in the span of one day. That means the data collected has to be safely recorded and analyzed in the span of a few hours. Acronis, which has been providing data recovery and backup services for 15 years, is up to that task, giving Gaillardot and team the opportunity to make the adjustments they think will make the difference come race time.
Chris Vlok, a driver on various circuits and the Director of Motorsport at Acronis, said that from a driver’s perspective, that data is important not simply for the technical adjustments made to the car, but also to back up or disprove what a driver is experiencing on the track.
“In the past, you were largely driving on feel, which can be misleading,” said Vlok. “You could come off the track thinking that you had just driven a fast lap only to come in and find it had been slow and vice versa. Now, with the data that’s being recorded, I can go to my engineer and say hey, I think this is off and he can look at the data and tell me whether I’m right, or wrong.”
Gaillardot and the Renault e-dams team finished fifth in this year’s Formula-E standings, with driver Sebastian Buemi finishing fourth in the driver standings. With changes coming for Formula-E’s new season in 2019, including a boost in power for short periods during a race (think NOS boost from The Fast and the Furious) and points given for efficiency, there will be a whole new set of data to dive into next year, making the partnership with Acronis one that looks likely to extend well into the future.