Q+A with PI Research's director

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As an integral part of Jaguar's racing devision, PI Research helped design the new R5, targetting controllers, data acquisition systems and telemetry. Here follows an interview with George Lendrum, Directory of motorsport, PI Research.

How does Pi Research fit into the Premier Performance Division that also includes Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing?

"We provide the electronics systems for the car which includes controllers, data acquisition systems and the telemetry. It all needs to be 100 percent reliable and wherever possible give the team a competitive advantage."

What exactly do all the different electronics systems on a modern F1 car do? It seems they are increasingly complicated.

"You're right to say that a 2004 F1 car is a high-tech machine. The telemetry system means the continuous transfer of data from the car to the engineers in the pits - we send about 4Mb of information every lap. That is different to data-logging, which is when we store the data in the car and then download it when it returns to the pits.

"With telemetry we aim for a constant feed but certain things do interfere with the signal - buildings, the terrain of the circuit itself, even the chain fencing that goes round the track can block it. We generally, though, get sufficient connection time to allow the engineers to be able to monitor the car and also analyse how well it is performing at any particular time. That information means we can make mid-race changes to wing settings at a pitstop, for example, or get the driver to adjust the engine settings from the cockpit."

You also do a lot of work with the Jaguar Racing wind tunnel. What can Pi Research bring to the aerodynamics department?

"We provide instrumentation for the wind tunnel models that the teams use to test how well the cars slip through the air. The scale models they build are perfect replicas of the race car and we have developed a range of sensors that are built into the model and measure the forces that are acting upon it.

"By carefully taking the right measurements as the wind tunnel is running we can work out the lift and drag for any particular car set-up. With every run we build up what we call performance maps that allow us to compile a book of varying set-ups which we can take to each race. It's a vital process because it means that when we hit the track we can dial in the best possible set-up as quickly aspossible. Without the wind tunnel work we would spend much more time looking for the right settings when the car was actually running. As track time is at an absolute premium we need to make sure that what we do at the circuit is not a waste of time."

Does the new 'one-engine' rule affect how the cars are set-up?

"Yes, in terms of how much time we will have before qualifying. If everyone is trying to conserve their engine lifespan that means even less running to get a decent set-up. That in turn means that our performance maps have to be even better than before to allow us to go out and be quick from lap one."

What is the link between Pi Research and Cosworth Racing?

"We act as a service to Cosworth, because our products are the eyes and ears of what is going on inside the engine. From the data that we collect, Cosworth can make an immediate decision about performance or longevity or whatever it is that is affecting them at that moment.

"We don't own or act upon the data, we are there to extract it and allow the car or engine people to make the right calls at the right time."

What role do the Pi Research engineers play over a race weekend?

"Well, we have 300 people working at Pi Research on all forms of motorsport programmes all around the world. Jaguar Racing has four dedicated Pi engineers who are based at the team's factory and will work for the Vehicle Performance department, fulfilling our 'eyes and ears' role. At a race we will have seven people trackside to ensure that both Jaguar and Cosworth get the information they need."

Are the drivers becoming more aware of the growing importance of the telemetry?

"Absolutely. They have to. If they don't they are missing out on an opportunity to go quicker. As a driver you need to remember why you are there, which is to drive quickly, but you also need to be able to assess the information we have on tap. Good data, simply explained to a driver, is a superb way of showing where he can make changes. So understanding telemetry is a very important factor in being a modern F1 driver."

Do you give the drivers training in how to use it?

"Increasingly, yes. We don't look at it as training but we are developing tools all the time that help them to interface with the systems. The more computer-friendly a driver is, the better chance he has of going quickly. The very top drivers are interested in learning it all."