Formula 1 and AI: the beginning of the end for engineers?


La Formula 1 little by little has been using what technological advances has been able to contribute to advance. From new developments in composite materials, exotic alloys, etc., to advanced electronic devices, computing resources, advances in mechanics, the incorporation of rapid prototyping machines or additive manufacturing (3D printing), and lately, also with views to AI.

Many wonder if so much technology could be the beginning of the end of F1 as we know it now, replacing engineers with machines. Even more so when Williams herself has announced car design using AI...

Artificial intelligence breaks into Formula 1 thanks to Williams

Williams 2 F1 2024

Formula 1, always at the forefront of technology, takes another step towards the future with the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the design of its cars. Williams, a historic team in the category, is the first to publicly recognize its use, although it is estimated that up to four teams could be using this technology.

The AI ​​system responsible for this revolution is Neural Concept (NCS), developed by the Swiss company of the same name. NCS offers engineers recommendations on aerodynamic designs and developments, based on three-dimensional simulations that surpass traditional wind tunnel tests in speed and efficiency. The benefits it can provide are:

  • Greater speed and efficiency: AI simulations allow a greater number of designs to be explored in less time, accelerating the development process.
  • Discovery of new solutions- Can identify patterns and opportunities that might go unnoticed by the human eye, opening up new possibilities in aerodynamic design.
  • Cost reduction- Using NCS significantly reduces the need for wind tunnel testing, resulting in considerable savings for teams.

The incorporation of AI in the design of single-seaters puts the current regulations of Formula 1 in check, which limits the hours of use of the wind tunnel to balance the competition. NCS could allow teams to overcome these limitations more economically and efficiently. Furthermore, it could even threaten the long-term need for engineers.

Future of AI in Formula 1

It is foreseeable that the use of AI extends to other aspects of car design and development, such as engine optimization and vehicle dynamics. AI has the potential to revolutionize Formula 1, opening new frontiers in the pursuit of performance and efficiency. Possible uses of AI in engine and aerodynamics design are:

  • Engine optimization: can analyze sensor and test data to identify areas for improvement in engine performance, such as combustion, cooling and lubrication. It could even improve current motor maps, or adapt them on the fly.
  • Custom aerodynamic design- AI can generate specific aerodynamic designs for each circuit, taking into account track characteristics and weather conditions. Even for each pilot, according to the needs of each one, as well as personalized configurations or setups.
  • Scenario simulation: It can simulate the behavior of the car in different scenarios, such as overtaking, braking and cornering, to optimize the racing strategy, in a better way than current simulators based on conventional computing do.

AI opens up a world of possibilities in the design of Formula 1 cars, with the potential to transform the competition and take it to a new level of performance and efficiency. But…How long will it take the FIA ​​to regulate it?

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