July 8, 2013

Well-Managed HPC Critical to Infininti Red Bull’s Formula One Racing Success

Alex Woodie

A lot goes into building a winning race team, including having superior cars, drivers, and support teams. On Infiniti Red Bull’s Formula One racing team, you can add one more ingredient to success: a well-managed HPC system, delivered courtesy of IBM Platform Computing.

The sustained success demonstrated by the Infiniti Red Bull team has been nearly unmatched in Formula One racing. From 2010 to 2012, the team won three consecutive double world championships, which means both the car and driver, Sebastian Vettel, took home championships.

It’s no coincidence that the race team brought in Platform Computing to help it manage its supercomputer in 2006, just prior to elevating itself to championship level. “Before working with IBM Platform Computing, we had quite a few pain points,” says Nathan Sykes FDA and CFD Tools Team Leader for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, in a recent video on the partnership.

Prior to implementing Platform Computing (which was acquired by IBM in 2012), the team’s designers and developers would have to wait for one piece of HPC work, such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation, to end before submitting the next batch.

After implementing Platform Computing’s tools, including LFS and Symphony, the HPC scheduling became automated, and the race team saw an immediate jump in throughput of 20 to 30 percent. “It’s a great relationship between the Red Bull design engineers and the Platform engineers,” says Christian Horner, team principal of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, in the video. “The software is very much the backbone of our supercomputer.”

The team leans on IBM Platform Computing to continue to give it an edge in an extremely competitive sport. The partnership has become even more important considering the fact that Formula One changes racing rules every year, including limiting the amount of research a team can do on supercomputers and in wind tunnels.

One of the big challenges recently imposed on the team is the reduction of on-track test time, says Al Peasland, the head of technical partnerships at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, in the video. That makes it even more important to design the car and parts correctly the first time.

“It’s really about making sure that what we commit to manufacture is a good part that is going to add performance,” Peasland says in the video. “Because we simply don’t have the time to go back and rework things or try ideas to correct the design. It’s about getting something on the machine that we know we’ve analyzed in detail and that gets the performance on the track that we expect from our simulation.”

Horner says IBM Platform Computing is an integral part of the process of how the team designs and develops Formula One cars. “Strategically for us to have a partner like IBM Platform Computing isn’t just a short term fix, it’s along term solution,” he says in the video.

Halfway through the 2013 race season, Vettel and Red Bull-Renault are leading the standings.

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