Start your engines: How F1 drivers use GPS

May 10, 2023  - By
Credit: vvectors/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Credit: vvectors/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

GPS plays a quiet, but integral role in Formula 1 (F1) racing. In a sport where split-second reactions are vital, GPS helps drivers and their teams to improve race to race and navigate tracks safely.

GPS is used to determine the speed of the car, which is beneficial for such things as straight line aerodynamic testing. It also provides data as to how fast F1 cars accelerate, enabling drivers and their teams to predict how much power their competitors are producing on the track.

The streaming of location data can be converted to telemetry, such as what track maps viewers see on F1 broadcasts, that can determine which driver in a head-to-head scenario was faster on each sector of the track. This data is then used to work out strengths and weaknesses of cars relative to each other.

In addition, GPS plays a large role in creating a safe racing space.

If a driver is slowing down to recharge a battery, make space for a hot lap, or cool down tires between runs, and another car is entering the track at full racing speed, this creates safety concerns. GPS receivers on the cars and radio links to transmit their positions are used to show where cars are on the track at any moment. Teams use this information to manage traffic during sessions such as qualifying races to improve overall track safety.

The impact of losing live location data was seen at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix FP1 in late March. At the opening practice session, a red flag was flown due to loss of location data triggered by a glitch in the distribution of live tire information. This caused several near-misses on the track because drivers no longer received traffic advisory calls from their team, reported AutoSport.

For more on using GPS in F1, check out the video below by WTF1.

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About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.