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UBIMET delivers technology and expertise to Formula 1

UBIMET delivers technology and expertise to Formula 1

It is not just the FIA and the racing teams that have plenty of work to do during Formula 1 Grand Prix. Austrian company UBIMET, an industry leader in weather forecasting and severe weather warnings, also has its own team and about 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) of equipment on site at all Grand Prix. Over the course of its six-day Grand Prix deployments, UBIMET analyses about 7,200 radar images and – during the race sessions – processes more than 1,400 pages of data to produce weather forecasts in real time. This provides racing teams with weather forecasts and data that are updated on a minute-by-minute basis – information that is crucial in making decisions on car setup and strategy.

Formula 1 is eleven races into the season, with eight Grand Prix yet to come. After a short summer break, the Formula 1 season resumes with the Belgian Grand Prix on 24th August. It is not just the racing teams and the FIA that are very busy in the run-up to the race: the meteorologists and engineers of UBIMET, an independent global provider of high-quality weather forecasts and severe weather warnings, have been delivering weather services for Grand Prix since the beginning of the 2014 season.

Weather forecasts: crucial to car setup and strategy

Weather conditions have an impact not just on vehicle handling, but also on car setup and team strategy. For Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends, forecasts for the entire week are made available as early as Wednesday, with updates being provided on a constant basis. Depending on weather conditions, data and forecasts are updated every few minutes during Formula 1 races. To accomplish this, 93 different kinds of weather data are processed each minute.

In-house weather models and a new approach to measurement

To provide an exceptional level of accuracy, UBIMET delivers all of its forecasts by combining specially developed models and algorithms with forecasts manually produced by experienced meteorologists. This synthesis of sophisticated technology and meteorological expertise enables the company to ensure highly accurate forecasts. Model calculations are done on a minute-by-minute basis to issue forecasts with high accuracy and in real time. Another important innovation is that racing circuits are divided into three different segments. Using this approach, UBIMET can deliver separate data and forecasts for each segment of the circuit. This can be of great importance: while one segment of the circuit is dry, other parts of the track may still (or again) be wet. 

Dr. Michael Fassnauer, CEO of UBIMET GmbH, says: “Research and development plays a central role at UBIMET. We are constantly improving and enhancing our models and methods in order to tailor them to the requirements in various fields such as Formula 1. Our in-house models, the division of circuits into segments and the combination of computer-generated and manually created forecasts allow us to set new standards and to provide extremely detailed information. Weather is, after all, a crucial factor in a large range of Formula 1 decisions – and these choices have to be made within very short periods of time.”

The onTRACK live weather information system

Racing teams have two alternative options to access weather forecasts and data. They can use either the FIA's internal information system or onTRACK, the UBIMET-developed live weather information system that runs on all common terminal devices. This provides easy access from any location to information on factors including track temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind and sunlight conditions, as well as probability of precipitation.

About 1,000 kg of equipment, 7,200 radar images and 800,000 pieces of measurement data per race

The UBIMET team follows the FIA and Formula 1 to every Grand Prix in order to provide racing teams with weather forecasts. About 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) of equipment also have to be moved to each venue. That includes weather stations, radar, radio modems, antennae and several servers for on-site computations. Using these servers, the company processes as much as 25 GB of weather data – equivalent to the storage capacity of 36 CDs – and 1,440 radar images each and every day, from Tuesdays before the Grand Prix until after the race on Sunday. Since the start of this year's Formula 1 season, UBIMET has processed 1,391 hours of measurement data, carried out 13,475 calculations and produced 336 forecasts.

Steffen Dietz, meteorologist at UBIMET GmbH, says: “There is very close co-operation between engineers and meteorologists in each and every Grand Prix. We have tight schedules as we set up and test our equipment on our own. Moreover, understanding regional weather patterns is critical if meteorologists are to deliver accurate weather forecasts. Our work therefore depends crucially on combining technology and expert knowledge.”