Was video tech from Autonomy behind Nico Rosberg's China Grand Prix win?
Formula One driver Nico Rosberg won his first Grand Prix in China on Sunday, after converting his pole position earned during qualifying into top spot on the podium after the race itself. It was a great day for him and the Mercedes GP Petronas team.
It never really looked in doubt for the German driver, who won at the 111th time of asking, and some are wondering what has changed this time around. How is Mercedes suddenly able to take on and beat the likes of McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari?
Well, apart from mechanical changes to the cars this year (his and Schumacher's) and, perhaps, a wiser head on the 26 year-old, there's one new technological advancement adopted by the team in 2012 for the first time, and it's one that Pocket-lint was talked through by Rosberg himself.
Before the season started, Mercedes GP Petronas announced a new partnership with technology firm Autonomy, which would be supplying a version of its video analysis tool Virage to the team to adapt for Formula One use.
We caught up with Nico Rosberg to talk about it after the ink had dried on the contract, and it seems his words at the time were prophetic.
"In F1, everything is about timing - about getting the information to me as quick as possible throughout the race weekend," he said.
"Instead of getting [data] to me the next day, [it's better] to get it to me in the next half hour, or even the next ten minutes. Also, throughout the race itself, to get things to me in 5 seconds, in 2 seconds straight from the pits, as soon as you see it on the video, will help me immediately.
"That’s where Virage really comes in and will help us. Autonomy gives us the tools, and we apply them to our specific needs.
"It helps me drive faster, and helps me get that one position better in the race."
Virage, you see, watches the video feeds supplied at the track and analyses the footage in real time. It breaks the information down to raw data, which the Mercedes engineers can immediately use to help both Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
"During race weekends, we have a track-side operation and a factory-based operation," explained James Vowles, Mercedes GP's chief engineer.
"Back at the factory we have a number of people - around 20 engineers who work with us during racing day. We have a fibre link between us and the factory and get a number of different video feeds - what you would see at home, plus many others in the background - all coming in.
"Previously, that was manually sorted. They would go through each and every video clip one by one and pick out core bits of information - it could be a little bit of on-board footage from a car, it could be a collection of replays determining what’s happening over a course of an accident that’s occurred. We'd normally collate that footage and send it to the track, or clip it into a neater form to look at later.
"We have a finite amount of time, so we have to get as much data as possible analysed before a race weekend. And it’s a huge amount of video information that we’re trying to filter through, so by optimising that [using Virage] we’ve already saved ourselves an immense amount of time."
So, could it be the quick turn around of data that helped Rosberg get his first victory?
"In racing, technology has taken massive steps. It’s just incredible, especially in analysing what’s going on on the track," the driver told us.
"You have the live feed coming through from the race car with all the data, so that every time I make a little mistake, the engineers back in the pits can see it immediately.
"Back in '96 [when Rosberg started racing], or even before that, it was impossible to use data to help yourself. Today I use it so much to help myself. To drive better. To set up my car better. To understand more of what’s going on out there.
"Of course, a lot of it is my feeling. But there’s that additional use of data, and you can really use it to your advantage."
And, it seems, he certainly did.
Do you think technology is helping or hindering the sport of Formula One? Let us know in the comments below...