In Formula 1 racing where a microsecond can mean the difference between victory and defeat, Lenovo is providing a supercomputing boost to the AT&T Williams team.
The F1 operation, which is sponsored by Lenovo, and the PC manufacturer said Tuesday that a Lenovo-built supercomputer has been installed at the AT&T Williams headquarters in the United Kingdom.
“F1 racing is the most technologically advanced sport in the world,” said Lenovo spokesperson Bob Page. “They are already using it for aerodynamics testing.”
AT&T Williams is incorporating the supercomputer into its wind tunnel simulation facility in order to improve the aerodynamics and speed of its F1 cars. By using highly sophisticated computational fluid dynamics software, the team’s designers will look for ways to reduce drag and improve down force for traction.
Technology could provide a needed boost for the AT&T Williams teams. Its top two drivers rank only ninth and 11th in the F1 standings. In team, or ‘constructor,” standings, AT&T Williams ranks fifth among 11 teams.
The supercomputer is not the first to be used by an F1 team. For example, BMW Sauber worked with Intel to use a supercomputer they called Albert 2. The Lenovo machine replaces a Linux-based supercomputer provided to AT&T Williams by its previous sponsor Hewlett Packard.
F1 racing is data intensive. For example, according to AT&T Williams, its cars have 120 sensors which gather telemetry data at the rate of 1 gigabyte per hour. The information is transmitted wirelessly to the race team during an event and later downloaded to Lenovo PCs for analysis.
Aerodynamics are especially crucial in F1 racing, with some 75 percent of F1 cars attributed to that factor, according to AT&T Williams and other teams.
Lenovo, which provides other computers and technology services needed by AT&T Williams, is not widely known as a supercomputing manufacturer. In fact, the supercomputer is the second one Lenovo has delivered, according to Page. The machine was built with cluster server design in China where Lenovo manufactures its servers.
Neither AT&T Williams nor Lenovo disclosed the price of the machine.
“This is an extension of our marketing agreement with AT&T Williams,” Page said. “We’re not disclosing the value.”
F1 race teams utilize aerodynamics to squeeze the maximum amount of speed out of their cars.
“Aerodynamics plays a critical role in determining how competitive we are for each of the race circuits we visit,” said Alex Burns, chief operating officer of AT&T Williams, in a statement. “The optimum balance of downforce and drag varies between different circuits, so the aerodynamics at Monaco – lots of tight corners with few straights – are very different from Monza, which has few corners but lots of long straights.
“The increase in supercomputing power from Lenovo will give us the capability to examine a greater range of design variations between races, which will increase our development rate, bringing more performance to the car sooner,” he added.
The Lenovo supercomputer was built utilizing cluster technology, which combines the power of servers deployed in racks. The AT&T Williams machine is capable of performing eight teraflops, or a trillion operations per second.
While AT&T Williams said the new machine was four times faster than its previous computing solution, an IBM top-of-the-line Blue Gene machine can work at 200 teraflops per second.
The machine will enable AT&T Williams to create 3-D cars operating in a virtual world complete with simulated airflow.
“Aerodynamics has been steadily gaining importance in recent years, accounting for roughly three quarters of the performance of a Formula One car today,” Burns said. “The tremendous increase in power delivered by the Lenovo supercomputer will allow us to perform the same tasks we do today in a quarter of the time.”
Research gleaned from the simulations will be applied to cars that are tested in the two wind tunnels that AT&T Williams operates.