Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2021

F1 data outage “no one was prepared for” caused by local fibre line fault

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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F1 teams were unable to talk to their drivers on their radios when Friday practice began due to a local internet connection fault, RaceFans understands.

The fibre line to the Imola circuit failed, which forced F1 to use satellite connections as a back-up.

The result was a significant loss of coverage. Teams lost their data feeds and radio connections to their cars during the session.

F1’s television broadcast was also disrupted. There were no live pictures for several minutes at the beginning of the session and only limited coverage later on. The fibre connection was later reset and normal service resumed.

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost admitted they could have been better prepared for the problem. “It was interesting to observe how confused we were,” he said.

“Normally you’re used to give the driver some advice to tell them, especially at the beginning of the free practice session or what to do and also regarding the traffic and the drivers couldn’t hear us, we couldn’t hear drivers. And it was a completely new situation because no one was prepared for this.”

However Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said the loss of data and communication was not too serious.

“The experience was a bit strange because we had no lap time,” he said. “We had the data for safety, for sure, at least, but we had no data and no information on the others at all.

“But as it was just for the first stint until the mid-session, something like this, it’s okay for me, it’s not a drama.

“For sure we are not used to [it] now. We discussed after the session because the drivers were complaining about the radio and I said okay, but 20 years ago guys they were able to drive without radio. And now it’s okay.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “F1 data outage “no one was prepared for” caused by local fibre line fault”

  1. But @gt-racer mentioned a power outage in Biggin Hills.

    1. @jerejj I would be surprised if there wasn’t a local backup (eg diesel generator or a battery) that will kick in almost immediately at Biggin Hill since that is a reasonable foreseen event but a local cable fault is not so easy to resolve at speed. Data centre type applications have this all designed in as standard.

      Therefore both events could have occurred simultaneously but only the local issue caused the bigger knock-on effects.

    2. @jerejj That’s what I was told.

      When I enquired as to what was wrong I was just told that there had been a local blackout which meant they couldn’t establish a link to the track.

      Was also sent a link to a local power company status page showing local outages through the morning.

  2. Sounds like some terrible redundancy planning. And how does a fibre line affect radios? For sure they’ve got some links in the chain that don’t need to be there.

    Hopefully they can learn from this. Sure it wasn’t such a big deal during a practice session but imagine if it happened during the race.

    1. Yes, it is odd the teams didn’t have a backup plan. I guess a lot depends on the technicalities of the radio system there, what failed, and what the rules allow, but from what I’ve read no one said the radio transmitter failed. I’m guessing that meant if the pit wall were to use a radio just like the one fitted to the cars then they’d have been able to talk to their drivers.
      As I think about it, having redundancy depends on how much a team is prepared to spend, how much weight they want to add to their car, how quickly they can activate their redundancy, and as I just mentioned, what the rules allow because there are things like local mobile phone networks which could easily provide some sort of rudimentary (or even excellent) coverage.
      One of the issues here is what the rules allow because a radio channel isn’t just for voice, it can be for data too, and if it is a digital radio channel then voice is data, so that whole issue could easily become a can of worms. There are restrictions on what a team can tell a driver over the radio. I believe the FIA likes to “monitor” what is being said just to satisfy themselves no one is breaking the rules. Now say a car was fitted with a mobile phone network card, which can be small and light (and cheap if there is a mobile network that still runs GSM in that area). The one I had appeared to have access points for a microphone and speaker, so presumably it could be used to send voice communication between the cars and the pitwall … and the FIA could easily be excluded from that communication (unless a recording was kept and made available to them). If the rules don’t allow teams to fit mobile phone network cards to their cars then they can’t have that as a redundancy option.

    2. @skipgamer

      And how does a fibre line affect radios?

      The radio signal is captured near the track and then the data is sent via a glass fiber connection.

  3. Once again a badly made news.

  4. What ? A data link outage (anywhere) takes out local radio comms ? Nah. Someone is being misleading, or plain wrong, or something is very odd about the way F1 organises it’s self.

    Plus, the fibre backup is satellite ? Is this amateur hour ? What happened to multiple redundant links with different entry and exit points ?

    Ex-sysadmin…

  5. Just want to highlight how embarrassing this is for not just the main system to fail, but also whatever redundancy they allegedly had (if none, that’s pretty shocking).
    If this had been FE race, just think of the outrage and abuse that would have followed!
    I’m genuinely quite surprised that they didn’t stop / delay the session while this was fixed.

  6. Wasn’t it blamed for the cause of the Ocon/ Perez crash?
    There’s a safety issue as well as a financial cost here so it shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

  7. the gap between bahrain and Imola was so massive, fom forgot how to do their thing. Generally it’s the stewards and race direction that selectively forget to do their thing. Technical problems aside worst of all problems was the framing. In first 45 mins or 40 since the session started out of thin air 5 mins late, I got more sea sick than after watching fast and furious. Often there was not a single wheel in-frame let alone a couple.

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