George Russell's helmet camera, Williams, Monza, 2021

“Not ideal” running Russell’s helmet camera during race, admit Williams

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Williams admit they have concerns over revealing sensitive information through the helmet camera George Russell is running in his car this weekend.

However the team is expected to use it again in today’s Italian Grand Prix at Formula 1’s request.

The helmet camera footage has proved highly popular as it gives a more accurate impression of the forces F1 drivers experience in at the wheel. However it also gives Williams’ competitors the opportunity to glean valuable information from their dash display.

“It’s not ideal, really, I suppose, from our point of view,” said the team’s head of vehicle performance Dave Roberts.

“But then again, if people find it interesting and entertaining, then that’s all part of the sport, isn’t it? It’s probably not where I’d choose to put a camera for us but if people like that view that’s okay, I think.”

Fernando Alonso ran the same camera at the Dutch Grand Prix last weekend. However the Alpine driver only used it during practice, not in any competitive sessions. Williams considered doing the same, but eventually accepted F1’s request to use it in a race.

“We did discuss it a couple of days ago, whether we just run it for the two free practice sessions and then take it off,” said Robson “Obviously Formula 1 were keen to run it through the competitive sessions.”

The Driver’s Eye helmet and camera is produced by the Racing Force Group and has already been extensively used in Formula E since the beginning of 2020. However, in FE, the lower portion of the image produced by the camera is pixellated in an effort to disguise what is shown on drivers’ screens.

It was developed jointly by audio and video technology developer Zeronoise and helmet manufacturer Bell, both of which are Racing Force Group brands. The camera, positioned at eye-level on the left-hand side of the helmet, weighs just 2.5 grams.

“The installation of it is absolutely fine and it doesn’t cause us any problems or disadvantages,” said Robson. “It’s purely down to what’s visible on the dash.

“But I think for where we are and for the good of the sport, we are quite happy to run it. There’s nothing in particular to hide on the dash. So I think we will see it on Sunday again, I think.”

Williams is unique among teams in that its dash is mounted to the cockpit, rather than the steering wheel. It is therefore obscured from view when its drivers are cornering. Robson said the team previously considered repositioning it and “decided it wasn’t really worth the effort and it was absolutely fine where it is, stationary.

“I don’t know how much they look at it when the wheel’s actually turned anyway, to be honest – you’d like to think they have better things to do at that point in the corner. So it’s something we’ll continuously review as and when we redesign the steering wheel. But we’re pretty comfortable with it where it is at the moment.”

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2021 Italian Grand Prix

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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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21 comments on ““Not ideal” running Russell’s helmet camera during race, admit Williams”

  1. Not something I can imagine Mercedes or Red Bull and their drivers agreeing to…
    Where these cameras get used will be a pretty good representation of which teams are interested holistically in the sport, and those who are only interested in their own secrets.

  2. I think that where WIlliams have their dash mounted makes more sense than any other teams actually. It will be cheaper to make too. I also don’t get why you need to be able to read it while cornering since it is at a slant anyway.

    Also, I’v noticed that when drivers have a lot of vibration such as a flatspot, it shakes the wheel so badly that it likely is unreadable at times, which is another reason why I think the way Williams have it is better.

    1. Pat Symonds insisted on the dash mounted display when he was at Williams. He believes having it in the wheel makes the wheel heavier and therefore slower to turn due to inertia. Surely there can be barely any difference but if anything shows the mindset of F1 engineers then that’s it.

      1. @mattj

        It most certainly will make the wheel bigger and heavier, and it also certainly will be cheaper to have it fixed where it is as it won’t need to be built with wires that have to move all the time. Not sure if it is easier to turn though.

        1. He thought it made changing direction faster. The idea being that the extra weight made it harder to stop when you turn it one way and then want to quickly flick it back the opposite direction.

      2. Ten hundredths make a tenth.

    2. @thegianthogweed I still prefer the in-built steering wheel display used by all other teams.

  3. Could they somehow just scramble that part of the field of view? I don’t know how easily you can do that to a live feed but I guess it can be done if they can super-impose the box and name tag following a moving car live. The camera is great. I noticed they repositioned it so it wasn’t looking down quite so much. A brilliant feature!

    1. @tommy-c Impossible on a ‘live’ TV broadcast.

      1. Absolutely 100% possible, actually.

        It’s called Augmented Reality – it is the same system that puts that awful white box under cars on the track and occasionally hovers up other drivers’ names and speeds during on-boards, also the same system that superimposes virtual sponsor billboards on fences and logos in runoff areas and is used for the pre-session/introduction aerial fly-by around the circuit for corner speeds and such.
        Also the same system that swimming events use for the ‘world record line’ that moves along the pool.

        It’s all live.

      2. @jerejj This is very much possible. Formula E do it on their live broadcasts (as I believe the article points out)

        1. @randommallard I assume that footage is something shown afterwards on different occasions rather than during a session.

          1. @jerejj Formula E air it live during sessions & are able to cover the lower part of the screen using a live filter.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE_UUi-VnYk

          2. @jerejj as GT racer points out, I think Formula E does deliver it live during their sessions. They certainly call it live on the broadcast.

      3. @tommy-c @jerejj Formula E manage it by pixelating the lower part of the image where the wheel display is.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HObOArUgdrY

        I think the wider angle lenses that Formula E use also work better as it seems to make the head movement less jarring which & I also think it gives a better view as you have a bit more peripheral vision allowing you to see the mirrors. The narrower angle view F1 use (Which is also what Formula E started out with) just makes me feel a bit dizzy.

        F1 actually ran the wider angle lens on Alonso during FP3 at Spa having run the narrower version in FP2.

        Formula E have also recently started using an even wider lens.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPA5UFGKBdg

        Reply moderated
      4. Put a bit of black tape across the bottom of the lens?

        Reply moderated
  4. What’s the issue anyway?
    A steering wheel display shows nothing extraordinary, gear number, lap time delta, ERS level, brake balance, engine braking, etc. The same things for all teams, i.e., normal stuff.

    1. The issue is that most F1 teams don’t want to give anything away to their competitors.
      It doesn’t matter that most of that information is known to everyone anyway.

      1. @S ”It doesn’t matter that most of that information is known to everyone anyway.”
        Of course, this does matter. What’s the point in covering something everyone already knows or can see/find out through other means, in this case, merely from the regular T-cam view, especially under artificial lighting.

    2. The SMS traffic between George and Toto would be embarrassing to read I guess :)

      1. It’s not an SMS, it’s a PowerPoint. Which is why Williams need a static dash-mounted display, because otherwise the graphs would be at all the wrong angles

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