GPS red flag blamed on tyre usage data updates

© XPB 

A problem with the distribution of live information about tyre usage inadvertently affected the GPS tracking system used by teams at Albert Park during first practice for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix, it has emerged.

Autosport reports that the system which tracks the tyre compounds currently in use by each car on track for use by the live timing system and television world feed graphics had failed.

This caused a problem with the distribution of other data over the local area network, in particular causing the GPS information system used by the teams on pit lane to become unavailable.

Even though race control still had access to the real time data, teams were not able to see where their cars were on track, preventing them from managing their laps and to avoid congestion and potential collisions.

The risk of an accident meant that a red flag was triggered 40 minutes into FP1 on safety grounds, requiring all cars to head to pit lane while the GPS system was rebooted once the cause of the problem was determined.

It meant a loss of nine minutes of track time. The one hour session was further shortened when Logan Sargeant's Williams suffered an electrical issue and came to a halt by the side of the track in the final five minutes.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. 31.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Fortunately the GPS outage didn't result in any accidents, and there was no recurrence of the problem once the session resumed.

An issue with the start lights to get the second Supercar race of the weekend underway after FP1 was said not to be connected with the GPS glitch. That race eventually started the old fashioned way - by dropping the Australian flag.

While frustrating for all concerned, drivers agreed with race control's decision to suspend the free practice session while the GPS system was revived from its accidental torpor.

"It's a bit tricky obviously," Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas commented. "It depends on the track but when there's lots of traffic and half of the field is on a fast lap and half of the field is on a slow lap, then it's a bit blind.

"I think it would be manageable, but there's this one extra risk factor that somebody's parked in a blind corner and someone who comes flat out without information."

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C43. 31.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

AlphaTauri rookie Nyck de Vries concurred, stating that it had been "quite wise for them to red flag it because the speeds are so high and everyone was so much out of sync".

"There's not a lot of space," he continued. "It's relatively narrow and the track is always turning so even in the mirrors it's quite blind.

"When you're relying always on the team and your engineer to inform you about the gaps and then suddenly they aren't able to inform you, then you can run into a tricky situation as we as we've seen."

Even when GPS was up and running there appeared to be more baulking and near-misses than usual, which de Vries suggested was due to "the nature of the tyres" this season.

"They just keep improving and that's why people abort, continue and are then out of sync and on different run plans - and then you run into traffic."

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