F1’s version of VAR: remote ops center that’s a ‘sanity check’ for stewards

“We’re on a journey here,” says Malyon. “We started with the vision of the President of wanting to put a facility like this in place. And I think we reacted on that very quickly. And we got that up and running at the start of the season.

“We’re on an aggressive development path, and an aggressive evolution of the facility and the support that the facility can offer to the track.

“Is this all we want to achieve? The answer is no, in the same way that the teams have used these tools and have developed them and expanded them in the past, we’re on that journey as well. On a weekly basis, I will speak with different areas of the organization and the work that’s going on at the track.

“I was actually speaking to a colleague about financial regulation topics earlier today, and about how we can support and do more and improve the governance on that side using this facility. I think we’re on a very strong development curve.”

“I think we are event-by-event taking on more of the standard job list, we’re able to support more. But we’re doing it in a measured way.”

Officials in F1 remote operations center during 2022 Azerbaijan GP

Officials see everything but limit communication with race control

FIA via Twitter

During live track action the ROC guys have to judge when to intervene with messages about what they have spotted – they don’t want to bombard race control with information.

“Particularly in sessions, it’s a very time pressured environment,” says Malyon. “We really do aspire to be extremely accurate, extremely timely, and really adding value every time we step in. We certainly want to do this in a cautious way so that we are sure that we do add the value progressively.

“It’s been a measured expansion, I think, from a technical side. Credit to Chris, and the guys that have put that together. I think we made a very quick evolution there. We’re still ramping up, and I think we will continue to do so.

Virtual race weekends to train stewards

Aside from the contribution on race weekends, another area that is yet to be fully explored is the use of the ROC as a training tool for race directors, stewards and other officials. The general idea is to simulate a race weekend, and throw tricky scenarios at them.

“What we’re looking at trying to do with our technical partners, some of these work with the teams as well, is to build a race control simulator, which we’re working on at the moment,” says Bentley.

“We can actually design a particular set of circumstances that are quite challenging. Like an aborted start, a car out of position, slow recovery of a car where we can have a slider to make that recovery more and more difficult and time consuming, and lots of different things that add to the complexity of what they’re doing .

Screens in F1 remote operation center for 2022 Belgian Grand Prix

“And we’re going to use the audio system to fire 10 sets of horrible questions and demands of the race director at the same time, and build all this together and then work with a way to simulate the video side of things to create these incidents.

“So there’s a particular combination of events to put them under similar pressures, and when they’re in that environment, it seems to them that they are at the track. And then the same goes for stewards who also work in different ways.”

However, the main job of the ROC will continue to be on race weekends, and having those extra pairs of eyes examining incidents away from the pressure cooker environment of the actual race control.

“These guys are a supplementary resource for us,” says Bentley. “The decision-making process here is the stewards, they are the panel that make the decisions.

“This does not replace the stewarding. This gives us the ability to provide extra information and assistance and sanity checking, I suppose you could say, and to be able to identify things to make sure the processes we follow are correct.

“But the ultimate authority is still the race director, what we’re trying to do is enhance the capabilities that he’s got available to him to have more information around him.”