Title-winning F1 tech boss Pat Symonds works for F1 as a leader of several projects trying to find ways to improve the quality of grand prix racing.
Last year, Symonds said F1 was evaluating changing the staggered one-by-one grid structure and targeted doing so in the virtual world.
However, instead of using Esports, Symonds revealed at this year’s Autosport International Show that F1’s approach had changed.
“We do want to make our decisions based on evidence,” said Symonds. “Over the years we’ve moved towards this eight-metre, staggered grid formation.
“We asked ourselves what would happen if we moved the cars closer together and put them side-by-side again – maybe not four and three like they used to be, but two-by-two.
“When you want to simulate something like that, if you just do it as a physics problem you just get a trivial answer: if you start cars closer together, and they all accelerate at the same rate, they arrive at the first corner closer together.
“That’s not what you want to know. What you want to know is what’s actually going to happen. So, we built a simulation that uses artificial intelligence, but we can also put a human in.”
F1 has worked hard to build its Esports platform alongside the official F1 game.
However, Motorsport.com understands that simply using the official F1 game to trial changes like reverse-grid races was not a viable option because it would not have closely reflected the situation in reality.
The ‘dirty air’ impact of following another car is reduced in F1 2018 to make it a better gaming experience.
Symonds explained that F1’s method works by having 19 cars controlled by artificial intelligence and one that is human controlled, and run “50 races of two laps”.
Doing that allows them to “statistically analyse every single position of the cars at all times, so we can say ‘when we did this to the grid we got 3% more accidents, we got 5% more passes, we got 20% more side-by-side racing'”.
Symonds reiterated his desire to avoid repeat mistakes like the 2016 F1 qualifying format change.
“We want to get away from those bad old days and work in a much more scientific manner,” he said.
Pat Symonds on the Autosport Stage
Photo by: Paul Foster