Formula One is debuting its first generative AI-designed trophy at the Canadian Grand Prix but, novelty and sponsorship aside, the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) for speed and strategy is growing stronger all the time.

The various software systems are helping cars go faster and helping teams become competitive; crunching terabytes of data to analyse simulations and cut the time it takes to get parts to the racetrack.

“The fight we are fighting every day is of hundreds and thousandths of a second,” Peter Bayer, chief executive of Red Bull-owned RB, said at a recent event with software partner Epicor at the team’s Faenza factory.

“For a human being it sometimes can be a bit overwhelming actually to fight for that last thousandth or milli-milli-second.

“If you take it into perspective, we fight for seven, eight, nine, 10 thousandths of a second on a track that is five or six km long and we go 350kph and ending up on a margin of 0.01%. “

AI-based software like Epicor’s can detect patterns in competitors’ behaviour, save time and resources through automation, and do millions of calculations in real time during races.

“If you don’t know what you are doing, because we are testing, you’ll spend a lot of resources; Carbon fibre, energy, people,” RB’s head of vehicle performance Guillaume Dezoteux said.

“So AI can tell you ‘look at that’ and ‘don’t look at this.’ In a specific example it means you don’t need to run 100 simulations.”

It could mean replacing physical sensors on cars, during qualifying and races, with virtual ones to save weight and remove the cost of crash damage.

“I’m convinced that on AI, Formula One will be leading with use cases which today nobody is thinking of,” Bayer said.

All teams operate under a $145 million budget cap with everything that gives a competitive edge included under that umbrella.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and AI, enables employees to improve efficiency by focusing on what they are good at.

“With the cost cap, the field has never been so close. Can AI help us reduce the gap? We believe it can,” RB principal Laurent Mekies said, whose team are sixth in the constructors’ championship.

He said AI could also help improve safety, using an algorithm and live data to avoid accidents.

“You have a crash on a blind corner and all the cars slow down and stop on their own. If F1 does it then that’s paving the way for the rest of society,” Mekies said.

In Monaco 2023, following a crash during qualifying, details of the sensitive underside of Sergio Perez‘s Red Bull were revealed after it was craned off the track with images eagerly scanned.

Any hopes of rivals gaining a quick boost proved wide of the mark, however, with Red Bull ending the season winning 21 of 22 races.

Mekies said it proved copying was not the answer, but AI could certainly still help.

“I’m sure we all tried, it didn’t seem to work for any of us. Which is beautiful for our sport,” he said. “Will that change tomorrow with the addition of more AI? Maybe.

“Why did it not work? That shape in isolation was not enough for any other team to understand what they were doing with it. Would AI tomorrow help us in that? Possibly.”

F1, with partner AWS, is using generative AI to analyse historical data from its archives and speed the flow of facts and statistics to the live television coverage.

The Montreal trophy was crafted by a silversmith in Britain after generative AI was applied to the design process.