If you are new to motorsports data analysis, you might be tempted into thinking video analysis is where to focus. Afterall, there is nothing better than seeing what you have done to be able to work out how to improve. Isn’t there?
With a well positioned camera angle you can precisely see the line you took, your turn in points and whether you made the apex. You can see whether you were on your own, got a tow or were blocked by traffic. You can also listen to your engine sounds to hear when you got back on the throttle, hear how smoothly you did it and often you can even hear lockups under braking.
Video therefore seems the obvious first port of call when you are starting with data. It also helps that watching a video is much more natural than trying to make sense of charts and numbers on a graph. More natural and often quicker too.
Issues With Video Analysis Alone
Whilst all of the above benefits are true, the issue with video is that it rapidly becomes extremely difficult to compare your laps with any precision. And it is the precision that you really want because that is how you learn, for sure, how to improve.
Comparing laps is a common approach in racing driver data analysis because it gives you a reference of what else is possible – be the laps your own or between teammates.
When comparing laps you will quickly want to look at lap time gained or lost on one lap relative to another. You want to know whether doing a corner in say 3rd would be faster than 4th. You want look at how effectively you were braking and whether you were getting all the grip that the tyre had to offer etc.
All of this is technically possible with video analysis alone but it involves counting video frames and continously re-aligning the onboard videos.
Take a watch of this analysis segment from Sky F1 at the recent GP where they do just this:
Hopefully that works for you as it is a perfect example of how rapidly complicated it becomes using video alone.
Data Gives Precision You Need
Whilst video is no doubt super super beneficial in giving your evaluations context, it is in the charts and numbers that you are going to find the answers to the questions that are really going to help you piece together a faster lap.
No matter what your driving level, the data will be able to help you to pin point areas to work on – be that how to improve on a particular corner at a specific track or one of your driving skills for example, heel & toe.
What you are after is every time you hit the race track you are armed with a concrete plan of action. One where you know precisely where you should be aiming to place the car, when to turn-in and where (and how!) to brake for each and every corner.
That is the precision the charts and numbers can give you over video alone. And why, I would say, the data evaluation is worth you learning about.
Looking for a place to start with race car data analysis? Try my “Complete Beginners Guide To Motorsports Data Analysis” online course.