Feature: McLaren's 'Champions League' search

Feature: McLaren's 'Champions League' search

15 November 2017 – McLaren has already signed up Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne for 2018, with Lando Norris in reserve, but its quest for a simulator driver is breaking new ground, as GPUpdate.net found out.

The last time McLaren won a Formula 1 title, dial-up Internet was still widespread, mobile phones were used for audial communication, while the likes of emojis and live streaming were a vision of the future. However, the technological world has developed at a rapid rate across the past two decades, and as part of its push to climb back up the Formula 1 grid, McLaren has moved into the virtual world to unearth its next simulator driver.
12 of the best online sim racers have gathered at McLaren's imposing Technology Centre in Woking this week, six qualifiers and six hand-picked by an expert panel, out of 30,000 entrants, for a series of races and evaluations as they vie to become a member of the Formula 1 team in 2018.

"It's an important platform for us, so I'm very happy that we were the first Formula 1 team to really embrace eSports," explains McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown from within the bowels of its space-age Thought Leadership Centre, more reminiscent of mission control than a conference room.

"We're going to embrace it for a long time, and we've got some great participants and we think they're going to really contribute to our Formula 1 team and that's what really motivates us."

Darren Cox, who was influential in Nissan's GT Academy, which launched the career of Jann Mardenborough and Lucas Ordóñez, is also involved in the project, and believes McLaren is breaking new ground with its approach.

"Motorsport has been a bit late to it but there's a lot going on," explains Cox of the gaming landscape. "WTCC and MotoGP had their eSports finals last weekend, but the great thing is I believe McLaren are leading, and our format is the one people will look and think, 'Why didn't we do that?'.

"It's champions of champions. This really is the Champions League, some of those other guys are having their Premiership battles let's say, the best guy in WTCC or Formula E or MotoGP, we're bringing all the best."

However, this is not a case of those with quick hands and quick feet rocking up, plugging in, switching on and having a race. The 12 finalists are, naturally, being assessed on their ability to drive quickly in the virtual world, and are in the process of completing Formula 1 Grands Prix, a full-length Indianapolis 500, and a full-length Le Mans 24 Hours (in teams) – but there is more to McLaren's desire than simply finding a fast e-racer. McLaren has taken eSports to the next level with a meticulous week-long evaluation, bringing in science, technology and several key figures from within its organisation to unearth the best all-round candidate for the lucrative job. Mark Temple, Mikey Collier and Oliver Turvey have joined Brown and Cox in assessing how the finalists perform on a human level, their cognitive and communication skills, and whether their ability can be transferred into the simulator.

"To be a good simulator driver you have to be a little bit unique," explains Temple, who has acted as Race Engineer in Formula 1 to the likes of Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez.

"More generally the environment is a bit different to racing; you're trying to develop the car and give good feedback to the engineers, there's a lot as an engineer we can do using offline simulations, etc, but ultimately the racing car is all about the driver getting the most out of the car, so the way he interacts with the car is incredibly important.

"They need to be quick, they need to be consistent – so they can do the same sort of lap times every time they go out – and give detailed feedback on what the car is doing in an intelligent and structured way.

"That's what the engineers need to decide what direction to take the car."

Collier has been a long-presence in the Formula 1 paddock as Jenson Button's trainer,

and this year took on the new role as the Head of Human Performance, using medical technology and data to ensure peak human performance, through a variety of strategies.

"We need to recognise it's a very different beast," says Collier of McLaren's simulator.

"The fact is that these guys are very familiar with racing, but the simulator is different, so what we need to do through a battery of assessments is identify the person who will adapt and make that contribution.

"So we're looking at three main areas: the first is stimuli recognition, because that's hugely important, the amount of information coming into the human body during a race is extensive, and what the best racers are able to do is focus on the important things and negate the noise.

"The second thing is cognitive processing, how quickly can they recognise it and then process that through the central nervous system, the final bit is the actuation, the end product, is it the desired end product, is it done in a timely and effective manner.

"We do that over three different environments. The first environment is sort of clinical and laboratory based, the second is through virtual gaming, the final bit is in the simulation environment, and each of those three poses significantly greater challenges to them.

"While someone could be very good in a clinical setting, you then start layering it up and put it in a game setting and you may find they can't handle that so well, so if you were to then put them in the simulator that's only going to be magnified."

Turvey, meanwhile, has completed over 600 days in McLaren's simulator as support to its race drivers, which has become an increasingly vital tool amid improved technology and the increased restrictions on testing, and affably describes himself as one of the best qualified to judge the situation.

"The speed is important, as they need to be pushing the car to the limit, because the F1 drivers are as well," Turvey comments.

"Consistency [is important], so any change they make on the car they [have to] recognise on the lap times, so they need to know about the feeling [of the car], and give good feedback."

McLaren's approach is ground-breaking in Formula 1 terms, but it will not be a one-off. Cox openly spoke of the desire to learn from this year's project, and did not shirk away from the obvious that all 12 finalists were male, with the bulk from Northern European countries. However, eSports is an ever-expanding market, and McLaren has been an early leader in the motorsport world, though its World's Fastest Gamer contest is no mere publicity project.

"It is a full-time job, it's very intense," says Brown of the Simulator Driver role that thebest all-round candidate will be offered.

"That dedication to our pursuit to win more world championships – that person will contribute and play a part of that.

"So they need to work as hard as the rest of the men and women that work here at McLaren."

Written by: Phillip Horton

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Tuesday 12 December 2017

  2. 17:02

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  3. Carlin enters IndyCar, signs Chilton, Kimball 14:18

    Carlin enters IndyCar, signs Chilton, Kimball

    Carlin has announced its move into the IndyCar series in a full-time capacity for the 2018 season, with Max Chilton and Charlie…

    Indy
  4. Monger eyes return to single-seater racing 12:49

    Monger eyes return to single-seater racing

    Billy Monger says that he hopes to return to single-seater competition in 2018, potentially in British Formula 3, after the FIA…

    Misc
  5. Video: Roborace – Human versus Machine 12:07

    Video: Roborace – Human versus Machine

    Watch as Formula E presenter Nicki Shields takes on DevBot, a test mule for Roborace, the first driverless racing series, at the…

    FE
  6. Dorna confirms supplier for electric series 11:37

    Dorna confirms supplier for electric series

    MotoGP promoter Dorna Sports has announced the supplier for the new FIM Moto-e World Cup electric series, which is set to begin…

    MotoGP
  7. De Vries, Müller to test Audi Formula E car 10:17

    De Vries, Müller to test Audi Formula E car

    Formula 2 driver Nyck de Vries and DTM racer Nico Müller will sample Formula E machinery with Audi in the series…

    FE
  8. Video: Hong Kong FE cinematic highlights 10:02

    Video: Hong Kong FE cinematic highlights

    Watch cinematic highlights from the first two races of the 2017/18 Formula E season, which took place on the streets of Hong…

    FE
  9. 2017 review: McLaren-Honda ends in divorce 09:02

    2017 review: McLaren-Honda ends in divorce

    GPUpdate.net continues its team-by-team review with McLaren, which finally lost patience with Honda, as the marque's revised…

    F1
  10. Williams silent over Kubica/Sirotkin reports 08:28

    Williams silent over Kubica/Sirotkin reports

    Williams is staying silent over reports that Robert Kubica has dropped out of contention for its 2018 race seat, and that Sergey…

    F1
  11. Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 12 05:48

    Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 12

    Mercedes continues its countdown to Christmas by looking back at the Austrian Grand Prix, where Valtteri Bottas took pole and…

    F1
  12. Monday 11 December 2017

  13. Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 11 15:04

    Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 11

    Mercedes continues its countdown to Christmas by reflecting on the dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton was…

    F1
  14. Pirelli announces first 2018 compound choices 13:43

    Pirelli announces first 2018 compound choices

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has confirmed the compounds that will be used at the opening three Grands Prix of the 2018…

    F1
  15. Porsche outlines plans for early 2019 FE test 13:38

    Porsche outlines plans for early 2019 FE test

    Porsche has revealed that it intends to give its Formula E package its first on-track test in early 2019, ahead of its entry…

    FE
  16. Tost: Kvyat deserves to be in Formula 1 13:33

    Tost: Kvyat deserves to be in Formula 1

    Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost says that Daniil Kvyat "deserves" to be in Formula 1, despite recent setbacks, and hopes to see…

    F1
  17. Bottas eyes qualifying and consistency gains 12:16

    Bottas eyes qualifying and consistency gains

    Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas has accepted that he needs to improve his one-lap pace, and string a more consistent campaign…

    F1
  18. I was more aggressive in 2017 - Sainz Jr. 10:48

    I was more aggressive in 2017 - Sainz Jr.

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he adopted a more aggressive stance in Formula 1 in 2017, in order to underline his credentials…

    F1
  19. Video: McLaren presents special Senna car 10:25

    Video: McLaren presents special Senna car

    McLaren presents its new road-legal track car, the McLaren Senna, which features a four-litre twin-turbocharged V8, producing…

    Misc
  20. 2017 review: Sauber builds for the future 09:16

    2017 review: Sauber builds for the future

    GPUpdate.net begins its team-by-team season review with Sauber, which again finished 10th, though this time without the…

    F1
  21. Video: WEC's 2018/19 'Super Season' teaser 05:42

    Video: WEC's 2018/19 'Super Season' teaser

    The World Endurance Championship looks ahead to its 2018/19 'Super Season', which includes two editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours…

    F1
  22. Sunday 10 December 2017

  23. Vettel says Baku was 'worst feeling' of 2017 15:18

    Vettel says Baku was 'worst feeling' of 2017

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says the aftermath of the rancorous Azerbaijan Grand Prix left him with the "worst feeling" of 2017…

    F1
  24. Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 10 14:22

    Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 10

    Mercedes continues its countdown to Christmas by reflecting on its 1-2 finish at the Canadian Grand Prix, bouncing back from its…

    F1
  25. Hamilton hopes for competitive McLaren in '18 13:04

    Hamilton hopes for competitive McLaren in '18

    Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton says he hopes former team McLaren will be able to compete among the leading group in…

    F1
  26. Video: Rosberg's Deutsche Bahn shoot 11:22

    Video: Rosberg's Deutsche Bahn shoot

    Go behind-the-scenes with 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg during his recent commercial shoot for Deutsche Bahn in…

    F1
  27. MotoGP review: Márquez hits rivals for six 09:16

    MotoGP review: Márquez hits rivals for six

    Marc Márquez claimed his fourth premier class title in five years, and the sixth championship of his career, as he added more…

    MotoGP
  28. Video: Mercedes reflects on 2017 F1 season 05:48

    Video: Mercedes reflects on 2017 F1 season

    Mercedes reflects on its title-winning 2017 Formula 1 season with a pictorial review, to the words of Rudyard Kipling's 'If…

    F1
  29. Saturday 9 December 2017

  30. Wehrlein: Sauber slide hid personal gains 15:34

    Wehrlein: Sauber slide hid personal gains

    Pascal Wehrlein believes Sauber's regression through the second half of 2017 masked his improvements, as he faces an uncertain…

    F1
  31. Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 9 13:16

    Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 9

    Mercedes continues its countdown to Christmas with the latest instalment of its #FollowTheStar series by reflecting on the…

    F1
  32. Social: FIA Prize Giving ceremony in Versailles 11:34

    Social: FIA Prize Giving ceremony in Versailles

    The biggest names in motorsport were in attendance at the Palace of Versailles for the FIA's Prize Giving Ceremony. GPUpdate.net…

    F1
  33. Video: Prize Giving Red Carpet highlights 09:58

    Video: Prize Giving Red Carpet highlights

    Watch highlights from the Red Carpet as leading figures from the world of motorsport attend the FIA's annual Prize Giving…

    F1
  34. Massa takes on FIA role as karting chief 08:36

    Massa takes on FIA role as karting chief

    Felipe Massa has been appointed as the President of the CIK/International Karting Commission, following the annual meeting of…

    F1
  35. 07:30

    Gallery: FIA Prize Giving Ceremony 2017

    F1
  36. Hamilton, Mercedes crowned at FIA Gala 07:29

    Hamilton, Mercedes crowned at FIA Gala

    Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been officially crowned Formula 1 World Champions for a fourth time at the FIA's annual Prize…

    F1
  37. Video: Mahindra reflects on Hong Kong 05:36

    Video: Mahindra reflects on Hong Kong

    Mahindra reflects on the opening pair of rounds of the 2017/18 Formula E campaign, after the team moved into the lead of the…

    F1
  38. Friday 8 December 2017

  39. Williams dismisses Rowland's seat talks claim 19:05

    Williams dismisses Rowland's seat talks claim

    Williams has dismissed suggestions made by Formula 2 racer Oliver Rowland that the Briton is in discussions for the team's…

    F1
  40. Hamilton warns rivals he has 'plenty to improve' 16:42

    Hamilton warns rivals he has 'plenty to improve'

    World Champion Lewis Hamilton believes he and Mercedes still has "plenty to improve", despite the Briton taking his fourth world…

    F1
  41. Harvey gets partial IndyCar run with SPM/Shank 16:17

    Harvey gets partial IndyCar run with SPM/Shank

    Michael Shank Racing is to collaborate with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2018, resulting in a partial IndyCar campaign for…

    Indy
  42. F1 reveals overall rise in 2017 attendance 15:20

    F1 reveals overall rise in 2017 attendance

    Official figures released by Formula 1 chiefs have revealed that there was an eight per cent increase in the number of…

    F1
  43. Leclerc says 16 was third choice F1 number 14:47

    Leclerc says 16 was third choice F1 number

    Sauber's Charles Leclerc says he chose 16 as his permanent driver number in Formula 1 after his first two choices were…

    F1
  44. DeFrancesco gets 2018 F3 seat with Carlin 14:19

    DeFrancesco gets 2018 F3 seat with Carlin

    Devlin DeFrancesco will step up to the European Formula 3 championship full-time with Carlin in 2018, the British team confirmed…

    F3
  45. Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 8 12:34

    Video: Mercedes' Follow the Star - Day 8

    Mercedes continues its build up to Christmas with the latest instalment of #FollowTheStar, as it reflects on Lewis Hamilton's…

    F1
more news