For those who follow Formula One, you know the story by now of Lewis Hamilton...the 22 year old Briton who, in his first season, is taking the F1 circuit literally by storm. He's leading the series championship after the race at Indianapolis with two wins, and since the start of this, his rookie season, he has yet to finish worse than third.
Well, an interesting tech twist to his development as a driver has been the use of computer simulation by the McLaren F1 team.
From a thread at autosport.com, citing multiple sources:
"Compared to the McLaren-Simulator the one of Renault is a PlayStation"Fernando Alonso (2005-2006 F1 Champion)
"The software for the cyber car was pioneered by the military. It can distinguish between different types of tarmac and tyre compounds, the effect when a kerb is raised a millimetre or if the track is banked.
Even though Hamilton had not seen the opening two tracks of the championship in Melbourne and Malaysia, Britain's boy wonder learned them intimately by doing hundreds of laps on the simulator."Daily Mirror
McLaren's simulator, developed over the past eight years at a cost estimated to be above Â£20m, has been Hamilton's schoolroom, where he sits in a full-size formula one car, minus wheels and a functioning engine, in a darkened room in front of a large, curved plasma screen. The chassis is suspended on a multi-point hydraulic rig which moves in response to his touches on the steering wheel and pedals as he watches a circuit unfold on the screen, with appropriate sound effects.
Everything in this grown-up video game is programmed via the simulator's software: the minutest details of the circuit, the response of the engine under different conditions, the type and wear-rate of the tires, as well as the noise of the engine. No wonder that when Hamilton arrived in Melbourne at the start of the season, on his first visit to Australia, he took to the Albert Park track as if he had been driving there for half his life. In a sense, he had.Guardian, Richard Williams.
"The system is so critical to the car's development Alonso secretly jetted back to Britain to spend time in it after Ferrari romped to victory in Australia.
One rival team boss believes McLaren have spent Â£60m on the project.
With new rules restricting testing to 30,000km and 300 sets of tyres, the simulator could make a huge difference as the team can make progress when no one else is allowed to test."Daily Mirror
The simulator has so realistic effects that when Mika Hakkinen tested it before his last Barcelona run he injured his arm when he crashed the simulated car.
I was staggered to hear Ron Dennis say Lewis had completed 1,000 hours in the McLaren race simulator before the start of the season. Thatâ€™s the equivalent of 125 full, eight-hour days in this virtual car.Ted Kravitz
"The simulator has reached an amazing perfection, it's even capable of simulating weather conditions, the rain, the wet asphalt, everything...And Hamilton has worked with the simulator a lot more than Alonso, and his driving style is very smooth, less rough than the Spaniard. I think that's why for McLaren is easier to set up the car for Hamilton's style."Alain Prost, former F1 driver
All I can say is...I want one!