Dealing With Data: Interview with Davide Marelli

We all know that MotoGP machines contain an impressive amount of software and electronics that produce data, but what do the teams do with it? Where is all this data stored? And how will the regulation updates in the 2016 MotoGP season change their ways of managing data? We asked Jorge Lorenzo’s Data Engineer Davide Marelli his view and took the opportunity to get to know him a little better.

Could you explain to us what it is exactly that you do?

“Mainly, I’m an electronic and data analyser for Jorge Lorenzo. So mainly I download the data after every run and watch it on the computer. I try to find a fine setting from the electronics side to improve the bike. This change makes a difference of for example engine brake, traction control, wheelie control, and many other things.”

All this data that you collect, where does it go?

“From the bike directly to the laptop. With a cable I download all the data from the sensors that we have on the bike and analyse this data.”

And do you save it? Do you record it from years back?

“We have data from previous years so sometimes we use it to compare.”
How far back does that data go?

“It depends on how much we want to keep this data, because we have it from the beginning of the YZR-M1, but we don’t need to go back to date from ten years ago. If we have problems we just check data the previous year or two years before. There is a server where we keep all the data.”

What do you do if the data you get is completely different from what you had before, from the previous years?

“Then we have to decide which data is better; the previous year or the actual data. It depends year by year because the bike changes every year; and so do the tyres, so it’s not sure that the data of the previous year is better than this year or the opposite. The bike is different. Of course, we compare the data if we need to, but we focus on the current year.”

With all the data in your storage, is that for one rider specifically or is that a mixture of all riders combined?

“It’s rider specific. If I check, I check data from Jorge Lorenzo from the previous years. Then, if we need to, of course we can compare also data from Valentino, just to have some more information.”

How are the electronics different for a time attack and for a race?

“There is not a big difference, but sometimes during the race we use some switch options, for example to reduce the power, to increase the traction control. While during a time attack, we try to use as much power as possible, because time attack means the rider does one or two laps in a row maximum. For the race we can do it but anyway we use some options to reduce for example the power and increase traction control to save the tyres. During the time attack we don’t care about tyre life. For the race it’s important to keep the tyres in good condition.”

What can you tell when you get the data from the bike? Can you tell exactly what happened where?

“Yes, exactly. Corner by corner I can see what’s happening on the bike. Also from the rider’s comments, we can compare each corner and try to find the best way to set up the bike. For example in one corner, from the data you see that we have too much power, or traction control is working too much, or is working not enough, and the rider complains maybe in that corner that we have that kind of problem, so we try to find a good solution.”

Is it sort of a backup for the rider; if he says something you check the data and you see if it matches?

“Yes, exactly. We check if it matches. Most of the time it matches. If it’s not matching, we try to find a compromise. The rider feeling is more important than data so we use data to help him. In the end, the rider is the one who has to ride to bike, so it’s important that he is feeling confident on the bike.”

Can you tell by just looking at the data which rider it is?

“Yes, because they have different styles in acceleration and in braking, so I can tell who is who.”

Can you tell me about their styles?

“Jorge is very smooth, but at the same time he wants to open the throttle very soon without a lot of movement, his style is like this. Every lap during the race he passes always at the same point. He is really precise, while Valentino plays more with the bike.”

With the software freezing for the new season, what does that mean for you?

“The software will be the same for everybody, so we will try to adapt this software on our bike and our riders. The organisation tried to combine all the software from every factory and probably they tried to find the best way.”

What will happen with the old data? Will it still be usable?

“Yes, I think so. Of course we can use it to compare because at the end the function will be the same. We use traction control next year for example, so probably the system to do it will be different, but the results will be the same.”

For people who want to get to work with a living legend such as Jorge Lorenzo, could you tell us how you got this job?

“My brother was already involved in this world, so the passion was already a part of the family. When I finished school I tried to find a team and I started with a 125cc team and step by step I got here, mainly because of my passion.”

If it hadn’t worked out for you, what would you be?

“Difficult question… I love sport in general. I don’t know where, but just to be involved with sport.”

Could you name three things that you’re good at?

“I’m always positive, I always try to do my best even when it’s not possible to get the maximum, and I love the job.”

Which team member do you know the longest?

“Massimo Meregalli, the Team Director, because I worked with him from 1999 in Superbikes.”

What do you do during a GP weekend to de-stress?

“I do a lot of sport. I practise triathlon and I love to do Iron Man. I swim, I cycle and I run.”

Can you name some must-have items to take on a GP weekend?

“Running shoes, and a book, because I love to read during the evening, I love to relax reading a book.”

What kind of books do you read?

“Everything, from romance to thrillers to work books and sports books. I’m open to everything, I just love to read.”

And which book did you bring this weekend?

“This weekend I brought ‘Wild’. It’s a story from one woman that’s walking the PCT trail; a trail from the south of America to the north. It’s a true story.”

What’s your favourite place during the whole season to go to during MotoGP?

“I really like Philip Island. Italy of course as well, especially Misano. It’s on the seaside, so we go out for dinner every night.”

Can you tell me something about you that not many people know?

“I would like to learn to play the guitar, but I don’t have time. I love rock music and I like going to concerts, like for example Ben Harper.”

Could you tell me something that surprised you about another team member?

“Haha well, Leo is a really funny guy! Especially in the night time, when we go out and there is music around, he starts to dance. This is really funny. The rest of the people I know really well, so they don’t surprise me so much anymore.”

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