“Numbers don’t lie”, Or do they?

Shake n Bake
6 min readFeb 28, 2021

Introduction

Hi everyone and welcome back to the blog! My name is Klaudiusz and this week I took it upon myself to share my perspective on a strategy that is starting to greatly influence each and every nook and cranny of the worlds information reports. In todays modern world we are constantly being bombarded by a near infinite stream of facts, figures and material. Whether we are researching a new topic for our educational endeavors, casually scrolling through social media or reading the latest news headlines from around the world, we need to constantly be reminded that not all that glitters is gold. Yes I am talking about information systems which are skewed, misleading or sometimes even falsified!

How is this relevant?

A great read on a very similar topic is Darrell Huff’s “How to lie with statistics”. One quote in particular which I vividly remember is “The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify.” and even though this book was written over half a century ago, it still holds true today. In my opinion this quote perfectly describes todays society as we live in a world where each new trend gets its 5 seconds of fame before people get bored and search for a new one, only the most sensational and far-fetched info will reign supreme. So you may be wondering why I am ranting on about deceptive data this whole time in a blog revolving around information systems and motorsport?? Well to answer your question the academic study of information systems holds the key to be able to combat the spread of disinformation and misleading facts. And in the motorsport world where every team is trying to get an unfair advantage and the #1 rule is ‘it’s only cheating and lying if you get caught’, building legitimate information systems is of upmost importance.

How does IS hold the key?

Information systems is one of the most broad subjects that can be applied to a wide range of disciplines. Therefore a task such as an audit that works in one discipline could be implemented in many different branches of information systems. In regards to the auditing of facts and figures I found a very informative research paper based around medicine. Garcia Pereanez’s paper deals with the ethics of delivering telemedicine in Colombia. In this paper the authors use information technology as well as analytical methods in order to audit the legality and feasibility of online medical care. The researchers first take all recorded data and investigate the vulnerability of incorrect and biased sample spaces. They identify threats to legitimate information systems such as computer and in person data altering abuse. They work to minimise the amount of vulnerable components of the information system in order to decrease damage and misleading information. In my opinion with the understanding of information systems by academic study and auditing such as the example shown in the paper above, we can prevent falsifying data in the motorsport world to gain an unfair advantage.

Unsporting information systems on the worlds biggest stage?

At the start of the 2019 Formula 1 season, the new and improved Ferrari racing teams car was immensely more powerful, hence astonishingly fast in straight line speed compared to any of the competition. In the first racing weekend all other drivers were helpless against the lightning fast Ferrari’s. Within the same time period complaints regarding cheating started flying in to the FIA(the F1 governing body) from other racing teams as there was no fair way their competitors car could be that fast?! By basic physics everyone knew that to make more power in an engine you needed more fuel. With every car on the grid limited to 100kg of fuel an hour, simple mathematics told us that Ferrari was clearly exceeding this limit. The Ferrari car was swiftly taken in to be scrutineered by the worlds top engineers in order to find this unfair advantage, but to everyones surprise the engineers were left dumbfounded as they couldn’t find a fault with the car. Apart from disassembling every single nut and bolt, they analysed all the information systems from the race car and were stunned to find everything in order and more importantly the fuel rate sensor reading less than 100kg of fuel per hour. The car was deemed legal and all other teams had to go home with their tails between their legs, but was this car in fact rule compliant?? The short answer is NO and I will show you the ingenious way Ferrari engineers tricked and altered independent information systems fitted on their car by outside specialists.

Ferrari comfortably leading the race in 2019

The other competitors did not stop pursuing the truth on how and why the Ferrari was so much more powerful though. So much so that teams such as Red Bull Racing enlisted the help of a few information systems academics such as Marcin Zaleski and this proved to be the nail in the coffin for Ferrari. A team of analysts studied and audited the information systems very closely and where others couldn’t find a drop of falsehood, this team found a sea of deception regarding the fuel rate sensor. The working principle of this cunning scheme to falsify this information system was quite innovative yet simple and operated as follows. The Ferrari engineers figured out that the fuel rate sensor samples fuel flow at 2,200Hz. Therefore the fuel pump would be manipulated to deliver the legal amount of fuel at those exact instances, but would pump more fuel in the gaps between sampling. As soon as Red Bull gave light on this theory and informed the FIA to investigate, the Ferrari car suddenly lost all its extra power. Coincidence? I think not! Without the excellent work of information systems academics Ferrari would’ve probably gotten away with cheating.

Conclusion

This investigation dragged all the way into 2020 and its culmination was definitely not what myself or the majority of the F1 community expected. As can be seen from the official FIA statement listed in reference 3. there was absolutely no consequences for Ferrari. Furthermore there was a secretive “settlement” reached between both parties where Ferrari would assist the FIA in research activities. I’m definitely not an expert in law but it sounds to me like Ferrari just bribed the governing body with its excellent research facilities?! All other racing teams on the grid were very disappointed by this conclusion as seen by the article listed in reference 4. which shed some light on the legality of this decision, however in my opinion if the other racing teams want to pursue action they would need intervention from an even more senior body than the FIA.

Finally I would like to give a word of warning in regards to information systems not only in motorsport but in all other fields. We have to study information systems very closely in order to find the truth of what they really tell us, because sometimes it might just turn out that there is a deeper meaning to what we see on the surface of data. I hope you enjoyed this weeks blog on the topic of fabricated information systems, I would love to hear your opinions about this in the comments and please follow this channel to see more content on information systems and motorsport!

References

  1. Darrell Huff, 1954, How to lie with statistics
  2. Garcia Pereanez, J.A.;Garcia Arango, D.A.;Henao Villa, C.F.;Sepulveda Aguirre, 2019, Situations about telemedicine in Colombia: Between the legal and the legitimate
  3. https://www.fia.com/news/fia-concludes-analysis-scuderia-ferrari-formula-1-power-unit
  4. https://www.foxsports.com.au/motorsport/formula-one/f1-2020-ferrari-fia-engine-settlement-f1-teams-statement-explainer/news-story/e59567f117dda99e70ca1760734146aa

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