Today I found out that F1 car engines can be turned off wirelessly via IP connection

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We PC gamers often like to flirt with the F1 experience, from sim racing to direct brand sponsorships and partnerships. We also tend to be a technology group. So I was a bit annoyed with myself for not knowing this earlier, as a former F1 senior systems engineer Dan “EngineMode11” explains“An F1 car has an IP address.”

Well, of course F1 cars have IP addresses. Right? We’re talking about some of the most advanced cars in the world, designed to carve through corners at over 100mph and accelerate to over 200mph, all without spraying people across the tarmac.

If everyday cars are now packed with electronics, including wireless technology (and they are), you can bet that F1 cars will be too. And we already know that F1 teams like Alpine meticulously collect tons of data from car sensors for analysis. What, did we expect F1 cars to be pulling up to the pits and plugging into USB?

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No, a lot of it is done wirelessly, apparently using the F1 car’s IP address. Or, more accurately, using one of its many IP addresses, because as Dan explains in his response, “there are a few, depending on what you want to do.”

But you probably don’t want to blow up your car’s engine. And that, as Dan suggests, can happen. The “fear” of having an F1 car with an IP address, he explains, “doesn’t come from external bad actors. It comes from the electronics team, who certainly wouldn’t accidentally connect to the wrong car and upload the ECU of a car running on a test bench instead of a simulator, that’s certainly never happened.”

The ECU, by comparison, is the car’s electronic control unit, which controls most of the engine’s systems, such as the ignition. Fortunately, I’ve never had anything go wrong while flashing a motherboard’s BIOS, so I’m not too concerned about it. What if my motherboard was connected to a combustion engine? I’m not sure I’d do that. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be able to accidentally remotely connect to it and do that.

When asked what happens when a working F1 car has its ECU flashed, Dan has a plain answer: “New engine,” followed by an explosion emoji. It’s quite plain: check you’re connected to the right IP address when flashing the F1 car’s circuits.

Let’s hope there’s no flashing on track (no, not like that, get it out of your head), because apparently managing the on-track wireless network is a mess at Formula 1 events: “I had the unfortunate situation when trying to implement trackside WiFi and the amount of noise and overlapping networks in the pit lane gave me an aneurysm.”

I don’t know, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I didn’t realize that F1 cars were flying around with minuscule IP addresses floating around in the digital space. Information that I now know, that I may never have to apply, and now you know it too.

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