Technology and Innovation
Formula Medicine was the first and only company in Motorsport to invest important economic and human resources into scientific research, consistently and over a long period of time. In 1989, thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Ceccarelli, the first real medical and scientific research in F.1 was started, designed to put the driver, rather than the car, at the centre of focus and attention. More than 30 years later, this research continues, enriched by the collaboration of important private companies and prestigious universities.
At the end of the 1980s, the first trials were carried out using heart rate monitors which, due to the narrowness of the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, had to be attached to the safety belt, the only place where they could go. Research continued into 1990 using smaller and less invasive devices. Recordings were made during races and an increasing number of drivers were involved in order to obtain a quantity of data that would make the work statistically reliable.
In addition to recording drivers’ heart rates during races, in 1991 Dr. Ceccarelli expanded his research and started taking blood samples from drivers immediately before and immediately after races, analysing about 30 blood parameters and the variations induced by the mental and physical stress of a race. Again, this research was completely innovative for the world of Formula 1. Amongst other objectives, the research was also aimed at developing a scientifically-based nutrition plan for drivers, including hydration and mineral salts.
1992 saw the arrival of Dr. Ceccarelli’s next innovation in F.1 – the first experiment in which a driver wore a heart rate monitor directly connected to the car’s data acquisition system. With this instrument, it was finally possible to examine the driver’s activity in the smallest details and with greater precision at every moment during a race, metre by metre, establishing the relationship between the heart rate and the various dynamics that the driver deals with, such as curves, straights, braking, lateral G-forces, overtaking and, sometimes, accidents.
In 1994 Formula Medicine was founded, and in this year Dr. Ceccarelli also began collaborating with the Institute of Clinical Physiology at the CNR (National Research Centre) in Pisa, which resulted in the development of other pioneering technologies; the first in-car electrocardiograph was designed, and tested at the Japanese Grand Prix.
1995 was a year full of innovations. The collaboration with the CNR continued, leading to revolutionary discoveries, such as the fact that violent gravitational acceleration and deceleration can cause physical repercussions which were totally unexpected. The in-car electrocardiograph was able to transmit the driver’s real-time cardiac activity, shown on live TV at various sporting events, such as the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. In the same year, Formula Medicine built the first driving simulator able to reproduce, through the steering and helmet, the physical stresses to which a driver is subjected during a race. 25 years later, simulators have become essential in driver training. In this field, as always, Formula Medicine was ahead of the times.
2000 was a very important year for Formula Medicine, because Toyota Racing announced its future participation in the Formula 1 World Championship and contacted Dr. Ceccarelli in order to secure Formula Medicine’s services for the Japanese team’s debut in Motorsport’s most prestigious category.
In 2002 the Toyota Young Drivers Program was inaugurated, aimed at finding potential champions and Formula Medicine was placed in charge of driver preparation. This important role gave new impetus to the research studies, with the difference that this time it involved not only already established professional drivers, but also young talents. As a result of this new assignment, Formula Medicine aimed at establishing new methods of evaluation in the field of sports psychology, based on objective values.
2003 saw the start of another ground-breaking 5-year scientific research project, in collaboration with the Department of Experimental Pathology and Medical Biotechnology of the University of Pisa, and the Department of Clinical Physiology of the CNR. To date, this project is still the only one of its kind in the world of Motorsport and remains the most important of all the research projects conducted by Formula Medicine, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the morphology and brain activity of a group of professional drivers and a control group of non-drivers. The results were surprising and revolutionary, revealing significant differences in how the two different groups used their brains.
These results and further research studies led to the development of tools and methods for highly sophisticated and specific mental training. Mental Economy Training® was born.
In 2009 Formula Medicine transferred its headquarters to its current spacious and modern centre in Viareggio, continuing the development of cutting-edge technologies and instruments, and the expansion of its professional staff.
During 2010-2011 an area dedicated to the Mental Economy Training project was created at Formula Medicine’s headquarters, in which data collected using functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to develop tools and methods aimed at improving brain performance whilst reducing mental energy expenditure: «maximum yield at minimum expense».
In 2012 Formula Medicine entered into another important collaboration, becoming the official partner of BMW Motorsport, which was about to re-enter the important DTM German Touring Car Championship. Formula Medicine was placed in charge of medical treatment, athletic training and mental training for all BMW drivers. Their debut season was simply perfect, with BMW winning all the trophies available in competition.
In 2013 Formula Medicine’s position as world leader in this sector was further consolidated with the appointment as provider of medical assistance for 7 F.1 teams at all races in the F.1 calendar. At the same time, research at Formula Medicine’s headquarters was focused on the potential use of Electroencephalography (EEG) as a method of investigation into aspects of the driver’s character and aptitude, and his range of moods and emotions, to then be integrated into Mental Economy Training®.
In 2015 Formula Medicine started a collaboration with Xeos, a software production company based in Brescia which is expert in the development of vital parameter data acquisition devices for telemedicine. The partnership between the two companies brought about the creation of a new system for monitoring drivers’ electrocardiogram, accelerations, stress level and respiration while driving.
In March 2016, at Formula Medicine’s headquarters, the futuristic Mental Economy Gym® was launched: a space of 150 m2 exclusively dedicated to optimisation of brain function, where up to 16 drivers can train at the same time, competing through various mental abilities. Throughout this year, the tests with Xeos continued, to define the final version of the Driver Monitoring Device, named Biox
In 2017, the Biox device was used by F.1 driver Marcus Ericsson and Moto GP driver, Danilo Petrucci. The data recorded proved to be fundamental for the subsequent steps in developing training methodologies. Having seen the success obtained by the Mental Economy Gym, Formula Medicine decided to invest more resources in further development, forging an important partnership with the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Lucca, a centre of excellence for Neuroscience, and the University of Molise, which is particularly expert in Artificial Intelligence.
In 2018,Formula Medicine and Xeos created a new company, FormX, entirely dedicated to scientific research and the development of the Mental Economy Gym®.
The collaborations established by Formula Medicine continue to produce further developments in the creation of increasingly advanced and customisable technologies, including the possibility to replicate gyms entirely dedicated to mental training inside business premises and sports centres.
These systems will be managed remotely and supervised by Formula Medicine staff, to provide users with constantly updated mental training protocols and suggestions based on individual needs. The participants’ progress, both in terms of increased mental performance and reduction of energy consumption, will be constantly objectified through the use of sophisticated and highly technological hardware and software.