Chariots, races, circles, flows and ...

Spectacle. Bread and circus. The Roman empire extended along a swath of different civilisations across what we call today the Mediterranean Sea. From the little kingdom in the middle of central Italy, shadowed by the Etrurians, to the socio-economic and political mega-corporation of its day, called then an empire, so big for its geography that at the end had to be divided, not without casting a shadow so large that left an impression to successive human enterprises across the centuries.
From the lands of the pharaohs to the forest of Galia, they expand their vision, their culture, their lifestyle, their unique amphitheatres and circuses, built in Roman style can be found in France, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt. Certainly, this style was built from what the Romand took from the Greeks, but were the Romans who left us the idea of the spectacle for the masses as a way of life. To the agora, they answered with the Senate, to the Acropolis, with the Capitolium; to the theatre, the Colosseum.
In these places they built, as well as in villas and thermae, mosaics depicted scenes of their daily life. Among these scenes were massive hunts, and gladiators fight as well as chariot races, like the one we saw reenacted in the famous "Ben Hur" movie. These races were big deals for the common lad, a way out of the mundane life in the empire. As they are today, sports were a big spectacle, a theatre for power and economic games, and a window to competition as a spectacle.
A primal impulse joined the muscle-flexing of the internal forces of society. Like today, the sport was a lifestyle and a great tool of homogenization of different cultures and societies. That was then. Today, other games let the expressions of human inventiveness and competitive spirit flourish to delight thousands of spectators, from Singapore to London to China, from United States to India to Brazil, being car racing one of the many expression of this world , joining the people in their vertigo for speed, skill, endurance and risk-taking, watching men on the command of sophisticated creations of power and genius leaving loose their instincts of competitiveness and winning.
Welcome to Formula 1, also known as the great circus because of the paraphernalia that surrounds this itinerant spectacle across the five continents. The most famous cities are part of it, and any city that belongs to the world stage tries to be there every year. Ten years ago, Abu Dhabi arrived at this international stage. A state-of-the-art project was completed to host this event. All of this led to the project we made in 2010. How do you, in 2010, pay homage to the grandiosity of such spectacle. The newspaper Al Bayan decided to publish a supplement full-colour of 24 pages with full-spread infographics.
The part from what I am most proud of this project is resumed in one word: teamwork. William Navarro, Karina Aricoche, Luis Chumpitaz, David Macedo, Liz Ramos and I were the members of the team at this stage. What follows is a simple description of how this work was done. The workload was distributed by Luis, giving tasks accordingly to the skills of each one of the team members, allowing them to dedicate effort to specific parts. While I was checking the overall structure of the infographic, the pages show in all their splendour the patient work made by William Navarro in the 3d models that are rendered in full colour and size in each spread. Now I remember that he was struggling each month, as the racing teams were changing the cars for almost every circuit and William and Karina had to check the structure of each vehicle. When we started the project, we thought of a car model as something defined from start to end at the beginning of the season, but with months passing we understood that each car was, in fact, an evolving work of mechanical an aerodynamic development.
The way we assembled this visualisation was very rudimentary by today standards; as Karina Aricoche and I made many of the tables, sometimes manually, sometimes in word o illustrator, manually before generating the graphics; no programming, no tableau, no python, counting boringly how many drivers were there, how many cities per season and so on, who won which prizes when. But the spirit is the same, and collecting the data and mining it is always the heavy lift part. After we finish many of the spreads, they were passed to the art director, Luis Chumpitaz, to make refinements as he had an overall view of the project work and to Lisa Reinisch for the introductory texts and spelling corrections. We started the layouts saying one page per team and one page for timelines and history.
For the page of timelines, I did a linear one, but Luis insisted on another type of visualization. I browsed the web and the models that more impressed me were circular, so I decided to make the visual circulars, as they would also provide a focus for the central composition. This version was approved and we started to do it. From there we made the "60" years timeline. Luis wanted a meta-message fro the graphic, giving another layer of interpretation, and as I was struggling to make an extra sense beyond the structure of the circular timelines, the by now were laying on the page file, opposed one another in the spread as geometric patterns of an old codex. It was then that I realized that the F1 was going to celebrate 60 years and the idea came almost by mistake, placed two circles and then the idea came to make one of them a six.
The way F1 cars are designed is exemplary for the many lessons it teaches about design decision-making and production processes, as well as continuous improvement. There is a compromise between speed and control that requires a delicate balance. There is not one car model, but a continuous work in progress, borrowing from rivals, mixing and remixing structures, all changes inside the set of rules that are given by the F1 governing body. What we see every time these machines perform, are processes being tested in public, a set of decisions put to trial, a decision making evaluated.