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Red Bull Racing has a secret weapon for Formula One drivers: Sleep

To the uninitiated, Formula One racing is like any other car race. High-speed laps around a track? Sure, I’ve seen that. But dig below the surface and the extreme nature of the sport reveals itself: The tension, the danger, the extreme physical stamina needed to keep a car on a track at speeds that well above 200 mph while enduring 5Gs.

To succeed at F1 requires engineering and technology on an unprecedented scale. Just consider this: Even the tires on an F1 race car are coddled in a way babies usually aren’t. They live in heated electric blankets – 100 degrees Celsius for the front, 80 degrees for the rear. That’s almost as hot as boiling water, getting the rubber nice and soft so it beds into the asphalt. Sensors built into the tires themselves return data about the road, the grip, and so on.

The heart of this data machine is the driver, and keeping him or her at optimal cognitive and physical performance during races is a life-or-death matter. To ensure tip-top performance, Red Bull has a secret weapon: The Oura smart ring, a polished titanium band containing an array of tiny MEMS sensors (micro-electrical mechanical sensors) that measure negative thermal coefficient body temperature, 3D acceleration, spatial positioning, and lots more science-y stuff.

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Last week, Red Bull Racing announced it was naming Oura its first Official Health Technology. By leveraging Oura’s personalized Readiness, Activity, and Sleep insights, Red Bull Racing hopes to optimize recovery and focus on boosting cognitive performance, the company said.

“Formula One is constantly evolving with new technology, and we never stop searching for extra performance that will give us an edge. We’re delighted to begin this new partnership with Oura, who offers us just that,” said Christian Horner, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team principal.

The news follows a September announcement that the Seattle Mariners would embrace the tech, closely following a partnership with UFC, which named Oura its first Official Health Wearable.

Formula One’s embrace of technology is not new. This spring, seven F1 teams from the U.K. announced Project Pitlane, an effort that led to open-source designs for ventilators, leveraging the teams’ unique skills at rapid prototyping. Consider this: Trackside at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last year, Team Mercedes (that’s Lewis Hamilton, of course) told me it upgrades a part for the car or makes a performance improvement every 20 minutes.

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Can the Oura Ring really deliver? I’ve been wearing one for a few months, and have become infatuated with the device, which tells me not just how long I slept but offers insights into how to improve, and what the different stages of sleep mean. The ring quickly became part of my morning ritual: Over coffee, I check my sleep status, consider how ready I am for the day ahead, and think back on the evening before. Will this help a driver stay on top of his game?

“Red Bull Racing is an ambitious team with a desire to continuously improve its skills as it chases race victories,” said Harpreet Singh Rai, Oura’s CEO. “We believe Oura can play an essential role in prioritizing the impact that sleep has on mental clarity, reaction time, and peak physical performance for the Red Bull Racing team, so they don’t miss a beat of the Formula One season.”

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