Thomas Riedel: Homeland Security

Riedel has been involved with Formula One for 26 years, however prior to that, company founder, Thomas Riedel, had no idea what F1 was all about. Headliner meets Riedel on the hottest day of the year at the Hockenheim circuit where it al began for him, despite his attire failing to impress many years ago.

Headliner applies some more suncream. Due to meet Mr. Riedel any minute in his homeland at the Hockenheim ring ahead of the F1, today track temperatures are hovering around 42.6°C. A well-dressed Riedel appears and extends a friendly handshake, although he points out that he hasn’t always been known for making a great first impression:

“Hockenheim was the very first place we experienced F1. I had never been to an F1 race before I started working in it! I just sort of thought: that’s cars, oil, dirty. I had a perception of it which was very different to what it was – I put on old trousers and a t-shirt, and thought it would end up dirty.

“I went to Hockenheim, met the manager in charge of GP in Germany, he looked me up and down and said: ‘So you’re Thomas Riedel’. I don’t know what I looked like [laughs], but that was the start, and now it’s great to come back to that location – all those old memories come back. And travel-wise, I certainly like the fact that things are closer to home, too!”

Riedel clearly must have impressed in the end though, as these days, all team communications are handled through Riedel Artist Intercom mainframes and panels. Interfacing with Motorola Tetra digital radio systems, engineers, crews and drivers have clear communications that can mean the difference between winning and losing. More than 2,000 radio units are used during every race, and in addition to the kit, up to 22 Riedel engineers are on site.

Our Bolero system is a true game-changer – not just here, but in football.

Having toured the pits and garage, we feel it safe to suggest that the recent advancements in radio and communications equipment in F1 has been pretty staggering.

“It’s definitely a straight-up curve for us in terms of our business in sports, and it’s done the same in wireless technologies,” Riedel nods. “Our Bolero system is a true game- changer – not just here, but in football – we’re getting one league after the other, and the NFL, which we just won in the US. But in motorsports, it’s great to see how you can enable new things, and get a much better audio quality with duplex comms, then go beyond that and use that technology for commentary purposes.

“You can use the technology to have people go live on air - like, for instance, the lady who works for BBC Radio on site here – she uses Bolero, and we send the audio straight to the UK, and that goes on air – it has a talkback button and everything, so you have kind of a wireless commentator in a way.”

Reportedly the latency is so minuscule, it’s essentially live, right?

“Exactly – with Bolero, you combine traditional walkie talkie features with a wireless system – like an IEM and mic would do for you – and no frequency management is needed anymore because you can get great coverage over a large area without the hassle you’d have with traditional wireless mics,” Riedel enthuses.