by Steve Nevey, F1 technical business expert, formerly with Red Bull Racing
Formula 1 is all about who has the most money, yes?
I once overheard somebody say to a Formula 1 boss, “So, you produce racing cars”. The reply was, “No. Actually, we produce knowledge and intellect. The car is just a brief manifestation of that intellect.”
If a team lost its cars in transit, or through some freak incident at its headquarters, it could rebuild them. If a team lost its data, then it’s in trouble.
Monisha Kaltenborn, the Team Principal of Sauber F1, has realised that this is where a large portion of competitive advantage can be found. The acquisition of vast amounts of data, which are then promptly translated into useful information, adds to the accumulation of the teams knowledge.
Speed of knowledge-gathering, leads to reduced lap times. Knowledge of the Sauber F1 car’s physical characteristics, such as handling, tyre degradation, mechanical grip, brake temperatures and aerodynamic balance, enables the army of engineers, at both the circuit and the Sauber headquarters, to make prompt and accurate decisions about car configuration and race strategy. This is what they do best, given the right information.
Sauber F1 has announced that it is working with NetApp as a Technical Partner. NetApp is a provider of fast, reliable and easy-to-deploy data storage solutions to a variety of industry sectors. NetApp storage solutions provide the backbone for the Sauber F1 Team’s vital IT infrastructure.
And with NetApp’s storage solutions being easy to deploy and manage, Sauber F1 can concentrate its technical efforts on what it does best, developing race car performance.
The NetApp FlexPod™ data centre solution travels to each of the twenty Formula 1 Grand Prix events. Rolling off one of the team’s trucks, it simply plugs into the power supply and is up and running, being managed by a single Sauber IT technician.
The gigabytes of data that are produced by the miriad of on-car sensors can be stored, processed and transmitted back to the team’s Hinwil Headquarters in Switzerland.
Another important feature of NetApp’s storage solution is its energy efficiency. As with many modern technology companies, power consumption of its IT infrastructure is often the limiting factor. For Sauber F1, every Swiss Franc saved in the day-to-day running of the team can be redirected into developing performance of the race car.
Lift the lid off a modern Formula 1 factory and peer inside. What you will see is very typical of many other high-tech product development and production facilities. Design, R&D, testing, manufacturing, IT, finance, assembly, “goods in” and “goods out”. They are all there.
So, if you run a business and think that what happens in a Formula 1 team isn’t relevant to you, think again.