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Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Head of IT Matt Harris explains the tech powering the F1 champions

Thomas Macaulay | Oct. 19, 2017
The team generates up to 30TB of data on a race weekend from cars equipped with around 200 sensors each.

pit stop
Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is racing ahead in the 2017 Formula 1 championship, and on course to win both the constructors' and drivers' titles for the fourth season in the row.

While its superstar drivers such as Lewis Hamilton earn millions of pounds, critical acclaim and public adoration, their victories would be impossible without the 700-strong workforce supporting them beyond the spotlight.

It includes an IT team headed up by Matt Harris.

Harris is responsible for both the IT setup at the factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire, and the trackside infrastructure at race weekends, to which at least two of the roughly 30 members of his team always travel. The global interest in the sport means they're on the road a lot.

The F1 calendar packs 20 race weekends in 20 different countries and around 100,000 miles of travelling into its eight-month season.

The Mercedes team drives two enormous trucks to every European event, which are converted into an engineering office on arrival at the track.

"Think of two articulated lorries, then pop up the tops so they go up higher, then take the sides down and up to create the roof and the floor, put some ends on and you've got a massive office space," explains Harris.

"That's the engineering environment for the race weekend, and then alongside that we have a motorhome."

This isn't the type of motorhome that you'll find parked in caravan sites. It consists of around 30 containers that are put together to form a massive cube.

It also serves as a hospitality venue for guests of Mercedes-AMG Petronas, who can use its multimedia and data connectivity to do their work.

For 'flyaway' events that take place outside Europe, all that equipment is packed into special air shipping containers that are flown around the world.

The IT team contribute two 24U server racks to the cargo. They're stacked with a few hundred terabytes of Pure Storage devices connected to Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS), with multiple wireless access points supporting team and guest requirements, a full AD domain, and associated services including SQL servers and gig connectivity to every device at the track.

"All the stuff you'd expect in a normal branch office," is how Harris describes it. "And we stick in a nice dirty dusty environment in the garage with carbon fibre cars running with no air conditioning."

It takes around 36 hours to put everything together during a race weekend. They then run the setup for four days at European events and five at flyaways.

"We run it the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday," says Harris, who reports to the Chief Operations Officer. Then it's six hours to pull it apart, move it to the next event and hopefully it all works again hunky dory."

 

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