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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.

"If you look at the business as a whole, we don't necessarily use data as well as we've done at the track for all the other things we do in the business.

"There's now a lot more work going into data analysis around all the other things that we do, whether it's vehicle simulation, or our ERP and our CAD systems, about how we can optimise our performance as a business."

This strategy includes working with Tibco on ways to harness the power of data analysis to drive efficiencies throughout the business, and with Pure Storage to ensure that the engineers in the factory receive race information as quickly as their colleagues trackside.

This previously could take up to five minutes more time to arrive. There are only a few minutes between one qualifying round and the next, so that delay can be crucial.


IT back at the factory

The IT team play a big role in what happens on the track but many never get to witness the results of in person. Trips to test days and Silverstone and visits to the factory by drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas bring a trace of the race experience to them.

"We actually had Lewis come into the IT department a couple of weeks ago," says Harris. "That was a massive boost to a load of the guys, because we're quite removed from the track in a lot of instances.

"Some guys get to go to the track regularly because it's part of their job, but some of them have never been to the track and it's unlikely they'll get to go in many instances."

They're kept busy enough at the factory in Brackley. The team is currently working on a major project to make their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] systems more streamlined and user-efficient, but Harris also likes them to develop their own IT ideas.

"People go on about shadow IT," he explains. "What we do is we allow them to do things in their own little safety areas, and then help them to productionise that as and when it's actually big enough to be used across the business."

Cyber security is one area that has taken a more official direction. The engineering secrets behind the success of Formula 1 teams rarely leave the paddock, but their concealment faces a growing threat from hackers.

"I was talking to Toto [Wolff, the Mercedes F1 team boss] about this yesterday," says Harris. "We recently employed an information security lead. At present security is part of IT. In my view, it shouldn't be longer term. It's bigger than IT when you're talking about information security but it's a good start that we've got the role.


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