Pole Position – How Williams F1 Is Using IT To Drive Formula One Innovation

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Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, Williams F1 CIO Graeme Hackland explains why IT systems are more important than ever

Formula One is well-known for being one of the most technologically-advanced sports in the world, but have you ever wondered about the IT capabilities needed to develop and run its super-powered vehicles?

Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, TechWeekEurope headed to Silverstone to hear from Graeme Hackland, CIO of Williams F1, about the challenges involved preparing for race day.

Racy

williams formula oneFormula One is hit by major rule changes every couple of seasons, but Hackland says that this constant chopping and changing doesn’t take its toll on the IT side too much.

“I don’t think there’s been a huge impact on IT, in terms of the new regulations,” he says. “It’s still data.”

“From an IT perspective, our challenge is always to help the engineers to be able to react to the new regulations that come along, to make sure that they get access to the data, the analytics.”

But Hackland does believe IT is playing a major role in the sport today, with Williams’ work with Avanade concerning data analytics giving the team a definite edge.

“We’re all pretty insular about what we’re doing,” he says, “anything that’s going to give us a competitive advantage; we want to give to the team.”

Williams and Avanade signed a three-year partnership deal at the beginning of this season, but Hackland believes this will be extended, given the positive returns already seen by both sides.

Hackland, who says he is currently developing the team’s IT strategy up to 2020, says he hopes Avanade will be a part of this and beyond.

“They bring us a capability that we don’t have,” he says, “they bring skills and capacity that we don’t have, so we’re able to deliver significantly more working with them than we could working on our own.”

Evolving

graeme hacklandLooking forward, Hackland (pictured right) is also optimistic about the future of Formula One, even at a time when many fans are switching off in protest at boring races and confusing new regulations.

“F1 will continue to evolve,” he says, “from a car technology standpoint, that’s inevitable.”

“I think that what we’ve done at the very least in Formula One is make ourselves sound more attractive to manufacturers, to the engine manufacturers. I hope more will soon come in – I think it is good for competition.”

And outside of the sport, Hackland is positive that Formula One can have a positive effect on the automotive industry as a whole.

“Personally I think it’s more important for the sport that we become more relevant to the motor industry, becoming more responsible in terms of how we consume the Earth’s resources and so on – by adopting these energy recovery systems, which will make it in to road cars,” he says.

But this weekend is all about the racing, and Williams will be looking to continue its recent run of form with a strong performance at the team’s home grand prix.

“Silverstone is one of those iconic races,” Hackland says, “what we have now with these facilities is absolutely modern, cutting-edge, right up with any circuit in the world.”

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