Life in the fast lane – how Lotus F1 tech keeps pace with the competition

by Michael Moore| 04 July 2014

Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, we talk with the racing team’s CIO about streamlining the car and his costs.

F1 is a sport notorious for its fixation on timing and improvement as teams spend hundreds of millions of pounds every year in an effort to gain a split second.

Teams operate on a two-week cycle in between races, often travelling to different continents along with 30 tons of equipment to maintain and assemble the cars.

Over the course of a race weekend, more than one billion data points will be gathered from an ever-growing number of sensors attached to the car as the teams aim to better understand the track and their machines.

CBR went along to Lotus F1 headquarters in Enstone, Oxfordshire, a short drive from Silverstone, to hear how the team is benefitting with its partnership with IT experts Avanade.

Lotus F1 has a portfolio of 45 in-house developed apps to process the data from the cars and trackside teams. It is constantly building, developing and enhancing. Last year the team oversaw more than 200 releases of these apps, a figure it will beat this year.
Avanade, its main IT consultant helps ensure that the team has all the tools and expertise needed to process this data and feed it into design, research and output.

It does this using the programs and services from its parent company Microsoft, with a dedicated team of 20 Avanade workers permanently employed at Lotus F1 headquarters.

Streamlined back office
So far, Lotus F1 has been able to enjoy the benefits of reduced administration costs and improved communication through its production line due to the streamlined processes brought.

"Avanade came in and provided the expertise and skill set that we don't have within the team," says Michael Taylor, CIO of Lotus, who heads up an IT team of 36 split between trackside and factory.

"We need to be lean - every pound that I spend on IT, unless there is a significant return, is taking money away from what can be invested in the performance of the car."

In the past few years, Formula One has become much more business-like, reflecting wider global concerns regarding financial issues.

"Previously, in the mid-2000s, Formula One was OEM-centric," says Taylor, "the teams were spending vast sums of money to simply buy whatever they needed."

But this led to disparate systems spread over the places with no standardisation, and a need for streamlining which required outside help. As Lotus F1 already had a range of Microsoft software in place, Avanade was able to come in and define and streamline the necessary processes, cutting costs and immediately improving efficiency.

This included bringing in Microsoft Dynamics to implement a business transformation system, as the team had identified that there were around a dozen different systems providing business information that needed to be streamlined into an end-to-end solution that provided full transparency throughout the team.
The partnership also helped further the team as a business, and how implementing new and efficient technologies can help it succeed.

This includes the development and manufacturing of new components using the team's wind tunnel and simulator, with the data collected from tests can be processed and fed back quicker than ever than to the streamlining done by Avanade.

"The more you look at Formula 1, the more you realise that it is driven by technology," says Julian Tomison, general manager at Avande UK. "That technology does provide a different to the car that has crossed the line first."

Lotus F1 has been working with Avanade since May 2012, with the company providing a range of services for the team as its official business consulting partner - from the manufacturing of new parts to the pit-lane strategy during the race.

Avanade was set up in 2000 as a joint partnership between Microsoft and Accenture in order to better take the former's products to enterprise customers. The company has now grown to 22,000 workers worldwide and recorded over $1bn in revenues last year.

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