Bringing F1’s data-driven competitive advantages to your business
Formula One Racing is long known as the pinnacle of motorsport—and just about the only thing that will regularly get me out of bed at 4 AM on a Sunday morning. The teams and cars are designed for speed. Cars hurl themselves from 0 to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 4 seconds while drivers withstand over 6 G-forces in high-speed corners. Pit stops can take as little as 1.82 seconds. To put all of this in context: my utilitarian 4Runner would tip over at probably less than 0.75G in a corner, while my neighbor’s Tesla might pull about 1.2G under “insane mode” acceleration. Astronauts leaving Earth only reach 3Gs. And getting my tires changed takes an afternoon.
With wins and losses being millisecond differences, outpacing the competition with innovation is crucial. As has historically been the case with Formula One, many of these innovations propagate to everyday life. Our own vehicles have benefitted from breakthroughs in fuel efficiency and lubrication science, along with new features like traction control and active suspension.
In recent years, however, innovations have been less about components and more about data. The teams that have been able to better analyze, learn from, and act upon their data have a competitive advantage—and it’s these breakthroughs that are propagating to organizations today.
Real-time decision making
In what’s been called a “traveling circus,” the teams tour to over twenty racetracks around the globe. Gigabytes of raw data stream from each race weekend, where it’s processed in the cloud and analyzed live by engineers at the teams’ headquarters with tools like Splunk. This analysis helps on-track crews make decisions on when it’s time to pit, where the driver needs to improve, and how to preemptively identify faults in the car’s complex systems. Accordingly, this data roundtrip can directly affect the race outcome. In the business world, organizations like Microsoft that learn to make quicker decisions can similarly outpace the competition.
Along with all of that data, teams come up with thousands of unique designs for components—so much so that it’s impossible to protect the intellectual property (IP) with patent law. So instead, they focus on protecting their infrastructure. With data and IP being a lucrative and attractive target, state-of-the-art security is required. This is why decals for security companies like CrowdStrike and Kaspersky are not just on cars for the sponsorship money; these companies form deep partnerships with teams to help protect them from breaches and threats. Also pertinent is a culture of security— which, in a space with a turnover rate as high as the technology industry—can prevent sensitive data from transferring to new employers.
Results that matter
Those gigabytes of data that come in each weekend stem from a multitude of sensors that monitor things like tire wear, fuel burn, location on track, component temperatures, and much more. AWS notes that 1,500 data points are generated each second. With so much data and only a finite number of analysts, teams are trained to only look for the anomalies and opportunities. Visualization tools are tuned for this discovery, as vanity metrics have no place here. The organizations that weed these out reap the most. While I like Formula One for its strategic use of technology and the pace of innovation, I think the main reason it’s so appealing is that at the end of the day, there’s no gray area for the vanity metrics to take hold. It’s a win or a loss, with results based on an object that can’t possibly be less open to human interpretation: the stopwatch. Although we don’t necessarily have the same luxury of stopwatches in business, what separates our marketing consulting is that it’s is based on the same principles: investments in success and results that matter.