Even for the most ardent F1 fan, it would be difficult to comprehend the huge logistical infrastructure that supports the drivers and gets an F1 team to each Grand Prix. For McLaren Racing, the challenge is no less significant.
During a typical season of 21 races in 21 countries, the McLaren team will travel over 100,000 miles transporting two cars and roughly 50 tons of equipment. It will manage the accommodation of 50-60 trackside personnel. For the European races, it will deploy 23 trucks manned by 50 to 60 additional drivers moving cars and equipment to each circuit. It will transport and install two driver motorhomes. It will book roughly 30 rental cars as well as manage an often-complex VIP corporate hospitality program too.
You quickly realise that to be a top team in F1 doesn’t just take world-class drivers, engineers and mechanics, it also takes a team of world leading event organisers, travel agents, road hauliers, PR and marketers, IT engineers, couriers and much more.
According to Chris Birley, Senior Infrastructure Engineer, McLaren Racing, key to all of these elements coming together in a race-winning formula is good communication. "Clearly, all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for everything that a tour as extensive as an F1 GP season can throw at you, but for us, clear communication is vital for every Grand Prix weekend – and once onsite, this is powered by NTT Communications," comments Chris.
SD-WAN - A universal Solution for Every
Since late 2017, McLaren has used the NTT Communications SD-WAN solution to provide a simple and cost-efficient broadband internet service. No matter where in the world they are racing, the McLaren team at ‘Mission Control’ in Woking can communicate with consistency, reliability and at very high speeds - enabling them to synchronise race data with high-quality live video feeds delivered trackside.
In race terms, this enables Mission Control to rapidly review what they see, run race simulations and provide quicker and better strategic race advice to the trackside team.
Birley continues: "The amount of computing power and data generated over a McLaren race weekend is incredible – we send over 11.8 billion data points per year – so, any system we use must be fast, robust and reliable, but crucially, also universal. It has to meet our requirements in every country we visit, which is no small task.
"And this is what we have with the NTT Communications SD-WAN system. Similar in scale to setting up 21 different retail outlets in 21 different global cities, or moving parts between 21 factories around the world, the challenge is significant but not impossible. NTT Communications’ SD-WAN solution is one element we now don’t worry about – it is indeed universal, but also intuitive, simple to operate and low-cost too. It’s exactly what we had hoped for."
Plug and Play Set-up
When the McLaren team reaches the track at the start of a Grand Prix weekend, it faces a long list of tasks from setting-up the pit area, installing pit wall comms, building the cars and many, many other jobs.
But, because the NTT Communications SD-WAN solution operates via a normal internet connection available at every race track, McLaren enjoys plug-and-play operability that enables it to be up and running within minutes. Not only does this facilitate good team communication, but it also means that Mission Control in Woking is able to run race simulations straight away and start refining race tactics to present smarter, bespoke strategies. This is particularly valuable in changeable weather conditions, where pit decisions and tyre choices are crucial to retaining or gaining race positions.
On the Home Straight - Preparing For the
"Once the chequered flag has fallen on the race, quite literally, we start the breakdown process to get us to our next destination. We strip down the cars and carefully pack-up every component. We then pack all other equipment while liaising with the team in Woking – depending on where we’re heading to next, this whole process can take between three to six hours," continues Chris Birley.
"And while the NTT Communications SD-WAN line takes only moments to unplug, decisions for the next race start straight away. For the fly-always specifically, tyre strategies are generally made some three months in advance. But, by using local weather predictions and leveraging our NTT Communications SD-WAN line to power our MORSE machine learning system, we can start to analyse the most recent race data straight away, to predict what the drivers will need for the next race and further tune our previous decisions."
But, cars and parts are not the only items transported to each GP. Over 1,000 tons of non-critical team equipment is also moved via sea freight. Typical items include marketing materials, catering equipment and much, much more.
F1 transportation is a truly international and multifaceted logistics operation.
NTT Communications - An Extension of the Team
And with such a large undertaking, introducing a new and critical technology into the dynamics of a business as highly tuned as McLaren Racing, has the potential for significant disruption. But, according to McLaren Racing’s Trackside Head of Race Strategy, Randeep Singh, NTT Communications was the ideal partner.
"Getting our team successfully around the world in a Grand Prix season is not easy and we have many people dedicated to that task alone, but our NTT Communications technology perfectly complements that process," comments Singh.
"I have to say that NTT has delivered market-leading professionalism and its team is genuinely considered an extension of our trackside network. They are totally committed to our partnership and if necessary, will work through the night to ensure that we have what we need. They are very pro-active and provide week-on-week improvements to the system. Its SD-WAN solution is now the backbone of our trackside IT management system and critical link to Mission Control."
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