‘Formula One is all about managing risk effectively through IT’

Mark Gallagher, Formula One Industry Executive and Jacques Villeneuve, Formula One World Champion, IndyCar Series Champion explain what connects the high-adrenaline sport to security and data.

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Formula One

Singapore: There is an underlying component in Formula One (F1) that most fans don’t know about, which makes the entire sport more effective and safer: data - the oil that F1 runs on. Taking the stage at the closing keynote at RSA Security’s conference in Singapore, Mark Gallagher, Formula One Industry Executive, explained how information technology made the sport safer.

Formula One is completely data driven, he said. “We have been using IT as a driver of performance and risk management for the last 20 years. F1 is also about technology. We design, manufacture and produce the vehicles that we race which integrate technology from aerospace, automotive and information technology. The F1 car is part jet-fighter, part automobile and part IT system, and it is all completely data driven,” Gallagher explained.

Just like in the IT industry, risk management is something F1 employees are very familiar with. “The management of risk is pivotal for us – there is huge physical risk for our drivers.”
As a Formula One World Champion and IndyCar Series Champion in the past, Jacques Villeneuve brought the perspective of a racer to the subject of risk management. He is not unfamiliar to risk as he was in an accident while racing, and his father Gilles Villeneuve, another racer, died in an accident while trying to qualify for a race.

Speaking about how he managed risk, Villeneuve said, “The sport is exciting and thrilling, however, there is definitely a risk involved. Every day life with my father was fun because he made us take risks when we were children. This taught me to respect risk and that it can be fun, as long as you can manage it and figure out when it is too much and when it is not too much.”

In the earlier years of Formula One, the risk management was not very effective. From 1950, when F1 started, till 1994, there were over 40 driver fatalities. “However, this risk management has been transformed by IT as it helped us design a car which, in the event of a catastrophic event, will protect the driver. That’s why safety, security and risk management are so central to us,” Gallagher highlighted.
Data has also helped improve the performance of the pit stop team as over the years, as they have reduced the time taken at the stop. In June 2016, Williams, the British Formula One company, set a world record of 1.89 seconds taken at a pit stop. “When you take that data-driven journey that we have been on, we now have information not just for information’s sake, but that which can actually help our business to perform as seen in how the information technology has helped us in improving a pit stop,” added Gallagher.

The current Formula One cars have a steering wheel that looks like a gaming console. Many new young drivers who have had the experience of driving in a virtual environment, have learned how to drive a real Formula One car very well. Gallagher explained, “Red Bull made a virtual environment of Formula One racing using data from real races. The extent of the data-driven environment we work in reflects in the fact that the Red Bull game has become the ultimate training tool.”

Another essential role that information technology plays for Formula One is in data security. “This is an essential element as we want to protect our data and our drivers. We don’t want any issues of data breach as it would be the difference between winning and losing a race. With the advent of social media and technology, the incidents of teenagers looking to break into their favourite driver’s personal emails just for fun have increased. Cybersecurity for our industry today is as important as the physical risk management of the drivers that we represent,” Gallagher empahised.

The writer was hosted by RSA Security in Singapore.


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