Why Formula One teams with tech

Like its rivals, the Renault F1 team leans hard on tech hardware and sponsorships to stay competitive on the track.
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor
It might not roar like a race car engine, but information technology can be just as important to the success of a Formula One team.

Reliable IT is key to helping Formula One cars run smoothly and allowing the team members to work efficiently, the Renault Formula One team's information-systems manager, Guillaume Jacquemin, told Silicon.com.

Renault F1, as the team is known, relies on hardware and applications from big names--Cisco Systems, Symantec and Network Appliance, among others. Jacquemin emphasized that technology and IT sponsors are playing increasingly larger roles in the sport.

"To me they're absolutely key," he said. "If we don't have the good technology, the good equipment or partners to support (the team), it's almost impossible to be competitive."

The IT department for Renault F1 completely updated the hardware it used at the track in the run-up to the new season, but Jacquemin said there will be many more challenges in store once the F1 season officially began last weekend in Australia.

"The main problem we've got is to set up the environment (at the track)," he said, "and that's where our partners can't really help. They just provide the equipment."

Renault F1 won championships in 2005 and 2006, despite operating on a budget that ranks fifth among 11 teams in terms of spending.

"We try to be really efficient with the money we've got," Jacquemin explained. "Compared to big teams like McLaren, Toyota or Ferrari, we've got a smaller budget and at the same time we're the world champions."

Jacquemin said the reason tech companies are increasingly drawn to Formula One racing is the unique and regular global coverage it attracts as the pinnacle of motor racing.

"The awareness provided by Formula One is absolutely massive," he said.

Renault feels it has a good package in place for 2007 but is very aware of possible fallout from the departure of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who now races for Team McLaren.

But Jacquemin noted the Renault team has a fast and experienced driver in Giancarlo Fisichella and that the team's new driver, Heikki Kovalainen, will likely have little difficulty handling the pressure of replacing Alonso.

"We are pretty confident, to be honest," he said.

Tim Ferguson of Silicon.com reported from London.

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