The new 2023 Formula One season kicked off in Bahrain in March with a blistering performance by the Red Bull team.
What was dubbed the "duel in the desert" at the Bahrain International Circuit confirmed what many think — that F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, a fusion of the very best engineering expertise and technical talent melded with the nerve-jangling skill of drivers.
Sometimes, a team's dominance is so assertive that races are won by a country mile, as was the case in Bahrain. Other times, all that divides two drivers is the thickness of a coat of paint on their nose cone.
Either way, the difference between a podium place and an also-ran is down to the car, the track, the team, pre-race preparation, race-day tactics, the weather, the driver, luck... and, of course, data. Lots of data.
Top flight motorsport is fueled by data
Telematics has been around in motorsport for years. Today, real-time monitoring — along with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics — gives pit teams an inside track on the performance of their car and driver to give them that all-important edge.
GPS allows teams to know the exact whereabouts of their cars on the track at any time. Sensors monitor tire pressure and wear to ensure cars stick to the tarmac. Scores of instruments monitor every aspect of the engine performance ensuring optimum efficiency while warning of any upcoming problems.
And to add to the TV spectacle of this global event, in-car cameras provide a driver's eye view of the race that can be accessed and replayed in milliseconds.
These aren't just race cars. They are F1's embodiment of the Internet of Things (IoT), which sees data gathered and uploaded to the cloud before being accessed by teams of analysts to ensure racing supremacy. Sound familiar?
The high-octane world of F1 may seem like a million miles away from the more speed-limited world of logistics, but the comparisons are striking.
Instead of operating racing thoroughbreds, the vehicles that make up a fleet manager's team operate as the workhorses of the global economy. But the underlying technologies are much the same. And the focus on data to improve performance applies just as much to a fleet of vans or lorries as it does to a race team.
Data is also fueling the next generation of commercial fleets
Just like racing cars, lorries and vans are bristling with sensors connected to the cloud in real-time to provide real-time updates on both the vehicle and the driver.
GPS tracking means fleet managers always know the exact location of every vehicle and driver — not on a track but on the road network. That's essential when the efficient running of supply chains depends on goods being delivered to specific locations within tight timeframes.
AI and machine learning are used in safety systems as well as vehicle reporting and diagnostic tools. Real-time monitoring of fuel consumption can highlight problems in efficiency and identify whether that’s down to the driver or the vehicle.
Live data flowing from connected sensors means fleet managers can monitor engine wear and tear, so that pre-emptive maintenance can be carried out even before a vehicle is due for a scheduled trip to the workshop.
And when it comes to safety, live footage from onboard cameras not only keeps a record of what’s happening on the road, but safety systems can also help prevent accidents.
In essence, the data gathered from all the sensors and monitoring systems — and relayed in real-time via the cloud — allows fleet managers to understand and assess the performance of their entire operation via a single screen.
The comparisons between telematics used in motorsport and commercial fleets are clear. F1 uses data to excel in motorsport. Commercial fleets, on the other hand, are increasingly fuelled by data not to win races, but to run safer, more efficient, and more sustainable operations.
International motorsport would not exist without a connected supply chain
But there is another area that links the thoroughbreds of F1 with the workhorses of logistics.
How exactly do motor racing teams — the cars, drivers, engineers, the pit wall — which acts as the trackside telematics and team hub — and the rest of their entourage arrive at each circuit during the racing season? The answer is simple. Logistics.
Race teams are shipped, flown, and driven to circuits. And just like every other organization dependent on slick logistics, F1 relies on the supply chain — on HGVs — to ferry them from track to track.
Which means they also face the same risks as other operators and organizations within the supply chain. Last year, Red Bull team boss, Christian Horner, shared his concerns that supply chain issues could "wreak havoc" to the racing calendar.
Indeed, Autosport reported that some teams in the past have had their pre-race preparations interrupted due to delays in getting all their equipment to tracks.
But while the world of motorsport understands the importance of data to improve performance, the value of connected operations among supply chains and vehicle fleets is only starting to gain real momentum.
A report last year by Samsara — State of Connected Operations — warned that fleets need to connect their operations or risk being left behind in the slow lane.
Every day they delay planning for — and investing in — connected operations, their businesses lose ground to those that have already started their journey.
It was part of an industry-defining assessment that the sector had reached a ‘tipping point’ in the digital transformation of physical operations.
For those waverers still kicking the can down the road unsure about the role technology and data can play, the message is simple. Transformational technology completely changes the way your business operates. And even small changes can make a big impact. Just ask those involved in F1.