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27 November 2015

Innovation in Sport: How technology adds thrust to Williams Martini Racing team

Williams Martini Racing

“We are focused on innovation. We want to use improvements in our people, processes and technology to beat teams who are outspending us.”

This was the resolute ambition expressed by Williams Martini Racing’s IT director, Graeme Hackland during his absorbing keynote address at last month’s BT Ingenious Tower Talk.

The theme of the event was Innovation in Sport. In his presentation Graeme demonstrated how the Williams Martini Racing team is using the power of technology to close the gap on its rivals.

“Mercedes and Ferrari spend around three times what we do every year, but we believe we can take them on. And technology is playing a really important part,” he said.

“We’ve already seen an improvement over the past 18 months. The team has cut the lap time difference between itself and Mercedes from 1.6 seconds, to 0.8 seconds. We aim to keep going, to keep narrowing the gap.”

Pole position

Williams is working with a number of partners - including BT - and using digital technologies to help the team return to the front of the grid.

In particular, improvements in data flow and analysis is giving the team a real competitive boost.

There are some 200 sensors on the Williams-Martini Racing cars, giving out real-time information on fuel levels, oil, water, exhaust and tyre temperatures, as well as speed, engine revs per minute, clutch fluid pressure, and G-force.

Each race weekend produces up to 80 GB of raw data that needs to be sent securely and analysed in real time. The team and drivers can then use this insight to make the changes that will improve car performance during practice and qualifying, and in the race itself.

Competing through connectivity

Said Hackland: “Digital connectivity and our partnership with BT has given us an opportunity to flow our data as it’s generated by the car to wherever its needed. That could be on the track or back at our operations centre in Oxfordshire. Thanks to the connectivity provided by BT we can even get real-time data to our chief technical officer when he’s working at home. It’s as if he was on the pitwall.”

He also highlighted the huge difference in voice connectivity that BT’s solution had made. Previously there would be a two to three second delay between trackside and the Oxfordshire HQ causing an imbalance in conversations between team members.

"Now talk is very natural. If someone wants to make a point - for example for a driver - they they can do so."

Graeme Hackland wrapped up his BT Ingenious Tower Talk presentation by making it clear that Williams Martini Racing would continue its innovation journey.

“Technology is taking Williams Martini Racing to a new level. We are not there to make up the numbers. I believe this path we are on."