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Formula 1 Group try to transform fan experience and attract new demographic


Dynamic Business spoke to Rob Smedley from Formula 1 Group about how they are using AWS to deliver a digital transformation, deliver new metrics and change the way fans and teams experience racing.

Formula 1 Group is taking current infrastructures to AWS data centres to use their tech more effectively.

“Moving data centres to a cloud system is a big process for all of Formula 1 management. We’re getting into analytics as we’re thinking about how to deliver a better product for the fans,” Mr Smedley said.

Rob has spent 20 years working in F1, formerly as a Ferrari race engineer, and now joins management to deliver this digitalisation project.

He brings expertise from the ground up on how the teams operate, how they use tech, operations performance and car performance.

“F1 has to be improved for fan engagement and fan experience. The fan base needs to broaden. The tech we are rolling out will be giving a better experience to a larger demographic and both genders.”

The vision of F1 is to bring this on-the-ground data and stats to the viewers, delivering more technical information and insight to dedicated and loyal fans and helping newbies/channel skippers see the appeal of the sport through understanding its complex and interesting nature.

There are two new goals that Smedley identified; “Number one is to engage non-avids. To engage the casual observe from the outset, which is easier said than done. But this can be done by giving them some information, in an easy format to digest and consume.

“Second is for the tech side to improve performance. Cyclists 15 years ago didn’t have the reputation that they do now, same for swimming – how did they do that? How do you engage non-interested people? F1 management is hugely rich in data which is wholly underused, which could help viewers understand more about the sport. I think 1) we need to improve the quality of data that is floating around, 2) we need to how to store and access that data, and 3) we need to know how to process and use it.”

AWS brings new opportunities for Formula 1 to catch up with other sports in terms of giving fans the live data and creating a digital community and diverse following. They are at the beginning of their data transformation journey, however Smedley sees a future that attracts a better educated and more engaged audience.

“I hope to see far better organisation of technical analysis, much higher quality data acquisition and better processing methods,” Rob said.

“For the end user, my personal vision is to create a greater experience right across board from the casual observer to avid fan. For them to become better educated, and more engaged.

“Avids want to use all platforms, not just linear TV, to get closer to the teams. The current feed is not enough, and only appeals to a certain demographic. We can reach younger audiences through different platforms, clever applications that have insider news. The sport is technologically driven, the engineers are rockstars, and it’s now about how we make this more accessible to the end-user.”

  • Graham9772

    Collecting and using data is fine but the sport is basically about racing. The underlying sport has to be terrific and then the data will matter. I think one of the biggest hurdles is the DRS. The DRS works in some situations but the perceived need for it is the problem. To some the sport might be made as exciting as pro wrestling or roller derby just by giving the race controller a fast and slow control on every car. Keep them within 200 metres of each other for the whole race. Sometimes that seems to be the purpose of the “safety” car. The rules need to be such that the cars engage in a genuine race. Sometimes one brand will dominate but an exciting, hard fought race for third can still be a very good race. It seems to me that the old guard have been carried away by the use of aerodynamics which has no practical connection with the ordinary car drivers experience. Sure we get 4g cornering and we can drive upside down through a tunnel but that belongs in stunt driving, not road racing. Not that there is anything wrong with it as a technical excercise but it’s irrelevant. Some aerodynamics might be good but a saving could be made by limiting the wing to something smaller and only allowing one element. If the slower lap times are a concern then allow more power so we get lower cornering speeds and higher top speeds. Equals longer braking areas and more wheel to wheel racing. Its already looking better. Perhaps we could have tyres that are not designed to artificially loose grip after some planned number of laps. Passing by a better pit strategy or being able to run slower and conserve fuel does not make good exciting racing.