December 12, 2023

8 min

How Data Is Fueling Success for Red Bull Racing On and Off the Track

CDW helps the team leverage behind-the-scenes technology to find success on the circuit as well as at business headquarters.

The speed of Formula One racing makes it one of the most thrilling sporting experiences today. The merging of car and driver creates a drama that captures spectator interest, but it belies the team effort that drives a successful team such as Oracle Red Bull Racing (ORBR).

Despite its appearance as an individual sport, racing is truly a team effort. Success wouldn’t be possible without the support of various groups contributing their expertise to deliver victory.

At races, some of the spotlight occasionally spills over to include the cadre of engineers, technicians and mechanics trackside — all of whose skills and knowledge make invaluable contributions to the team.

However, there are even more team members working behind the scenes to create the sustained success ORBR has seen in recent years. Leveraging the power of data and the technology needed to unlock its extensive value, there is a deep bench of support staff delivering a competitive edge not just for driving superstars such as Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez but also for the business needs of the organization.

“We not only have 60 people that we take to the track, what people don’t realize is that we have a similar number sitting in our operations room.” says Jack Harington, senior partnerships manager for ORBR. “No matter where the race is run around the world, whatever time zone it is, we have the same number of engineers in our operations room in Milton Keynes providing live, in-the-loop support to the engineers at the track making on-the-spot decisions based on data that we’re sending back to the factory.”

How Data Analytics Enables Success on the Track in Sim Racing

As with any successful organization, technology plays a key role in driving desired outcomes for ORBR. And much of that technology is fueled by the data being generated trackside and analyzed elsewhere. Cloud computing is essential to the delivery of key insights, according to Dan Smith, technical partnerships executive at ORBR. “The analytics side of it is run off the computer, but the computer has to stream the data into the Oracle cloud. So, during an event, we have virtual machines that we run up with Oracle. We’re running about 45,000 data points a second through the computer into the cloud.”

With all of that data safely delivered to the cloud, analysts can transform it into valuable insights for ORBR’s sim racing team. “In racing, we’ll be looking at their cornering performance, seeing time lost that they might gain through low-speed, medium-speed and high-speed corners,” Smith explains. “From that time lost, we can then infer how we can change their setup. So, it’s trying to make each setup of the car specific to each driver to gain the maximum amount of lap time. Also, looking at each driver, we can see where one driver is quicker than the other and try to give that feedback back to them.”

How Technology Is Driving Success Behind the Scenes for ORBR

ORBR faces the same business challenges and tech needs as any other company. “This is a business. This is not just what you see on a race weekend,” Harington explains. “We have HR, we have finance, we have payroll, we have every department any business would have around here. And they too are reliant on technology. Often, people will focus on the performance that we’re bringing to the car or people at the track, but it’s the solutions being provided to us throughout the business that really allow us to function the way that we are.”

“We’re like any business: We’re on a transformation journey as a team. And Formula One has moved on from the early days of just being a small group of 20 or 30 people sitting in a shed designing a car,” Harington says. “We have many hundreds of people here who aren’t just involved in car design but are involved in the support services that you see in any business. And just like any business, we need to have access to the tools that our business needs to perform well.”

Collaboration — and the technology to support it — is key to many elements of the ORBR business. Harington cites the teams involved in designing cars as prime examples of this need. “Through CDW, we procured a lot of the HP Poly videoconferencing and headset units that we use around the factory, which enabled the collaboration that we require as a team. We have multiple teams within our car design team that need to speak and work together with each other. This is a big facility, so we can’t always find time to get into the same meeting room and sit around physically. It’s relying on technology such as videoconferencing that allows us to not only stay in contact with teams within the business but our external suppliers too.”

James Miller, account director at CDW UK, notes ORBR’s goals for its technology investments. “One is winning on the track. Two is building a fast race car. Three is enabling the staff to perform.” CDW is able to assist in delivering on each of those goals, due in large part to its valued partnerships. “We will deal with Pure Storage, NetApp, Dell, HP — all of the different vendors. And we have the badges, the accreditations with all those vendors.”

In addition, Miller says, CDW is able to assist ORBR “with a variety of software vendors, particularly Arctic Wolf. They’re all people we’re helping partner them with to deliver their business outcomes.”

“I think that that's one thing that people often miss is that it’s more than a race team. This is a business,” Harington says. “The car is our end product, but there’s hundreds of people here who are all aligned with the same goal no matter which department we’re in, which is working to bring home championships. And so, just like any business, we need a wide support network of technology for them to perform as they should.”

How a Trusted Partnership Builds a Secure Foundation of Success

One of the areas where many organizations need technological support is with cybersecurity, and ORBR is no different in that regard. Pradeep Anbudaiyan, director of corporate sales at CDW UK, notes that CDW has been able to connect ORBR with Arctic Wolf, which can offer the kinds of security services needed in a highly competitive landscape.

“Being a championship-winning team, they probably face more than their fair share of external threats from bad actors and the hacking community, and they leverage products they buy from CDW to protect themselves,” he says.

With races taking place around the world, ORBR’s data needs take on a global scale with overwhelming security demands. “We have strategic partnerships with industry-leading providers, so you can get best-in-class and you can get it in a way that is scalable and deliverable across multiple geographies,” Anbudaiyan says. “They’re in different countries each week, and for us to be able to reach them where they are and to deliver this industry-leading solution based on the strength of our global partnerships is unique to CDW.”

Why Optimizing Costs is Critical to Racing Success

While ORBR faces many of the challenges common to other organizations, it also grapples with some issues specific to racing, such as a spending cap. “A few years ago in Formula One, you could largely spend whatever you wanted on developing your cars,” Harington says. “And so, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile imposed a cost cap, which currently sits at $135 million. And for any business that’s facing that budget cut, it’s a big impact on how we go about things.”

Anbudaiyan cited the cost cap as one of the ways that CDW differentiates itself from other technology providers. “We have long-tenured salespeople who invest in getting to know the industries and the nuances of our customers,” he says. “James and his leadership team have spent so much time with Red Bull over the years that they’re well aware of the F1 cost caps and how that ecosystem works. Our knowledge of that environment helps us advise Red Bull on how to navigate that landscape and be as efficient as possible on how they leverage their IT budgets.”

Harington acknowledges the additional importance the cost cap imposes on technology decisions. “We’ve got to really make sure that the technology that we use is best-in-class and is fit for purpose,” he says. “Not only that, but we have to make sure it’ll last and that we can keep it going and make sure that we get the best bang for our buck.”

According to Harington, the years ORBR spent previously as a CDW customer paved the way for a true partnership: “It’s knowing that we can speak to CDW, that they understand the challenges that we have as a business, about having the best technology while also remaining cost-efficient. Working with companies such as CDW gives us that cost-efficiency and access to the latest and greatest tech.”

CDW’s ability to advise on technology issues and deliver on access to solutions and services has built a solid foundation of cost efficiency, innovation and security that translates directly to ORBR’s success on the track and as a business.

Story by Joe Kuehne, a Senior Editor at BizTech magazine.

Joe Kuehne

Associate Editorial Director, BizTech Magazine
Joe Kuehne is the associate editorial director for BizTech magazine.