November 22, 2023
How Technology Helps Oracle Red Bull Racing Dominate Formula One
In a sport where technology is critical to success, CDW provides essential expertise.
“You can have the fastest car in the world, but if you make a wrong strategy decision, then you can finish last,” says Jack Harington, senior partnerships manager for Oracle Red Bull Racing.
The ORBR team does, in fact, have the fastest cars in the world — and the best drivers. The team won the U.S. Grand Prix on Oct. 22 and has won 20 of 21 races on the Formula One circuit in 2023 (18 won by superstar driver Max Verstappen and two by his teammate, Sergio Perez). But, Harington says, this success also relies on the effective use of technology to develop the best plans and make the best decisions for every race.
ORBR has won seven World Drivers’ Championships, and six World Constructors’ Championships since it began its Formula One participation in 2004. The team relies on technology to help it with every facet of the game, including car design, analyzing massive quantities of data for race insight, driving simulation and communication.
“Formula One, I would argue, is the most technologically advanced sport in the world, bar none,” Harington says. “We have many hundreds of people on our technology campus here in Milton Keynes whose sole responsibility is to build two cars that go very fast every other weekend, and the large majority of those people rely on some form of technology.”
CDW has established itself as a critical partner in ORBR’s success, providing essential hardware and software elements to support the team’s efforts, as well as services and expert guidance on how to optimize its use of technology.
“We’ve learned that F1 is a heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled, intense and exciting sport, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” says Karl Schulz, vice president of product and partner management at CDW. “But we’ve also learned that F1 is technology-fueled. The data and accompanying solutions required to build a successful and thriving team represent a multifaceted and ever-evolving challenge.”
How Technology Wins Formula One Races
Adrian Newey, Chief Technical Officer for Oracle Red Bull Racing, still uses pen and paper for the initial designs of the team’s F1 car. That step, Harington says, is probably the only part of the entire operation that doesn’t rely on technology in some way. But once Newey’s original drawings are complete, the team uses sophisticated computer-aided design tools to move to the next step, then relies on computational fluid dynamics tools to further improve the vehicle.
Once the Team has a working prototype of the car, it is fitted with hundreds of sensors that feed terabytes of data back to the team, which uses the data to further hone performance. That data also gets stored for later use to further help ORBR gain any edge it can against its competitors.
ORBR also uses sophisticated “driver in the loop” simulators to help the team and its drivers prepare for races and improve their overall performance. The technology (which ORBR prefers to keep a secret) provides an extremely realistic simulation of what the drivers will experience when they get to a race location. “One of the first tools that we use are our simulators here at the factory,” Harington says. “We have some incredibly advanced driver-in-the-loop simulators, and really the best way to describe them is to imagine the coolest computer game or the coolest driving simulator that you can think of and multiply it by 10.”
By testing different car setups in the simulator, the team has a head start on figuring out how to optimize performance on a specific track, taking into account myriad factors, including weather, altitude and race conditions. The team also uses the simulator to improve the aerodynamics of the car, as well as its engine performance.
Once the car arrives at a race location, the team continues to rely on the technology, collecting vast sets of data during practice runs to prepare the car for race day. Harington stresses that while the technology is a valuable tool, it can only be as good as the team that’s using it. “It very much comes down to the team,” he says. “You can have all the technology in the world, but it's the people that you have here that use that technology.”
ORBR’s Essential Technology Partnership with CDW
Having technology partners such as CDW helps ORBR make sure it’s getting the most out of its investments in technology. CDW ensures that the team gets the technology tools it needs when it needs them from some of the most advanced technology companies in the industry, such as HP and Intel.
The racing team was a customer of CDW for roughly a decade before entering into an “innovation partnership” with the company in recent years. It relies on not only CDW’s ability to quickly fill orders but also to maintain optimal performance and provide valuable guidance based on its technology expertise.
“By having partnerships with innovation partners such as CDW, that allows us to have access to the technology that we need,” Harington says. “In Formula One, if you don’t stay with the times, then you very quickly fall down the pecking order of the grid. It’s all about having access to the latest technology so that we can continue to design these cars that win world championships.”
In a sport where milliseconds can mean the difference between winning and losing, the technology CDW provides can help ORBR gain a needed edge.
Pradeep Anbudaiyan, director of corporate sales for CDW in the U.K., says that the company has been instrumental in supplying hardware, software and professional services to ORBR, enabling it to innovate at a rapid pace. Another key is that CDW understands some of ORBR’s strategic business aims: to optimize track performance, enable car design and support employee productivity around the globe.
“CDW’s understanding of the F1 financial nuances helps ORBR navigate through the commercial complexities that it faces,” Anbudaiyan says. “Our commercial model helps Red Bull consolidate suppliers, maximize ROI on technology spending, and allow for predictable budgeting.”
“We are hugely reliant on live data to make decisions as the race is going on. These are data-driven monster machines.”
– Jack Harington, Senior Partnerships Manager, Oracle Red Bull Racing
Making Sense of Mountains of Data
As the ORBR team prepares for races throughout the season, it must sift through a massive amount of data for insights that can provide an advantage. Historical data is analyzed along with new information gleaned both during practice runs and live racing. As data analytics inform tactical adjustments that may give the team an edge, engineers communicate wirelessly with Verstappen and Perez, who must implement the instructions they receive while roaring along at faster than 200 miles per hour and fending off dozens of other drivers.
“We are hugely reliant on live data to make decisions as the race is going on,” Harington says. “If we weren't able to do that, then frankly the car really wouldn’t perform to the way we see it performing on the circuit. These are data-driven monster machines, and they require many, many people in order to extract the performance that we need to get out of the car in order to stay up front.”
The team travels with a mobile data center to aid its data analysis at race locations, but it also sends information to its Milton Keynes facility in the U.K. as well as to the Oracle cloud. This hybrid infrastructure enables ORBR to take the fullest advantage of its technology tools.
ORBR runs 4 billion race simulations ahead of a race weekend. Each time, the simulation includes different scenarios that include new variables. What if the team has a slow start? What if race officials show a yellow caution flag on a specific lap? How quickly will the tires degrade under hot or rainy conditions, and when will they need to be replaced?
“If something happens in the race, we’ve seen it in simulation and we know how to react,” Harington says. “And if there’s some unknown that we hadn’t seen in our simulations, the simulations are updated live as we go throughout the Grand Prix, which means that as with anything in Formula One, there’s no second-guessing about it.”
Looking Forward to New Technology Challenges
Technology will continue to play an essential role in Formula One racing, and ORBR plans to use any new technology that emerges — such as artificial intelligence and machine learning — to provide an advantage.
The team also will face a challenge dealing with new regulations that will take effect in 2026. The new rules will likely require teams to build shorter, narrower, lighter cars. The tools that have helped ORBR design and maintain the fastest cars in F1 in recent years will be needed to stay ahead of the game in the face of new regulations. The team also will continue to rely on CDW.
“We’re very proud to have CDW as an innovation partner for the team,” Harington says. “We’re very happy that we’re working with a partner with the clout that CDW brings to us, which really enables us to continue pushing boundaries and to really push tech to the extreme — which is what we do in Formula One.”
Story by Matt McLaughlin, an editor with BizTech magazine.