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Winner’s view: What’s next for F1?

August 19, 2014

Chris Thelwell   

Digital innovator

Chris Thelwell, one of two winners of the first challenge of the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, shares his predictions for the sport…

Back in 1988 when I was just eleven years old, I remember watching Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost battle for the Formula 1 title. The sound, the smell, the technology and watching the most epic battle between the best drivers in the world had me hooked.

Getting involved in the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize was a fantastic opportunity for me to be part of the evolution of the sport. Perhaps more than any other sport, F1 has been a hotbed for innovation. For example, the use of braking energy to give the car an extra boost which is directly influencing the automotive industry and, for the sport, the introduction of DRS as an innovative solution to create more overtaking.

This rapid pace of change makes it almost impossible to predict where it will go next. In fact, that’s the best part. The speed of innovation is now so fast that F1 cannot afford to stand still. It will need to keep evolving or it will be disrupted by an alternative, such as the new Formula E.  One thing is for sure, enhancing the fans’ experience will be crucial as F1 is no longer just a sport; it’s a show with an audience of millions.

This is exactly why I wanted to get involved in this challenge – to change the way fans can access F1 data sets to offer a personalised and enhanced user experience. Rather than creating a single solution that tries to improve the experience for an ‘average’ fan, my open source humanisation service creates the opportunity for others to define new ways to engage multiple types of fans across many channels and devices.

Ultimately, I’d love to see a point where an F1 fan is sitting at home or in the grandstands watching the race with their own personal, accurate and knowledgeable ‘commentator’ focusing on the stories and information that is important to them.  And to be able to bring the sport to new audiences including blind and partially sighted people, or even perhaps people across the world or in the emerging markets with limited access to TV coverage and little or restricted internet connection, through the delivery of lightweight commentary and real-time information services in multiple languages – it’s truly exciting. This is what data could enable for F1 and beyond:  a personalised experience for a new age of sport consumption like never before.

Moreover, the opportunity for F1 data is not just restricted to the viewer. Data will become even more important to drivers on the racetrack than it is today, and that’s saying something as it’s already crucial! The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team has the ability to transfer live race data around the world in less than a quarter of a second during the race, including the rapid transfer of rich data from over 150 of the car’s sensors. We will see an increase in uptake of this kind of technology as the benefits are realised, and data scientists will be hired to offer teams a competitive edge.

In addition, the new wave of digital innovators will also play a growing role. I’d like to see them take their place alongside data scientists within the teams to ensure the data is delivered in a timely and useful format to enable a competitive and game-changing advantage on the track. Success on the track will become inextricably linked to understanding and application of data.

Do you have an idea for evolving the future of Formula 1? Take a look at the F1 Connectivity Prize website for details on the second challenge: And stay tuned for Part 2 of Chris’ blog where he takes us through how he arrived at his final idea and how his concept has the potential to transform viewers’ experience of F1.

Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.