John A Vasilakos, one of two winners from challenge three of the F1® Connectivity Innovation Prize, talks to us about his earliest F1® memories, the social network he designed as part of the challenge, and his future hopes for the sport
What is your earliest F1® memory?
A friend of mine was a fan of Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson and Lotus and I was told of their tragedy at Monza but I did not start following full-time until Gilles Villeneuve and his fantastic personality burst onto the scene. When Villeneuve joined Ferrari and started winning races the whole of Canada really took notice. Sadly, his fatal accident in Belgium was one of my earliest experiences of human mortality. However, it also represented the uniqueness of F1® and the consequences competitors face in their quest for glory.
How long have you been a fan (or interested in) F1®?
Since the late 70s to early 80s. By 1983 I was quite organised about following the F1® championship. This was around the time of the advent of the VCR, which meant I was able to record races in the middle of the night. In fact, I still have nearly every race from 1984 through to 2010 on video cassette. I would refuse to tape over a race and would always use fresh tapes, sometimes even taping over rental tapes!
How did you find out about the prize?
I believe I first found out about the prize on one of the online F1® news blogs that I follow, or perhaps on Twitter. It sort of just appeared and then was everywhere at once. I had known about Tata Communications and its F1® involvement for quite some time so it was great to see this challenge as a way of highlighting that.
How did you approach the challenge?
Moment by moment, really. Although I had a few ideas for the first challenge, I let it slip away due to a lack of organisation on my part. By the second challenge, I was more prepared and had been readying myself. By the third, I had a schedule in place and went straight to work from the moment it was announced.
What is your ‘day job’ and how did your day-to-day work influence your approach to the challenge?
Apart from immediately after college which I spent working odd jobs, like selling encyclopaedias, and then a year as an intern in investment banking, I have been in the entertainment industry for nearly 20 years. This has mostly been in film and television, in various areas and roles. My career has coincided with the explosion of the Internet and I have been fortunate enough to be involved in several technology start-ups. I’ve been a part of companies in pioneering fields that merged interactivity with information and that helped shape a great deal of what we all now use on a daily basis.
Walk us through your winning idea for cataloguing FOM’s archive footage – what does it achieve? What innovative technology/ digital indexing did you use to develop your concept?
For the past several years, the majority of my tech interest has been focused on F1®. My idea is a purpose-built social networking platform that could allow users to access and engage with Formula One Management’s footage archive. Accessible on all devices including tablets, PCs, mobile, smart TVs and gaming consoles, the platform keeps viewers up to date with all aspects of Formula 1® racing including information about schedules, drivers and cars but also provides digestible commentary, such as blogs. The main feature of the platform is the timeline. Here viewers could interact with the archive of F1® footage and add their own content such as photos, anecdotes, travelogues and memorabilia, allowing users to engage with the digital archive whilst also cataloguing it.
Although it’s a concept at the moment, how do you expect the final product to look? What is your vision?
My vision is that it will look like F1®, with elements that are both familiar and innovative, presented in an entertaining and comfortable fashion that is easy to access and that anyone can enjoy.
When looking through the footage what was your ultimate Formula 1® moment? Did you stumble across any interesting facts/ anecdotes about the sport?
What immediately came to mind was the sheer breadth of it all and how inter-related everything is, past, present and future. In a recent instance, I recall Robert Kubica’s accident in Montreal as an example of how safe the cars have become over the years, from knowledge gleaned by the experiences of past accidents. Furthermore, within that moment, Scott Speed had retired his Toro Rosso a lap or two earlier at the same corner and the marshals had put a barrel-cone beside it. When Kubica became airborne, his car clipped that cone and changed its trajectory toward a gentler impact into the wall, still very substantial yet more glancing than direct. One driver’s experience inter-twining with another’s. Then fast forward to the future and one year later, Robert Kubica wins his only F1® race at the very same track! All inter-related, and because of the crash in Montreal, Kubica was unable to compete at the next race in Indianapolis. Sebastien Vettel made a very impressive F1® debut in his place, and became the youngest driver to ever score a point. Then, later that year Vettel was drafted in to replace Speed at Toro Rosso. Therefore, when searching for an ultimate moment, F1® for me is ultimately about those foundation moments within the story-lines between the linear history and the inter-related lateral timeline experience.
From the lens of technological innovation, what will F1® fan experience look like in 10 years? How will technology continue to evolve it and enhance the experience for fans?
Fans becoming closer and more involved with the sport, with greater access to information and increased flexibility on the choices and manner in which they consume and interact with the championship.
How would you like to see F1® change?
I would like to see the sport achieve stability in the rules of the formula and engines, with a consistent schedule and a healthy grid. I’d also like to see drastic change applied to what isn’t working well, such as scheduling inefficiencies, budget redundancies, and the elements of over-spending that only waste resources. The collective technical ability of the F1® industry is amazing and can solve any challenge it chooses to focus on.
Do you agree with John’s vision on the Future of F1? Leave your comments below.
Follow John on Twitter: @F1QA
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.