To the uninitiated, Formula One racing may seem like winning or losing comes down to one person: the driver. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite: it takes a crew of hundreds, armed with technology, to compete against racing giants. Perhaps no team knows this better than Alpine F1 Team, whose trophy case is lined with podium memories achieved with a legacy of teamwork.
It takes a team to win
“This is what I like about Formula One,” says Luca Mazzocco, head of technological partnerships at Alpine F1 Team. “It’s not just the driver. It’s an engineering race.” Alpine F1 Team knows this as well as anyone. As a technologically innovative powerhouse, they understand the role technology plays in completing their mission. They understand even better that it’s not the technology alone that leads to championship-winning teams: it’s technology under the power of people.
With back-to-back races sometimes only a week or two apart, every member of the team behind the scenes has to innovate to succeed—and they have to innovate fast. When it comes to building a competitive car, the team relies on technology for real-time feedback from the thousands, if not millions, of computer simulations that are run between races. These simulations lead to billions of data points and digital scenarios that can then be analyzed with Microsoft technology such as Azure Batch, artificial intelligence tools, and HoloLens.
"We can’t forget that technology is made by humans and it’s designed, deployed, implemented, and improved constantly by human beings."
Luca Mazzocco, Alpine F1 Team head of technological partnerships
But without hundreds of people working cross-functionally to drive and make decisions based off the information, there is no world-class car. It’s people such as Phil, who looks after the overall design of the on-car electronic systems; Mick, who supervises the paint shop; and Chris, who’s responsible for building, testing, and maintaining critical hydraulic assemblies (to name just a few) who form the DNA of Alpine F1 Team. The stereotype that there is ‘no I in team’ is visible in Formula One,” says Luca. “Everybody is engaged in this choral effort.
"Every person matters"—A film about Alpine F1® Team
Data is really important. It gives you the truth. It doesn’t lie to you. It has all the answers of any questions you might ask it.Kayleigh Messer
Meet the people who make it happen
Take Kayleigh Messer, for example, a performance optimization section leader who makes real-time decisions about crucial components of the 200-miles-per-hour-traveling car based entirely on data. Her current focus? Brakes. “From our point of view, it’s really important to have the brakes in the right operating temperature because [if they’re] too cold or too hot, the driver doesn’t get the performance they want,” says Kayleigh. “When they brake into a corner they might overshoot, [not] brake in time, go off the track, or not feel as confident as they should in stopping the car.” Kayleigh relies on the data to determine whether the brakes are at the right temperature—and it’s only thanks to data and the relevant analytics tools that Kayleigh can make a call on how to respond to ever-changing racing circumstances.
Or Libby Foster, a composite design engineer who had her sights set on working in the Formula One world since she was a young girl—and worked long, hard hours to make her dream a reality. Now, she’s a specialist in the surfaces you see on the outside of a car; components made out of carbon fiber. “We take the surfaces the aerodynamicists want to see on the car and figure out how to make them into actual pieces of the car,” she says. Simulations help her team make decisions about what composites should be adopted and how to balance exact material properties across components so they match precise engineering requirements.
Technology helps you and obviously makes everything lighter and faster but, at the core of it, it’s people working hard to get things done in time that makes the car go.Libby Foster, Alpine F1 Team composite design engineer
As the leader of the electronics integration group, Phil looks after the overall design of the on-car electronic systems from both a software and hardware perspective and ensures they are all communicating and compatible.
As the paint shop supervisor, Mick is responsible for the application of the car livery to all external bodywork. Maintaining perfect quality while minimizing the amount of paint used on weight-critical parts is a fine art.
Composites technicians—including Arlete, Charlotte, Paul, and Max, pictured here—work in a world-class clean room facility. They are responsible for laminating many different “class A” safety or reliability critical components. This includes the chassis (also known as the “survival cell”), which takes a group of more than 20 laminators over three months to manufacture.
Hydraulics technicians like Chris are responsible for the building, testing, and maintenance of complex, intricate hydraulic assemblies. These assemblies control many of the critical car functions such as throttle, gearshift, and steering, so perfect attention to detail is required.
As a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machinist, Paul is responsible for machining highly detailed metallic components on five-axis machining centers, using the latest available technology. Paul is capable of operating two machines in parallel.
Technology is only as good as the people behind it
For Alpine F1 Team, technology is simply a tool; a way to find answers and solutions. It’s each individual, using the technology, who does the real work. Simulations, models, digital scenarios, data points—these are nothing without people like Kayleigh, Libby, Phil, Mick, and Chris behind them, mapping the information and making sense of it in a way that helps them make the right decisions.