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Leading F1’s innovation race

When Tata Communications became F1’s technology supplier in 2012, it initially looked like just another blue-chip brand joining the sport’s portfolio of world-class corporations. However, it soon came to light that Tata Communications is in it for much more than exposure. In fact, its involvement gets right to F1’s heart.

The Tata Communications and F1 relationship has been described as the “the most significant moment for F1 since the advent of satellites”. According to Mehul Kapadia, managing director of F1 business at Tata Communications: “Our relationship is a real-life case study that showcases our capabilities to deliver fail-proof communications infrastructure across all race locations, different geographies and terrains. This makes our relationship with F1 quite unique.”

Tata Communications’ speciality is sending signals reliably and, above all, quickly. It is a perfect match for F1 given the huge amount of data transmitted in the sport. One of Tata Communications’ biggest strengths is that it has the largest network of undersea fibre cables in the world. This allows it to transmit data at a far higher speed than using satellites, as previously, and it also significantly increases capacity.

From an outsider’s perspective, the one thing that everyone associates with F1 is speed. From the way the cars move, to the speed the mechanics work during pit stops, to data transmissions and the fast pace of innovation that maintains F1 at the pinnacle of motorsport.

Our relationship is a real-life case study that showcases our capabilities to deliver fail-proof communications infrastructure across all race locations, different geographies and terrains

Since the F1 championship was launched in 1950, it has adapted and evolved at a rapid speed. Its hybrid cars travel at speeds of over 300km/h making safety just as big a challenge now as it was in the early days. After his near-fatal crash in 1966, three-times champion Sir Jackie Stewart pushed for full face helmets and seat belts – things that we now take for granted. Thanks to carbon fibre and polyethylene advancements, helmets now weigh about 1,250 grams which reduces weight and enhances driver safety, allowing for faster races.

Tata Communications operates at the same cutting edge as F1 and plugged the sport into its network soon after the deal began. It now has fixed-line connectivity at all grands prix and, importantly, it is always connected, unlike a satellite which is only on for several hours at a time.

This network delivers ten times faster connectivity than F1 previously enjoyed. Tata Communications is also the backbone for F1’s official website and supplies video feed to the sport’s remote operations centre in Kent so fast that it is no different to the producers there sitting at trackside. It gives them two multi-view video feeds for raw footage and a reverse data path, allowing them, among other things, to operate a robotic trackside camera for the best possible race coverage.

No matter where in the world the races are taking place, the hub for all of this is in Kent. It means producers don’t need to transport production equipment to races, which saves money and reduces F1’s carbon footprint.

F1 isn’t the only beneficiary. In 2013 it signed a partnership with reigning champions Mercedes. It has boosted the speed of the team’s trackside connectivity by three times and enables the transfer of live race data around the world in less than a quarter of a second. This connectivity links the Silver Arrow cars at any grand prix location to Mercedes’ headquarters in the UK, enabling Mercedes engineers to make data-led decisions, ultimately helping the team to cross the finishing line first – where every millisecond counts.

Mr Kapadia says there is more to come: “While we take full advantage of key technology trends in F1 racing today, Tata Communications is constantly looking at the road ahead, scanning the horizon for new opportunities, and looking around the corner at potential twists and turns.”

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