As a record crowd packs into Melbourne’s Albert Park for the return of Formula One to Australia for the first time since the very start of the pandemic, there’s a race going on off the track as well among the teams and some of the biggest and smallest tech companies in the world as technology takes centre stage in one of the world’s great sporting spectacles.
Among the biggest teams in Formula One there’s a host of big-name tech companies slapping their brand names on the side of cars, but it seems to be more than just marketing.
Australian start-up JigSpace has their logo on the side of the Alfa Romeo cars of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
JigSpace is an app that allows anyone to build the most amazing 3D models to be viewed either in the app, on the web or in augmented reality (AR).
Their rise to fame began at the launch of the iPhone 13 last year when Apple included the company in a big way in their keynote presentation.
In 2022, they see their technology being used in F1, and by both the F1 team and F1 fans.
JigSpace co-founder Zac Duff telling 9News “F1 is the pinnacle of engineering and advanced manufacturing that stays on the planet, it’s what our customers look up to, it’s what engineers see as the absolute high point. So for us to be aligned with this brand is perfect, it says that this tool is used by Alfa Romeo F1 team.”
For the launch of the 2022 race car earlier this year, Alfa Romeo used JigSpace to allow fans to not just reveal the car but to get up close with it virtually in their own home.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo has another Aussie brand on his car, with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) nonprofit DeadlyScience selected to be highlighted this weekend as part of tech company Smartsheet’s sponsorship of the McLaren Formula One Team.
SmartSheet is a software company being used by McLaren to streamline their marketing project planning initially and much more as the partnership evolves, when asked by 9News why a Formula One Team was chosen as a way to grow their brand, Mark Mader, the president and CEO of Smartsheet, said: “We wanted to invest heavily in the next two years for international reach. F1 is arguably the best platform for that, 1.5 billion viewers and attendees.”
The company then opted to activate their sponsorship by allowing a local non-profit at certain races to take the valuable logo space on the side of the McLaren F1 car. For Australia, DeadlyScience is that organisation.
Founded by proud Indigenous Australian Corey Tutt, DeadlyScience is providing mentoring and resources to remote and regional school students across Australia to ensure they are not left behind in the STEM education, which is becoming far more important every single year.
After winning the Driver’s World Championship last year with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing took on a new title sponsor, upgrading their partnership with tech company Oracle.
Oracle deal with Cloud computing and applications that are used by some of the biggest finance and Fortune 500 companies.
Red Bull refer to Oracle not as a sponsor but as an “innovation partner”, enabling their F1 business to push the boundaries of innovation. One of the examples given by Zoe Chilton, head of partnerships at Red Bull Racing, is the advanced strategy work required in Formula One, known as Monte Carlo simulation, using Oracle Cloud computing power to help the team decide just what to do during a race.
Chilton tells 9News: “Across the course of a racing season we will run billions of simulations to try and understand from the known inputs such as the track data and tyre data and historic data along with what we gather from practice sessions, is informing and feeding into that algorithm.”
This means that for Red Bull Racing, “by the time we hit race day, we’ve run millions of possible outcomes of the race, lots and lots of combinations of what could happen, so we can go into the race with a strategy and plan, doing a greater volume of possibilities using Oracle Cloud infrastructure.”
But the race isn’t just on the track. Off the track, there are competing tech brands up and down the grid.
When asked about the competitiveness off-track between tech companies, Taylor Newill, senior director of motorsports engineering at Oracle, told 9News: “I think Red Bull is the absolute best at what they are doing.”
“When the relationship started at the beginning of last year, it came at a critical time for both companies, as we are developing our Cloud infrastructure in a competitive market, the relationship benefits both of us greatly.”
Down the grid, Oracle’s biggest competitor AWS has its logo on the Ferrari team and on the global F1 telecast, so it’s a critical battle for airtime and tech supremacy between them both.
Ferrari also have tech brand Qualcomm involved with their Snapdragon Processors, while McLaren have a major partnership with Google’s smartphone and tablet operating system brand Android.
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In a world of remote work and continuing pandemic recovery, we’ve seen video conferencing companies like Webex sponsor McLaren and Team Viewer on World Champion’s Mercedes.
From Microsoft to Lenovo, Dell and HP, it really is a who’s who of tech brands when walking through the Formula One paddock.
But it’s also off the track, and in the grounds of Albert Park, where tech is front and centre.
There are as many tech innovations on display as there are merchandise stalls at the Melbourne venue.
From a small company demonstrating their ability to print metal parts for race cars with an advanced 3D printer, to Melbourne mother Lisa Skaife’s myDRIVESCHOOL computer driving training software and classes – there’s plenty to see.
Melbourne RMIT University is showcasing everything from rockets to robots so when there’s no track action, there is a lot else still going on.
Oh, and there’s a huge life-sized Lego Technic McLaren Formula One Car built by Australian Lego certified professional Ryan “Brickman” McNaught and his team.
While the race on track looks like man and machine versus each man and machine, there’s a huge technological race going on behind the scenes to advance the performance and strategy of each and every driver on the grid.
SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy says “this is an indication of what Aussie innovation is capable of, and is calling on the government to invest in revitalising Australia’s onshore manufacturing capability, saying it’s going to be a matter of survival for the benefit of our construction, defence, aeronautics and maritime industries. “
Trevor Long travelled to Melbourne as a guest of JigSpace, Smartsheet and Oracle.