A sport dependent on both man and machine, Formula 1 is the high-speed pursuit of technical excellence, an exercise in pushing boundaries a one-hundredth of a second at a time. With a high performance baseline across the grid, anything less than exceptional will see a team languish in the middle of the pack. Excellence is the name of the game – mechanical, technical, and human.
Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver Sebastian Vettel knows a thing or two about technical excellence in motor-racing.
“Technical excellence is what we are all striving for in Formula 1,” Vettel said. “Competing on a very high level, obviously everybody tries to find the edge over the guy next to you. So as Formula 1 has always been cutting edge technology and such a technical sport, excellence is what you’re striving for in order to make a difference on the track. It can also be making a difference as the driver on the track – finding a better line, outsmarting the other drivers. It matters a lot to working in our environment.”
“The difference here at Ferrari compared to other places striving for technical excellence, I think is a big motivator – it’s passion. That’s probably something that does exist for the sport and does exist in other places, but I think the passion – being passionate about Ferrari and working for Ferrari – has the chance to make you step up your game and puts you on a different level.”
Team Principal Mattia Binotto, who has been with the F1 team since 1995, is unafraid of the cycle of continuous improvement necessary for success.
“Technical excellence in Ferrari means to always raise somehow the bar,” Binotto said. “With no limits to ourselves, we believe that we can achieve higher limits than those we may think are the right ones. Technical excellence is to innovate continuously. Each day being creative, simply looking ahead and doing something special.”
Integral to raising that bar is the feedback given by the drivers to their race engineers and crew.
Driver Charles Leclerc is well aware of the need for good feedback in the ongoing pursuit of excellence.
“Any time we are testing the car, to try and tell our feelings in the car to the engineers in the best way possible, for them to then improve the car for the next few races.”
For Binotto, it begins with the fundamentals – making sure the car is ready on time and working reliably.
“When the season is starting, everybody is really focused on having the car really prepared in all the aspects: parts available, car assembled, all of the last-minute developments available, but especially making sure that the car is reliable,” the Team Principal said.
“It’s very important, when you start running, that the car is reliable enough that you can be focused on the development, the understanding of the car, somehow making sure that by the time we are at race one, everything is in place – the car is performing well, set up right, and running reliably.”
When the car is working well, the cycle of continuous improvement gets underway, supported by the reams of data generated every time an F1 car hits the track. With hundreds of data points looking at everything from the driver’s biometrics to telemetry and component wear rates, making good use of the data harvested can make the difference between failure and success.
When coming to a race weekend you need to make sure that everything is in place
Every single engineer, every single technician, mechanic, knows exactly what to do. The mechanical focus and the technical focus is always to make sure that we are optimizing the performance of the car.
“Data is very important,” he continued. “We do very little testing – just a few days before the start of the season, very little testing during the season – so data is very important. We’ve got plenty of data from the car, we’ve got plenty of data from the wind tunnel, the dynos, the benches, the simulations.
“We need to make sure that all this data is well correlated, because as soon as we’ve got a great data set, then we can understand the car’s behavior. When you understand your car’s behavior, you understand the limit of the performance of the car, and you may move forward in performance. So data is key in the performance, it is key to understand the car, and it is key to improve the car itself.”
Making the best use of data means sorting the wheat from the chaff, using machine learning and trained engineers to analyze and assess how best to use it. In data, and in technical excellence, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow is on a path of constant progress and continual refinement, streamlining its way to success on track and off.