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McLaren’s Tech Leader Shares Winning Strategies

People   |   Vishal Soni   |   Mar 13, 2024

What makes for a successful combination in the world of Formula 1 racing? Well, you obviously want to start with a well-built car that clocks impressive times on the track. You also need a terrific pit crew that gives you an edge over your rivals. Lurking just under the surface is data, which plays a big role these days (on and off the track) as teams strive for excellence. A lot of real-time data analysis and data-driven decisions go into the endgame of shaving seconds – or, I should say, fractions of seconds – off of times.

Trevor Schulze, our CIO, sat down with Edward Green, Head of Commercial Technology for the McLaren Racing team, not long ago. Ed had a lot to say about how Alteryx and data, in general, are helping take his team to new heights.

McLaren’s use of Alteryx is a great example of how a modern data stack can solve both the technical needs of IT and the needs of the business. McLaren now uses Alteryx to automate data and get predictive insights. “We are basically helping create trust with the data by taking the old-school stopwatch practice and making it more data-driven,” Ed said.

When Green sums up McLaren’s relationship with Alteryx, he comes back to the theme of trust. He recalls a story from the Sochi Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was an incredibly wet day,” he says, “and we had Lando Norris in the front of the pack with a handful of laps remaining. Our data said Lando needs to pit. If he pits, he will get on the podium but won’t win. We made a gut call and left him out there, hoping we could secure his first F1 win. Unfortunately, the data was right as it usually is, and Lando crashed. Case and point: trust the data.”

Nearly 12 billion data points

Ed spoke about the back end of McLaren’s Formula 1 race day operation. “There are lots of connected systems from the wheel guns to the traffic light,” he said. “All these systems for safety. You have to find a safe and performant way to optimize those systems. There is a lot of data coming from machines for RPMs, wheels coming on and off, and blended data from stopwatches, timing guns, video data, and more. Analyzing all this different data is a big ask.”

How much data are we talking about? A lot.

  • The team consolidates 11.8 billion data points to optimize race performance
  • Each car has 300 telemetry sensors that pump out 100,000 data parameters
  • Trackside analytics support 300 million race simulations

Ed stressed that you must have the right technology and people to make it work. In the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, McLaren Racing set a record for the fastest pit stop in Formula 1 history – an incredible 1.8 seconds. “Beyond the developments of the aerodynamics and performance of the car,” Green said, “it’s important to optimize human performance with the pit stop. It’s a complex environment and they’re measured in benchmarks against other teams on a race-by-race basis. You’re constantly being compared to the other teams.”

Scaling analytics across the business

With that massive amount of input, it’s no wonder the McLaren team is working with Alteryx to make data easier to analyze, understand, and use. “Seven departments are using Alteryx,” said Green, “and not just for racing. We’re an enterprise business.”

McLaren’s PMO uses Alteryx to analyze the best way to get the most out of the McLaren Technology Centre as a hybrid workspace. Their finance team uses it to make faster decisions when navigating FAA cost caps. Easy adoption across all the different McLaren teams is a great reminder that you don’t need a PhD, an MBA, or a data science degree to use Alteryx.

Ed also spoke about the role data and analytics are playing in McLaren’s sustainability efforts. McLaren draws from a ton of different data sources when they produce their sustainability reports. We’re talking about more obvious things like fuel consumption but also analyzing things like flights from their HQ to race sites that are sometimes halfway around the world. Ed and his team are increasingly turning to Alteryx to tackle these projects.

Focusing on talent development

Alteryx is investing in next-gen analytics talent supported by McLaren. This is critically important because there’s a huge talent gap worldwide when it comes to the field of analytics. This is also why Alteryx started our SparkED program, giving away licenses to colleges and universities and investing in military SkillBridge programs. The data stack can only take us so far if we neglect to consider how we are training the next generation, particularly on things like generative AI.

“It’s amazing when you get the technology in their hands,” Ed told Schulze. “It’s like a blossoming of innovation. It’s fun to do that with real-world Formula 1 data. One of my highlights of the year was when we had 100 students come in. They got to play with real-world F1 data, get some proper insights, and pick up some cool new skills.”

Driving the business forward

Alteryx’s ultimate goal is to help McLaren Racing be efficient and innovative. So, we’re helping McLaren Racing to optimize its data stack. We assisted with their recent migration from SAP to Salesforce. “We quickly recognized we needed a tool to efficiently map and manage changes before migrating our data into Salesforce,” Ed said. “Alteryx was the ideal solution, allowing us to build workflows that easily transform our data into the required format for seamless upload.”

Ed and his team built workflow data cleansing processes that eliminated redundant fields and records. The user-friendly Alteryx interface empowered them to handle tasks without any additional support, and that self-sufficiency helped reduce potential miscommunication and disruption during the migration.

CIOs and IT leaders in any industry can innovate with data and analytics. As Ed says, “Innovation can strike at any moment, and everyone should have access to information in order to take advantage of that moment.”