This season, Tata Communications completed its 100th race as Official Connectivity Provider to Formula One Group. As I discussed in my previous post, it’s been an incredible, rollercoaster ride during which time we’ve learned – and proven – an enormous amount as a business. Over that five-year period, during which time we also became Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes AMG Petronas, we’ve travelled the globe bringing the benefits of digital transformation to the F1 ecosystem. From the shores of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, to the desert plains of Abu Dhabi and the pristine, night-time streets of Singapore, we’ve seen it all.
When people find out what I do for a living, the first thing they ask is “what’s your favourite circuit?”. It’s a tough question. We go to so many places, visiting new circuits in Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as the old standards like Silverstone in the UK, Hockenheimring in Germany and Spa in Belgium. But for me, it’s unquestionably Monaco. This may seem like an obvious choice. Set on a picturesque hilltop overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea, it’s the most glamourous circuit in the world. The winding streets are the ultimate test for any driver, with Ayrton Senna’s and Michael Schumacher’s qualifying laps in 1988 and 1996 respectively, sticking out as two of the greatest laps anywhere, ever – not just at Monaco.
We have also experienced some great moments in Monte Carlo. A particular highpoint for me came in 2015 when, on a stunning evening a couple of days before the race, the Formula 1 Connectivity Innovation Prize winners presented their ideas to the judges panel including Lewis Hamilton, Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Paddy Lowe, John Morrison and myself.
However, it’s not necessarily the backdrop or the circuit itself which make Monaco my favourite. Somewhat paradoxically, the most renowned and most loved circuits are the ones that represent the biggest challenge, technically speaking. This is because when the circuits were first built the teams were much smaller and less complex – essentially the drivers and a few mechanics. Now the teams have extra drivers, hugely expanded teams of mechanics and engineers, support staff, the drivers’ partners – the list goes on. Nowhere is this more true than at the Monaco Grand Prix. Because it’s based in the streets of a city which is itself small, cramped and unable to expand, the grand prix also has no room to expand. A good example of this is the fact that, at every other grand prix, the teams sit along the pit wall where they can see the garage behind them. At Monaco, they actually sit on top of the garage, making everything that much more difficult.
For Tata Communications at the Monaco Grand Prix, it’s even more extreme. We are situated in an underground car park, with the race literally going on above our heads. Hardly the glitz and glamour you associate with Monte Carlo. At every grand prix we set up a small town’s worth of connectivity infrastructure over the course of three days – and then take it down again in a matter of hours. Clearly, this is even more challenging in an environment like Monaco. But that’s why I love it. Every track is different so there’s no standard way that we perform or meet the challenges of the sport – instead we go the extra mile, doing whatever it takes to get the job done – and Monaco is the ultimate example. When we suddenly see a spike in data when one of the Mercedes cars has left the pit or Formula One Group has started to pump their media channels through our network, the feeling of relief, pride and sense of a job well done is immense – and it’s all the sweeter sitting in the underground car park.
I love Monaco for the reasons everyone else loves it – the backdrop, the circuit and the fact that drivers are always at their best when pushing their cars to the limit in the narrow streets. But the real reason I love it is because it’s the most extreme environment F1 has to offer – and just like the drivers, Tata Communications always brings its A-game at the Monaco Grand Prix.
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