After entering Formula One as a competitor and a supplier in the 1970s, and then disappearing off the map for almost a decade, Renault made a comeback last year when it acquired the Lotus F1 Team in December. The company is now partnering up with Microsoft to jump start this new phase of its journey.
Almost a decade ago, Renault was a name to be reckoned with on the F1 tracks and indeed, with the help of its lead driver Fernando Alonso, it once was a domineering force. However, it lost the sheen and started focusing more on its job as a supplier rather than a competitor. Now though, the company appears to be in the mood to make a strong comeback with the acquired Lotus F1.
Renault’s stint didn’t start as well as it was hoped though. Although, its Managing Director had in an interview, hinted at as much.
As per Renault’s Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul,
Our performance is not going to be super exciting.Because it’s the first year for us, it will always be a difficult one and in fact, it was more difficult than I anticipated it to be which says something about the pace of development in F1.
Add to that the fact that the cars the Renault backed teams were using were 18 months old –a huge time period in field as competitive as F1 — there wasn’t much hope. However, the company is hoping to pose as a strong championship competitor come 2018 and that is exactly where it is joining forces with Microsoft.
Renault will be using a whole bunch of Microsoft provided services such as the cloud-based enterprise resource planning software, Microsoft Dynamics AX and most interestingly, the Azure Machine Learning technology. While the first service will be used to monitor and gather data, the machine learning tech will be used to produce a simulator to test its cars. There is certainly a lot of potential for the deployment of these technologies in various phases.
The technology kicks in (during) the design and development phase where there’s a lot of modelling and assimilation of different scenarios… it provides the backbone infrastructure to store the data analytics and (ensuring) it is available for everyone on the team, onsite or offsite.
By making the shift to the cloud, Renault will no longer needs to ship physical servers for its races — a significantly hard job considering that the F1 races take place around the world. The team will also be able to make modifications as and when required during these actual races. As per Mr. Abiteboul,
Clearly, we know that with the transformations going on, we needed a strong partner in technology. We have not been very successful this year because of the car we are using but we are looking to the next year and there are a lot of things happening at our factories. We need someone who can support that.
Microsoft is also very interested in the partnership as it will provide the company with a unique opportunity to test and improve its products. Its engineers were also sent to work alongside the Renault team to improve things.
I don’t think there’s any other organization that works as fast as these guys in terms of adapting to a constantly changing environment and so for us, there is no other testbed to evolve our product.