Caterham F1 IT chief drives Grand Prix end user support


Head of group IT at the Caterham F1 team Bill Peters believes a connected mobile workforce will help the struggling Formula 1 team improve their fortunes on the track.

Peters, who has been with the British-based team since their incarnation as Lotus at the end of 2009, said that it was his responsibility to create a "rock-solid and robust environment for our end users so we can focus resources on making the car go as fast as possible".

"We are still a young company," said Peters, who joined the team from McLaren where he spent 12 years. "Essentially we had nothing, and we had to bring our systems together very quickly.

"It was a mammoth effort to get the car on the grid back in March 2010.

"One of those important important systems was the choice of WiFi device. We were with another vendor which proved to be entirely unsuitable for what we were trying to achieve before we teamed up with Motorola Solutions.

"There was always a cost element to our choice. We are a very technology-driven business; but we also want to keep our costs down so we can focus resources on making the car go as fast as possible.

"But equally important as the cost element was having a rock-solid and robust environment for our end users. Not just at trackside where it's most visible, but also around the factory and manufacturing facility."

Caterham F1 commercial manager Richard St Clair-Quentin echoed how much of a challenge it had been, and explained how in August 2012 Peters helped oversee Caterham's move from Norfolk to their new factory in Oxfordshire, the previous headquarters of both Arrows and the Super Aguri F1 teams.

There was absolutely no room for there to be any downtime with the headquarters move, St Clair-Quentin said.

"When we came here it had been a derelict site for 12 years, and before that they'd been manufacturing old NASCAR engines," St Clair-Quentin explained.

"It was like an old archaeological site, you'd walk round the place and find old bits of engine.

"But Bill's team and Motorola were crucial to getting the site up and running, just two weeks after we turned the lights off in Norfolk for the enforced FIA shutdown. I think Bill must have a screw loose somewhere to move an entire operation of 300 people 350 miles west in two weeks!"

Lean IT and BYOD

Peters said that when his team is up to full strength they will be 15 in his department, including three still at the Norfolk site which manufactures sports cars and who he still oversees. He also explained to CIO while we were looking around the Leafield facility how he likes to run a trimmed down organisation.

"The other key thing from an IT perspective is because we want to focus our resources on designing and building the car we run a very lean IT organisation," Peters said.

"We employ very impressive guys but they are multi-functioning. It means with our connectivity we needed a system which was easy to deploy, easy to maintain with low overheads, and we made a switch when we weren't happy with our previous WiFi provider.

"We have 26 access points covering the site. What we're trying to achieve, fundamentally, it to be able to unplug our laptops and devices, be mobile, and carry on working in different parts of the facility.

"And at the close of the season in the autumn we're going to take the system trackside as well which will be the true test of the product."

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