IT is playing an important role in the team's effort to simultaneously save money and the environment
Formula One racing has a reputation for a lot of things—fast cars, exciting finishes, enthusiastic fans—but being green isn't one of them. People usually think that Formula One isn't green because of all the fuel the cars burn during racing, according to Graeme Hackland, the IT manager of Renault F1 Team. "They think we exist only to race and burn fuel. But if you think about it, that's only one small part of Formula One."
A lot more goes on behind the scenes in the Formula One teams' facilities, where they design, test, and build the race cars. Renault F1, for example, has dedicated technical centers in Enstone, England, and Viry-Chatillon, France. The Enstone technical center designs, tests, and manufactures the F1 chassis, whereas the Viry-Chatillon technical center assembles, tests, and manufactures the F1 engine.
"The FIA—the governing body of Formula One—has set three real targets for Formula One," said Hackland at a recent Green IT Virtual Roundtable hosted by Symantec. "They want it to be a spectacle. They want it to be a venue for money. And they want it to have society relevance. I don't think any organization or any sport like ours can have society relevance without considering the green topic."
Renault F1 moved beyond the consideration phase into the implementation phase when it designed and built the new Computational Aerodynamics Research Centre in Enstone. This research center, which is completely underground, uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technology and a 38-teraflop Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer to aerodynamically test race cars and their components.
Green initiatives were integrated throughout the center's construction, inside and out. For example, instead of trucking the soil off-site during excavation and later trucking in dirt for backfilling and landscaping, Renault F1 rented a farm next door and temporarily put some soil there. This saved carbon emissions as well as money. Inside, the research center uses American Power Conversion's (APC's) InfraStruXure system to cool the supercomputer. Because the system uses water for cooling, it has turned out to be 25% more energy efficient than Renault F1's old forced-air cooled rooms. To conserve even more energy, Symantec's Veritas Cluster Server (VCS) is being used to consolidate servers. Besides the supercomputer, Renault F1 uses numerous Windows, UNIX, and Linux servers and workstations to design, test, and build a completely new car each year—a necessity if a Formula One team wants to keep up with technological advances and FIA regulations.
"When I make purchasing decisions, green is now a factor—it was never that way before," said Hackland. "You went for performance. You went for availability. You went for cost. No one considered any green factors—well certainly I didn't." The green factors that Hackland now considers when purchasing hardware, for instance, include how the manufacturer handles the recycling of old equipment and how energy efficient the hardware is.
Besides greening up hardware and software, Hackland notes that organizations need to get their users involved by educating them on the importance of turning off their computer systems when they leave for the day. "That's now starting to get through to people. I'm seeing a lot of people within our sites taking that seriously and switching off their screens, shutting down their machines, and switching off their printers when they leave at night. I think that's great."
Renault F1 is going green in non-IT areas as well. "We are doing some things that I think everyone is doing, like trying to reduce flights," said Hackland. "We used to have people fly back and forth between our two factories in France and England weekly. We've now put in some technology that allows them to have videoconferences that make them feel like they're sitting in the same room."
Track testing of Renault F1 cars has even been reduced, albeit not voluntarily. "If all the teams were told they could do as much testing as they like, they would test every day because it makes the car quicker," explained Hackland. "The fact is that the FIA is restricting track testing to help reduce costs and be more environmentally responsible."
While wanting to help save the environment is one reason why Renault F1 is going green, it's not the major driver, admitted Hackland. The major driver is cost savings. "I'm not too embarrassed to admit that we would not be going down this road if there weren't savings for us. If it put us at a competitive disadvantage, I really don't think we'd be pursuing it," said Hackland. "But the fact is that it does give us cost savings, which we can put back into the car. If we can do a better job at it than other teams, we will be more competitive."