“F1 should go beyond what is safe & ‘normal’ and empower the fans” 

2015 F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize winner and two-time finalist Paul Clarke shares his thoughts on what it means to be part of this annual competition.

For motorsport and technology fans, the Tata Communications F1 Innovation Prize is a unique chance to shape the future of the sport – and win $50,000 in the process.

Entries will be judged by the combined might of Tata Communications, Formula 1 and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, offering fans and technology enthusiasts a chance to compete in F1’s only global crowdsourced innovation competition.

We spoke to previous winner and two-time finalist Paul Clarke about what’s it’s like to be a part of this groundbreaking competition, his inspiration and how he would like to see the sport evolve in the future.

What inspired you to take on the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize?

I’ve been a fan of the sport for as long as I can remember and the opportunity to have my ideas in front of an amazing panel of judges was just too good to resist. I’ve followed Lewis throughout his career, and knowing that Paddy Lowe may potentially see my ideas in 2015 was epic! Over the years, this has still been my inspiration and knowing that Ross Brawn judged my idea to be a finalist again last year was out of this world. I’ve made some great friends over the three years I’ve entered, made some valuable connections and I look forward to the challenge each year.

What was the challenge you faced, and what was your winning idea?

The 2015 challenge was around data visualisation and my concept was to leverage powerful web technologies to develop the most appropriate interface for the team. It’s backed by near real-time, low latency communications (MQTT), which have since become the industry standard. The concept also included communication streams that aid the team with decision making. On top of this, my Signals and Streams concept also included an autonomous artificial engineer, which was able to compute vast quantities of engineering data instantly and convey this back to the team.

What skills and experience did you bring to the challenge?

I’ve worked in the IT industry for around 20 years and I’ve been an F1 fan for even longer. I specialise in solution architecture and user experience, which gives me a perfect balance of skills to tackle the challenge. I grew up in a family that loves motorsport and lived close to Snetterton. My father worked for Van Diemen and Lotus on F1 cars, so I was always destined to be involved in the sport in some manner.

How have you found entering the F1 Innovation Prize has changed your viewing experience as a fan of Formula 1?

The challenges have heightened my senses when it comes to innovation opportunities within the F1. I’m not sure if I could be any more dedicated to the sport, but it has certainly caused me to consider smart ways to enhance my viewing experience. Fortunately, this year’s challenge has been a great outlet for these ideas and I’m excited to see what advances it will bring to the sport.

What impact has winning the prize had on you?

Winning and being a finalist for the past two years has been the most amazing ride. My wife is as crazy about the sport as I am, so being able to share the experience with her has been incredible. It has given us some great adventures and we’ve made some great friends. I had the pleasure of meeting Bernie [Ecclestone] in the paddock Abu Dhabi and discussing my ideas with Lewis, Paddy, Ross and James Allen over the years. Hearing Martin Brundle, Mehul Kapadia and John Morrison talk about me and my concepts gives me chills; plus, seeing my ideas up in lights makes me incredibly proud. This prize is something that I believe is very important to the sport, so it is something that I talk very passionately about with friends, family and colleagues – the more ideas the better!

How do you see F1 evolving as we prepare to move into a new era?

I think the evolution of F1 over the next few years is going to include some of the biggest changes that the sport has seen in a long time. Whilst I have a great respect for the effort that has gone into bringing the sport into everyone’s living room and the incredible engineering it has produced; I believe the new era will give even more back to the fans. There is a level of expectation this new generation of F1 fans has and it is important for the sport to embrace those demands and go beyond what is ‘safe’ or ‘normal’ and empower the fans to experience the sport in new and exciting ways. It has therefore been great to see that this year’s Innovation Prize challenged those norms and provided a great platform for some amazing ideas.

What changes would you like to see in the sport?

Something that I’ve been passionate about is actually seeing the ideas and innovations that have made their way into the challenges over the years, make it to the sport. The thrill of knowing that my ideas would be seen by the who’s who of the sport is great, for them to judge it to be a finalist and then a grand prize winning idea is unbelievable; but if that idea was then able to make its way into the sport, that would be the cream on top. So it is great to see that one of the outcomes of this year’s challenge is to potentially put it through an incubator program, which has further encouraged me to find some clever ideas for this year’s competition. Beyond having the greatest drivers and engineers compete on the world stage? I’m not sure you can top that.

Click here to register your interest for next year’s challenge.

By: Jennifer Mason

All images: Motorsport Images