NetApp and VAST Data take rivalry to the F1 racetrack

NetApp has partnered with the Aston Martin Aramco Racing team and VAST Data is linking up with the Williams Racing team as the two file storage suppliers duke it out in Formula One.

Formula 1 sponsorships are big business in the world of motor sports. Businesses that sponsor F1 teams include financial, telecom, tech, and consumer brands wanting exposure to F1’s global audience. Examples include Petronas (Mercedes), Aramco (Aston Martin), and Oracle (Red Bull). Many sponsorship contracts are valued in the tens of millions on an annual basis. Title and principal sponsorships can be $50 million-plus per year with top teams. NetApp and the Aston Martin Aramco team have renewed a three-year agreement where NetApp is the team’s Global Data Infrastructure Partner.

Clare Lansley and George Kurian, NetApp CEO
Clare Lansley and George Kurian, NetApp CEO

Clare Lansley, Aston Martin Aramco CIO, said: “NetApp has been with us all the way on this journey together and are fundamental to our trackside operations and at our Headquarters at the AMRTC in Silverstone. We use data to improve our performance and go faster and NetApp’s work with the team is vital to this success.”

We’re told that the Aston Martin Aramco team collects data from hundreds of sensors, including real-time performance statistics such as track temperature, tire degradation, and aerodynamics. Instant access to that data enables the team to adapt its race strategy in real time. Sharing data between the track and team headquarters is a mission-critical function.

Aston Martin Aramco reached the podium eight times, scored 280 points, and finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in the 2023 Formula One season, partly by using the data NetApp stores and manages. NetApp provides its FlexPod, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Insights, and Storage Workload Security products and services to the Aston Martin team.

We’re told the sheer speed at which Aston Martin Aramco can harness its stored data gives it a competitive advantage. NetApp CMO Gabie Boko said: “When Aston Martin returned to the Formula One circuit after more than 60 years away, they needed a technology partner to help them rise to every moment, both on and off the track. NetApp provides Aston Martin Aramco with an intelligent data infrastructure that runs at the speed of Formula One.” 

VAST and Williams

VAST Data has joined Williams as an Official Partner and technology vendor for the 2024 season and beyond. The logo will be plastered on on driver overalls and the FW46 cars driven by Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant in the upcoming Formula One season.

The yet-to-be revealed FW46 car for the 2024 season
The yet-to-be revealed FW46 car for the 2024 season

In a typical race weekend, the hundreds of sensors on a Williams F1 car will generate 1 TB of data, and there are two cars per race. Williams said designing and simulation testing the car generates hundreds more terabytes. Understanding the in-race and design-and-test data is critical to on-track success, and VAST Data’s skills in managing and processing large datasets can help optimize the team’s performance, we’re told.

Peter Gadd, VP International at VAST Data, said in a statement: “VAST Data is thrilled to be an Official Partner of Williams Racing. This partnership symbolises our commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology and performance. Williams Racing’s legacy of innovation and excellence in Formula 1 aligns perfectly with our vision of revolutionising data-driven insights in high-stakes environments.

“By bringing our advanced data management capabilities to the forefront of motor racing, we are not just sponsoring a team; we are driving a new era of technological synergy between data science and the pinnacle of motorsport.”

Pat Fry, Williams Racing CTO, said in his statement: “F1 teams generate enormous amounts of data every day, so we’re privileged to partner with Vast Data whose expertise in managing and processing large datasets will play a crucial role in optimizing our performance. The collaboration will allow us to harness the full potential of our data and help move us up the grid.”

The Williams team has faded since the glory days of the ’90s when its drivers won world championships and Williams itself won Constructors’ championships. The team was bought by private equity business Dorilton Ventures for around $200 million in 2021 and aims to revive its racing fortunes.

Not every sponsorship is a direct cash payment. Some sponsorships involve companies providing technical support, R&D partnerships, or supplying components to the team. Exact details of the sponsorship arrangements for VAST Data and NetApp are confidential.

The two storage suppliers are fighting a marketing war using Formula One racing team proxies.