Supply chains critical to success of F1 teams, says BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
11 February 2015

TV sports presenter Jake Humphrey has spoken of how supply chains are critical to the success of F1 teams.

Humphrey, speaking at a BT Supply Chain event in London, said he gained a valuable insight into the importance of suppliers to F1 during the years he spent covering the sport for the BBC, prior to joining BT Sport.

An example involved the process of replacing a front wing for a Williams car after then driver Jenson Button “said he couldn’t win because the front wing was not strong enough”. Humphrey explained how firstly a designer drew up a new wing, which was then put into a computer and modelled using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for 15 hours. A scale model was then built out of wood, attached to a car and tested in a wind tunnel which cost upwards of £50 million.

The model worked and it was then built out of carbon fibre, coated with a special lightweight paint that causes less friction with air and checked with ultrasound for cracks and faults before being shipped to the race venue, all within a matter of days.

Humphrey said around 1,000 such upgrades took place each week during a racing season, and, depending on the part involved, could cost up to £100,000. Each car is made up of 13,000 parts and 80 per cent of these would be changed over the course of a season.

He described how teams were looking for “marginal gains” by examining every detail, and the supply chain was critical to this process. “Marginal gains are crucial in Formula 1,” said Humphrey. “Twenty, 30, 40 companies have won the championship for Mercedes.”

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