Formula 1’s connectivity partner Tata Communications is back with a new challenge for the ‘F1 Innovation Prize’ in 2018 along with Mercedes to seek fresh ideas, aimed to take the viewer experience to a whole new level.

The competition run by Tata Communications is in its fifth year and has grown over the seasons, bridging the gap between the fans and the sport by allowing them to bring a change in their loved sport through the means of technology.

This year, Tata Communications has put forward a challenge themed ‘My F1’ which relates to viewer experience – whether trackside or at home. Fans have to ‘create an app or a homepage for an ultimate customised, immersive viewing experience for fans worldwide’.

Five finalists will be chosen and will win a trip to the 2018 United States Grand Prix where the eventual winner will be decided to win a cash prize of $50,000 and in a world’s first, they will get a chance to bring their idea into reality.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton & James Allison, F1’s MD Ross Brawn, Tata Communications’ F1 boss Mehul Kapadia and Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle will be joined by F1’s MD of Broadcasting and Technical Operations Roberto Dalla in the judging panel

Formula Rapida had the chance for an exclusive Q&A with Tata Communications’ Kapadia on the last year’s competition and the future:

Q) Before we dwell in this year’s prize, how will you sum-up the 2017 competition? Have you been able to use the ideas which you saw from the fans?

Mehul Kapadia: “Last year’s competition was all about using the power of smart, always-connected Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to enhance the fan experience at each Grand Prix.

“The winning idea is a solution that shows how fans could – from the moment fans arrive at the circuit until the end of the race weekend – use their mobile phone to connect to dozens of sensors at the circuit to access data and insights on their favourite team or driver, get a mixed reality view of driver lines and braking zones on the surface of the race track, or buy refreshments and souvenirs.

“It could make the whole weekend more interactive, immersive and thrilling than ever before. The incredible potential for the IoT to drastically transform the fan experience takes the sport to new and innovative places.

“[While] I’m not able to comment on what’s happening behind the scenes of R&D at Formula 1 – but their ‘always in beta’ culture makes it clear that the sport is hungry for inspiration and new ideas from fans worldwide, and they want to involve fans in the innovation process. This has never been done in a global sport before.”

Q) On this year’s prize, the idea relates to viewing experience for fans – how did it come about? Were there any other ideas discussed or broadcasting was the sole?

MD: “Yes, it’s about the viewing experience – but actually it goes beyond that, and beyond broadcasting. The omnipresence of digital technologies, from smartphones to social media platforms, across all aspects of our lives, continually present opportunities to engage with audiences in new and creative ways, inviting them to be part of the journey to elevate the fan experience.

“It’s about the complete F1 experience, regardless of whether you’re watching the whole race on TV, streaming a few bite-sized clips of what’s happening behind the scenes on the Paddock before the race on your mobile, and about the thrill of being right there in the middle of the action at the circuit.

“The theme ‘My F1’ looks for ideas that would allow fans to experience – and engage with – the sport in new ways. We’re looking for ideas that bring fans closer to the racetrack, paddock and cockpit, harnessing the wealth of human and technical data that is generated during each Grand Prix.

“We’re asking fans to take this unique set of data and see how it could be combined with the broadcasting capabilities of F1. We hope to see ideas for mobile apps, devices and other solutions that create the ultimate customised F1 experience.

“Immersive experiences, like these, for fans at home and in stadiums, draws attention to the importance of connectivity and AI platforms that help to store and process vast quantities of data. The real-time analytics, fans insights and information access that it provides helps augment the fan experience like never before.

Q) What will you be looking at from the fans in the ideas? Will those need to be careful that it doesn’t come in the way of the TV broadcasting and that digital viewing is still an independent entity?

MD: “The sport aims to interest a new generation of fans that have come of age on smartphones, tablets, and ubiquitous connectivity. New modes of technology gives fans the power to choose how they experience F1, which could go far beyond a linear TV viewing experience.

“We want to see ideas for tech solutions that would enable different kinds of fans – regardless of their age, gender or how long they’ve been following the sport – to experience and engage with the action in more customised, immersive and powerful ways. It could be a mobile app, a new kind of device, or a combination of different technologies.

“In future, the use of augmented and virtual reality could also be extended to the support crew. What’s different about this year’s Prize is that a fan’s winning idea will be incubated and prototyped by Formula 1.

“This has never been done in any global sport before – giving F1 fans the opportunity to really shape the future of their favourite sport. F1 is a sport that is in the middle of a big transformation, with many disruptive digital services being developed on the move, on and off the track.

“Just look at the streaming service F1 TV, Twitter Live Shows that give fans access to post-race video highlights, and F1 Fan Voice that enables fans to share what they think about the sport through polls, forums and blogs. All these services show that the new management at Formula 1 have a lot of energy to innovate and try out the latest tech advancements to take the fan experience to the next level.

“They have a fearless ambition to transform the sport and augment the F1 experience, and we’re excited about working together with the team at Formula 1 to create these new digital services and help the sport grow its global fan base and reach new and greater heights on and off the track.”