A contingent of tech press was invited by Epson into the hallowed ‘Paddock’ for some time with the Mercedes-AMG F1 team. Epson has been sponsoring Mercedes-AMG for some five years now and this is rarefied sponsorship air that we’re breathing. Epson is on a ticket with the likes of IWC (fancy watches), UBS (fancy bank), and Petronas (‘go’ juice), and F1 enjoys a perception of billionaire/Monte Carlo/superyacht glamour unrivalled in professional sport.
But for Epson and Mercedes-AMG it’s more than the size of the sticker on the car.
Toto Wolff, Executive Director of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, elaborated when we sat down with him during a lull in testing at Albert Park: “The Epson partnership is something we could only wish for. It’s not simply a marketing partnership, it’s a technology partnership that adds performance to our car.”
Currently the depth of that ‘technology partnership’ is mostly measured in the number of Epson printers the F1 team has in its Brackley, UK, HQ and other satellite offices. There are 115 at last count and they’re used for everything from the banal to the more glamorous — large-format signage that’s used on the test track and more. I’ve no doubt Mercedes likes its Epson printers but it hardly accounts for the team boss’s earnest emphasis of just how important the tech partnership is to the garage.
He does however note that artificial reality and artificial intelligence will play a big part of the F1 future and how the team is counting on the “collaboration and partnership with Epson to give us the competitive advantage”.
I’ve no doubt.
Epson’s Moverio glasses don’t currently play a role in any Mercedes-AMG simulation suite (at least not that they’re telling us) nor in the drivers’ race simulation, and Toto Wolff is not going to flag what might be just over the horizon. Instead, Moverio plays a role in a ‘guest experience’, where an inner sanctum of VIPs are ushered into the Mercedes-AMG race track garage and treated to an augmented reality tour of the inner workings of the racecar.
No sport is more dependent on technology as Formula One racing. Every day is a race within a race season to improve performance. The car is constantly evolving (even if the engine, under current F1 rules, must remain resolutely untouched); parts are constantly being tweaked, machined and FedEx’ed to the next race to shave a fraction of a second from the lap time. The cars themselves are laced with sensors producing mind boggling amounts of data that is being frantically analysed by specialists on the track and remotely.
Just when you think you’ve gained unassailable superiority, the governing body changes the rules and everyone starts again.
It’s frantic, and a technological advantage represents a race advantage.
Epson is clearly a key player in that technological arms race. One gets the sense that a week of development with Mercedes-AMG team is like a month or a quarter elsewhere, such is the pace.
Epson clearly has a stake in the future with its ‘wearables’ and in Mercedes-AMG it has the ultimate test bed.
I’ll be fascinated to see how the partnership develops and why Toto Wolff considers it to be so vital.