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Formula 1’s Safety Evolution: A Q&A with Insight 2023 Keynote Speaker Mark Gallagher

As a former Formula 1 motor racing executive, Mark Gallagher is no stranger to big events focused on fast-moving vehicles. And this year, we’re excited to welcome him as the keynote speaker at one of the transportation industry’s biggest: Trimble’s 2023 Insight Tech Conference + Expo, which will be held September 24-27 at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gallagher held senior roles in F1 for over 30 years before becoming an author, broadcaster and industry analyst. Today, he works with drivers and their teams to use technology and data to better manage risks and safety. We’re excited to welcome Gallagher to Insight; so excited that we sat down with him for an in-depth conversation about the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Tell us about your background and how your career got started at Formula 1.

I have been privileged to work in Formula 1 throughout my career, initially in media and communications before heading up marketing and commercial operations for two teams: Jordan Grand Prix (now Aston Martin) and Red Bull Racing. I ended my executive career as Managing Director of the Cosworth Formula 1 engine business, supplying engines, electronics and software to teams. I now run my own consulting business working with teams, drivers and commercial partners.

Formula 1 engineers research the latest technology to build safer cars and gear for drivers. Can you comment on how this technology could translate into heavy-duty trucks?

Safety has been revolutionized in Formula 1 by taking time to understand what causes accidents, then seeking to reverse engineer outcomes to ensure that we use best in class vehicle design, technology, systems and processes to ensure that people go home safely to their families at the end of each working day. We take a forensic, data-driven approach to understanding the risks and how to mitigate them, using our deep knowledge and insights to engineer safe solutions.

How has Formula 1 implemented safety and risk management programs throughout the years and how have those efforts impacted the broader transportation industry? What role has technology played in this transformation?

Commencing in 1994, Formula 1 set about transforming safety. This came in the wake of a number of fatal accidents. Safety was placed at the center of our regulatory environment, covering all the technical and operational aspects of Formula 1, but perhaps most importantly it also became part of our culture. So, not only do we develop and deploy the best technology, but we ensure that our teams operate with safety as a primary requirement.

As we revolutionized safety in Formula 1, we worked with governments, NGOs and the wider automotive industry to export our know-how into transportation. This led to the development of programmes such as the European Union’s EuroNCAP (New Car Approval Programme) crash testing programme, now expanded as GlobalNCAP, ensuring that the type of crash testing we undertake in Formula 1 can be used to help manufacturers develop, test and introduce safer products.

What has been the most exciting part of your career at Formula 1?

The most exciting part has been working with leading drivers, engineers and technicians in high performing teams. To experience that level of shared purpose and commitment towards a common goal is very special. To win, to be the best in the world, is something to be relished. You learn a lot about yourself and what’s required to be the best.

Have you learned any leadership lessons from F1 that have stood out, and how can they apply to the audience who will be at Insight?

I think the biggest lesson I have learned is just how much a team of people can achieve when they work together in the right way and harness the best that technology can offer. This combination of world class team work and technology is something worth striving for. When I look at what we can do in Formula 1 today, compared to just a few years ago, it is quite extraordinary.

What does the future of racing look like for Formula 1?

We have an enormously exciting future commencing in 2024 with the largest race schedule we have ever enjoyed: 24 events around the globe. Then, in 2026, we’ll see the introduction of new hybrid powertrains powered by synthetic fuel, a significant step on our net zero carbon target in 2030. We will also see no fewer than six major automotive groups involved in Formula 1 at that time, so the level of competition will increase. With our audiences surging and the sport reaching new heights in the USA thanks to the success of the Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ series, we are enjoying a period of very exciting growth.

How has data shaped the way Formula 1 makes decisions, and what advice would you give for those in the transportation technology space?

Formula 1’s digital transformation journey started in the mid-1980s and has completely transformed every facet of our business. The racing has benefitted because today’s cars are the fastest, most energy efficient, safest and most reliable we have ever had. A World Champion driver can now expect to have a full season without a major technical failure, and all drivers can enjoy a much safer environment than at any time. Our data driven approach to performance and risk management has shown us how to build powerful, highly competitive products that ensure safe, high quality outcomes. My advice to anyone in the world of transportation technology is that we need to go much further in exploring what is possible when we harness the power of connected systems - we are only just getting started!

What is your favorite thing about Las Vegas?

My favorite thing about Las Vegas is that it is Formula 1’s new home! On November 18th of this year, we will have our first race on the brand new street circuit being constructed on the famous Las Vegas Strip and adjacent to Formula 1’s new headquarters building and entertainment complex which will be a permanent facility in the city. The combination of Las Vegas’s world class entertainment with the spectacle of Formula 1 should be quite exceptional.

To hear more from Gallagher during his keynote presentation, register now for Trimble’s 2023 Insight Tech Conference + Expo.