It’s a deadly game of chance, the perfect venue for Monte Carlo to meet Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo is known not only for its casinos and the games of chance that are the namesake of the risk analysis method but also, just as famously, for motor sport. Now, although this has been very little publicized, it appears that Monte Carlo meets Monte Carlo, on a regular basis.
A couple of weeks ago, a news item from the United Arab Emirates tipped me off to the fact that Formula 1 racing teams include–in addition to drivers and pit crews–a panel of race strategists. It is the strategists’ job to try to plan advantageous responses to any eventuality in a race–rain, wrecks, repairs. Even with the help of computers, forecasting all possible scenarios for a single race is a full-time job, and the F1 strategy teams rely heavily on their Monte Carlo software.
Risk analysis began contributing to F1 strategy as far back as the 1990s and was credited for the McLaren team’s 2005 victory in the Monaco grand prix. It is now standard operating procedure. Strategy teams not only pre-play every corner, every curve of a race circuit, but even after the start has sent the cars into high speed, the strategists are responding minute by minute to action on the circuit by running new risk assessments and statistical analyses of emerging scenarios and sending their advice for the drivers via high-speed data links.
Although the race strategist squads haven’t received much press, their presence makes perfect sense. After all, who does more and faster decision making under uncertainty than a race driver? And what about the engineers who fine-tune features like aerodynamics and brake design in preparation for a particular race course? And the pit crews on race day? Their function is life or death operations management.