Formula One’s a fast-moving blur, an expensive machine / that shoots down the straightaway. / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / told by hydrocarbon exhaust, full of sound and fury, / signifying obscene amounts of cash money.
– with apologies to William Shakespeare

I squinted at the invitation in confusion. Lotus F1 and… Microsoft Dynamics? You may have heard of Microsoft Dynamics, most likely in the thrilling context of accounting, auditing, and inventory management. Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP for short. There’s also Microsoft Dynamics CRM (Customer Relationship Management) – sales, marketing, service, that kind of stuff. If there’s an obvious connection to Formula 1, I wasn’t seeing it. In my head I was imagining pie charts and sales projection slideshows decorated with racecar clipart.

I’m not a motorsports guy. The first time I stumbled across NASCAR when I was channel surfing, it was the Daytona 500 and I was utterly bereft: “So it’s a road trip, but on an oval track?” I could only imagine the skill and expertise that goes into driving at those velocities, and the stamina required to maintain that level of performance, all the while subjecting the body to temperatures and g-forces that would break lesser humans. But I’m the kind of person who watches figure skating for the spills. It’s not all Schadenfreude; it’s just a better spectacle.

I am, however, a spreadsheet person. To this day I wonder if I didn’t miss my true calling as a Red Bull-guzzling Excel monkey (and then I look over at the finance guys and nope, nope, nope, I’m much happier where I am). But show me a cell with a formula as long as a Shakespearean sonnet and I’ll openly weep tears of awe and wonder (or horror, because formulas really shouldn’t be that long).

So I said yes to the invitation, and now I get motorsports. I’m not sure how that happened.

If I were a better student of history, I’d have been able to tell you that the partnership between Lotus F1 and Microsoft was formed back in 2012 around when the Enstone-based team made its debut under its current name. The implementation of Microsoft Dynamics software began as you might expect, in budgeting and payroll. So far, so Monday morning office meeting.

It was the next phase that changed everything for Lotus F1.

Though Formula 1 is heavily regulated – indeed, skirting the myriad rules and regulations is a sport in itself – teams are still free to throw scads and scads of money around, especially if you’re backed by a soft drink company that consulted an Italian dictionary in order to field not one but two F1 teams. Lotus F1, on the other hand, is not backed by a soft drink company and does not have that kind of pocket change. (Well, to be entirely fair, it’s Formula 1, so we’re still dealing with an immodestly grand budget.) This means they have to very careful in order to make the most of their relatively restricted spending power.

Restrictions abound in Formula 1: fuel restrictions, tire restrictions, wind tunnel time restrictions – there’s even a limit on the number of calculations that the aerodynamics simulation processors can perform in a second. One slip-up at the start of the season can spell disaster for even a seasoned team. Which is where Microsoft Dynamics comes in.

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