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Schumi at the wheel, Tata behind the scenes
- Ferrari signs deal with TCS for infotech and engineering solutions for Formula One cars next season

New Delhi, Dec. 6: When Michael Schumacher screams to the finish line in his red rocket on wheels in Australia come March, spray some bubbly on Ratan Tata, too.

Team Ferrari has picked Tata Consultancy Services to provide cutting-edge infotech and engineering solutions that will enable seven-times world champion Schumacher to stay ahead in the new Formula One racing season that begins in three months.

TCS will be the first Indian company in any discipline to be associated with Formula One racing.

Ferrari ' the best-known marque on the Formula One racing circuit with its blazing red hot rod and the famed prancing horse logo ' has signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with TCS. The Indian company will provide IT and engineering services to develop the Formula One racing car next season.

TCS executives refused to divulge how big the deal was, but industry mavens estimated it at more than $200 million for five years.

Ratan Tata was not available for comment but, given his passion for cars, can be safely assumed to be overjoyed to be associated with Ferrari.

'This is no ordinary recognition,' said TCS chief executive S. Ramadorai. 'We are delighted that Ferrari has chosen TCS technology and solutions to retain its pole position.'

Car racing prototypes are developed after a large number of tests ' including aerodynamic and wind tunnelling experiments ' which generate masses of data. Software developers are required to make sense out of all that data to enable engineers to develop the best possible prototype.

A company executive said: 'The TCS products will help in tracking the speed, fatigue of both driver and the car. It will be part of the whole exercise that is involved in a car race. The specifics cannot be shared due to the non-disclosure clause.'

The first group of Tata's engineers has already reached Maranello, Ferrari's headquarters, to start work on the project, he added.

TCS solutions will also be used in its popular cousin, the Ferrari sports car, which is best known for its flaming-red Testarossa.

The deal with Scuderia Ferrari, the Maranello-based carmaker, propels TCS into an elite group that is driving the future of technology worldwide.

'TCS has what it takes to help us retain our pole position,' said Jean Todt, the managing director of Ferrari.

'The F1 family consists of an extremely limited number of companies from around the world selected for their excellence and market position. We only work with excellent companies because that is what makes Ferrari what it is today.'

Schumacher has been burning up the race tracks across the world in his Ferrari this year and has won 13 of the 18 Grands Prix this year and clinched his seventh championship title long before the end of the 2004 season. The closest anyone has come is Juan Manuel Fangio who won five world championships back in the 1950s.

Schumacher has a contract with Ferrari that runs till 2006, though it is widely expected that he will stay on with the carmaker as he shoots for more world titles.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum here today, N. Chandrasekharan, the executive vice-president of TCS who led the negotiations with the Italian company, said: 'When the season begins in March 2005 and the famous red car wins Formula One races, we will know that we have contributed to that success.'

Glamour and speed is what attracts millions of viewers to the races, but a lesser-known fact is that increasingly an F1 car is a feat of engineering in many domains. It has more in common with a jet fighter than it does with a normal car. Experts compare it to a moving solutions platform that tests not only the stamina of the drivers but also mechanical and electronic systems that have to perform under levels of extreme stress.

TCS has worked with other carmakers before, including Detroit-based Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler. But it has never worked on such a scale before. And never with Ferrari ' as Al Pacino said in The Scent of a Woman: There is the woman and then there is Ferrari.

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