Engineers are a crucial part of F1 races and play many pivotal roles in communicating to the driver and making quick decisions to keep the car at top performance. What do F1 engineers do and what kind of engineers are on the track?
There can be anywhere from 5-20 engineers present during race weekend. Foremost among them are the head engineer and the race engineer, who oversee the majority of issues that may arise. Tire engineers, aerodynamic engineers, control engineers, performance engineers, the engine team, and the strategy team are also involved on race day.
As you can tell, engineers do a lot more than just talking to the driver; their role is multi-faceted and requires them to exercise their technical and quick-thinking skills. The rest of this article will discuss the role of the oft-overlooked F1 engineer and address which engineers are present at a F1 race.
Different engineers have different roles during a race, but they are all doing their best to maximize the driver’s efficiency and help the race go as smoothly as possible. There can be anywhere from 5-20 engineers on a team, and they are usually all coordinated by the race engineer.
Tire engineers, performance engineers, and the engine team all relay information to the race engineer, who will them pass it on to the driver. These engineers take up different positions during the race, with some being situation in the garage and others on the pit wall.
Before the session, the engineers will usually all meet up to discuss analytics and review the racing strategy, but when it’s go time, all of them are in their places and ready for action.
First and foremost, F1 race engineers are the first line of contact with the driver to help them maximize the effectiveness of the vehicle, provide analytical data, and inform the driver of any changes in road conditions, flags, or other roadside events.
In addition, engineers must work with the driver to fine tune all aspects of the car—performance, systems, engines, tires—so that the vehicle is at its best on race day.
The input of the driver is also important in crafting a vehicle that handles as expected and performs on an optimal setup. As a whole, then, the race engineer is responsible for taking on the feedback of the engineering team and the driver to maximize the car’s potential.
Optimal speed and reliability on the race track get wins, and that’s largely thanks to the efforts of the race engineer.
Oftentimes, an F1 driver is assigned a race engineer, who is usually part and parcel of the crew until either the driver or engineer moves on. After all, developing a good relationship with the other person behind the headset is important to communicate effectively, clearly, and concisely.
The engineer’s job is to keep the driver calm behind the wheel, walk them through any obstacles that may arise, and telling them just about everything they need to know. The engineer, over time, will also learn the driver’s strengths and weaknesses, their capability and limitations. On the racetrack, their responsibilities may include the following:
Race engineers spend a lot of time preparing for race weekend, and communicating with the driver during the race is their primary role; however, they are also responsible for several jobs while the car is in the garage.
Most importantly, the race engineer oversees the setup of the car, including details like the correct fitting of tires and any necessary adjustments that need to be made. In short, the car has to be ready to go for the driver and that any issues arising during practice runs and qualifying sessions are addressed.
Depending on the individual team, the roles and responsibilities of other engineers may vary. Take the Mercedes AMG F1 team for example, who has five people sat on the pit wall.
First is the Sporting Director, whose role is to ensure that the entire team is operating in compliance with the sporting regulations of the FIA.
Any issues or breaches of protocol are his responsibility to report to the Director.
Second on the pit wall is the Chief Strategist, whose role is to call the crew out to the pit stop and make sure the correct tires are readied for the driver’s stop. The Chief Strategist also works with the Sporting Director to make sure everything is carried out according to the Sporting Regulations.
Alongside a group of other strategists, the person responsible for this role is influential in determining what kind of tires to use and makes decisions throughout the course of the race that will yield the best results for the team. These important decisions include when to pit the car.
The trackside engineer puts in a lot of legwork to ensure that the car is performing at its best throughout the race weekend. He will often work very closely with the engineering teams who are building, modifying, or repairing in the garage to preempt any issues that may arise on the track.
The trackside engineer also communicates this information, as well as any suggested strategies or repairs that may be helpful to the race engineer.
The trackside engineer also works with the engineering team to improve or enhance the performance of the vehicle.
The Technical Director is responsible for the technical side of operations both at the track and in the factory. This role ensures that all subordinate engineers understand their roles, are properly trained, and are aware of project deadlines.
In some cases, the Technical Director will handle and implement budgets, as well as scheduling meetings and check-ins to oversee different departmental operations.
The chief engineer’s role is an important one during the race. Their responsibility is to ensure that the racecar is reliable and operating within acceptable parameters. The chief engineer is first in contact with the FIA for any concerns regarding the Technical Regulations.
In this role, the chief engineer also makes decisions about when to stop or pit the car if it seems unstable.
Similarly, the chief engineer communicates with the race engineer to let the driver know when and how to change his driving style in order to protect the integrity of a certain component. These concerns might include wear and tear on the brakes or temperature thresholds being reached.
In these situations, the chief engineer takes analytical data from engineering teams in different departments who are monitoring the racecar and makes an executive decision based on that. This information is relayed to the race engineer who will pass it on to the driver.
Several engineers stay in the garage during the race so that there’s not as many distractions on the pit wall. These include the race engineer, the performance engineer, aerodynamics engineer, and tire engineer.
In some cases, a controls engineer, engine performance engineer, and the engine systems engineer. Notably, the performance engineer takes care of the nitty gritty details of the car, offering advice to the driver on how to squeeze out more performance from the vehicle.
For example, as the race progresses, the performance engineer will examine the differential to convey what will prove to be the best setting for the driver on a particular corner to optimize the brake balance.
On the other side of the coin, the controls engineer will oversee the electrical components of the car like the gearbox to make sure that the settings are correct, working at maximum efficiency, and aren’t causing any concerns for the reliability of the vehicle.
There is a tremendous amount of analysis, communication, and quick decision making by a whole host of engineers who are responsible for monitoring the vehicle during the race. This team can vary in size, but one thing’s for sure: a lot of engineers are involved in making the F1 race go as smoothly as possible.