A Performance Engineer is another role within the engineering department of a Formula 1 team, and they work to ensure that the car is set up to the driver’s liking.
To find out more about the role, and how to get into it, we spoke to Edward Regan – the Performance Engineer for Mick Schumacher’s Haas F1 Team car – to find out what the job entails, what qualifications you need to become one, and what skills you need.
What is your role?
I am the Performance Engineer on Mick Schumacher’s car.
What are your responsibilities and main jobs?
I work with the Race Engineer – who speaks with Mick on the radio – to ensure the car is operating in a way that allows Mick to achieve the best possible performance on track. Before the event, we take in information and recommendations from other departments within the team including the Aerodynamics Group, Vehicle Dynamics, Tyres etc. and combine it to define the starting car set-up for that event.
While the car is on track, we are watching the live telemetry data to check the car is operating as expected and make sure that everything is safe. We are constantly checking that the suspension is working as expected, that the car is at the correct ride heights and that the tyre pressures are ok, while also thinking about what changes we want to test during the next run. The sessions are shorter this year (one hour rather than 90 minutes), so are very busy and the best way to help the driver is to ensure we maximise the time the car is on track.
After the car has run on track we go through the data and talk to the driver to understand what issues he is having, and what we need to improve to help him to go faster. Once we see what areas need improving, we investigate set-up options to try to help those areas. Every set-up change will be a compromise, so we may have to trade off one area where we are stronger in order to help a place where we are weaker e.g. more downforce gives more drag, so although the car might be quicker through the corners it will be slower on the straights.
Mick Schumacher, Haas F1 walks the track
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
How do you become a Performance Engineer?
The normal route to a trackside Performance Engineer role would be to gain experience in a factory Vehicle Dynamics department position before making the jump across to a trackside role. With track testing being limited, it’s difficult to get the chance to get trackside, but there are always opportunities to get involved with race support (working in the factory on a race weekend directly assisting the trackside team from the Operations Room). Doing race support is a great chance to gain more experience of how things operate at the track, and give a solid foundation for making the jump across to a fully trackside role.
The range of experience from people in the trackside team is extremely varied. Some people have done another formula and moved up into Formula 1 and others have previously worked in the factory. I didn’t have any lower formula experience before starting in F1, and just got lucky in being given a Junior Vehicle Dynamics role at a team after university. I’m extremely grateful to them for giving me that opportunity since it set me on the path for the rest of my career.
What qualifications do you need?
I studied maths, physics and computing at A-Level, and then went on to automotive engineering at university, but I know of people coming from many other areas. Most of the role is learned through experience on the job, so pretty much anything which shows you have the mindset to deal with problems calmly would be fine.
Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21, leaves the garage
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
What other skills are useful?
From my experience, I was a fan of F1 when I was young, and that drove my desire to get involved in it when I started work. I’m sure the majority of people want to get involved in motorsport because they are fans of it and dream of working in that environment. It’s not all as glamourous as it looks on TV, and with a lot of time away from family and home, it could become tough if you are not passionate about the series. There are some hard days as there are in all walks of life, but it’s an amazing experience which I wouldn’t change for anything.
How can I get work experience?
Most Formula 1 teams have a graduate scheme for people leaving university, and also placement positions where students can spend anything from a few weeks up to a year at the team getting involved in various areas. There is a lot of competition for these positions, but they can be an amazing experience. The students often discover roles that they were not even aware existed before, which turns out to be a perfect fit for them.
Away from placements, Formula 1 cars are a lot more complicated than many other series, but underneath all of that they are essentially the same – any involvement in a lower formula would be beneficial and would certainly make a CV stand out.
Do you get go to races?
My role is a trackside role, so I attend all of the races and test events with the team. For me, getting the car working correctly and maximising the performance on the track is where the real excitement lies. We work very hard, with long hours at the track, but most of the hard work goes on behind the scene at the factory, by people not seen on TV. From the initial car design to production of updates and fault fixes during the season. The people at the track are the ones on show, but the people at the factory are working just as hard and most of the performance comes from the hard work that goes in back at the factory.
Mick Schumacher, Haas F1
Photo by: Erik Junius
What does a day at work look like for a Performance Engineer?
There are very few roles in F1 that can be considered a 09:00 – 17:00 job, especially trackside roles.
Monday and Tuesday before an event are spent either in the factory or working from home, preparing our set-up and all of the required documents for the upcoming race weekend.
We typically fly out to a race early on a Wednesday, a day after the mechanics, and sometimes go straight to the track, depending on the time we arrive. Wednesday and Thursday is spent with the mechanics preparing the car for FP1. They work extremely hard on these days even before the TV cameras turn up, so on Thursday and Friday we have curfew, which is a time where we are not allowed to be at the track. This is usually around nine hours, which ensures we get some time away from the track and a decent amount of sleep. Before this was introduced there was the temptation to push on late every night, but you pay for that later in the weekend.
Friday is the first day of running and is probably the longest day of the weekend since we arrive at the track around 8am and won’t get out until midnight. The other days it’s more like 12 hours at the track.
When the cars leave the garage for qualifying we are not allowed to change any parts, so Saturday morning is quite tense as it’s the last chance to make changes, and you are then committed for the rest of the weekend.
On Sunday after the race, we all fly back home and back to work on Monday morning looking over the data from the weekend and looking forward to what we can learn for the next event.