With Kimi Räikkönen retiring at the end of the 2021 season, last December’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was also Julien Simon-Chautemps’s final race as an F1 engineer.
The Frenchman said leaving Alfa Romeo was a common decision with the team as he wanted to focus on his new business.
He also believes there is now way too many races on the calendar. The calendar had 19 races on it in 2011 when he was Vitaly Petrov’s race engineer; that’s now grown to a whopping 23 in 2022.
“I would say it was kind of a common decision [to leave]. I wanted to create my business and ultimately the team decided they wanted to do things a bit differently for the following year . I was happy to be back in the UK.
“There was way too many races and the fact I was split between the UK and Switzerland was quite difficult to manage and handle. Definitely there is way too many races.”
When queried if he would be interested in a race engineering position in IndyCar or Formula E, Simon-Chautemps thinks his days as a race engineer are done.
“That’s a good question.
“IndyCar is a bit too far away. I would not like to move to the states with my family at the moment unless I have a mega offer.
“Formula E, to be honest with you, I’m not really interested because… well I had some opportunity to join some team in the past but I don’t really understand much their business model and where they’re going at the moment.
“You’ve seen a lot of manufacturers have left it and definitely I think the part of my career as a race engineer is behind me.
“Now I have a much wider view on what I would like to do and that’s why I’ve created JSC7 engineering. It will offer me the opportunity to work on various projects.
“I think race engineering is in the past for me now.”
Simon-Chautemps has now created his own business, JSC7 engineering. He’ll be working with French F1 broadcaster Canal+ throughout the 2022 season as he guides fans through the technical aspects in Formula One.
“It’s a very interesting project. I’m very pleased they’re (Canal+) my first customer for my new company.
“Basically I am part of their expert panel, commenting live. So far I’ve done the Bahrain test and Melbourne from the Paris headquarters. I will go on site as well to a few races this year.
“My job is to explain the technical aspect of F1, in layman’s terms that everybody can understand. I think so far it went quite well. I had a huge positive reaction from people on social media; they seem to appreciate and understand my explanation, which is good.”
As well as his work with Canal+, Simon-Chautemps will be Chief Technical Officer for Saintéloc Racing. They will be entering Spanish F4 on a full-time basis next year.
We spoke about it with him before official confirmation of which team it was came out in public.
“My new business, JSC7 engineering, is basically a consulting company offering various services. Part of it is Canal+.
“I have another big customer in France – a new team quite well known in GT and Rallying that want to launch a new single-seater operation – and I will be the Chief Technical Director or something like this.
“My job is very ample. There is a lot to do; it’s coming from hiring people, hiring mechanics, hiring engineers, setting up the procedures and setting up the whole team basically to make sure that they’re run how they should. It’s very interesting to have all these different kinds of projects.
“I’m also looking at new projects in parallel to grow the business and maybe in the future to hire people within my company to fulfill certain services that I would not be able to do on my own. At the moment it’s going really well and I’m really pleased with it.”
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc have started the season very strongly, leading both championships by a healthy margin.
Simon-Chautemps was immediately impressed by the F1-75 and the results have proven why.
“Ferrari impressed me the first time I saw the cars: ‘wow, it looks really nice’. It’s a beautiful car.”
“It proved to be really quick as well, so that is the car that has impressed me the most.”
Mercedes’ struggles with porpoising has been a big talking point so far in 2022 as the eight-time defending Constructors’ Champions have struggled to match Ferrari and Red Bull.
While it’s clear they haven’t solved it yet, Simon-Chautemps believes the budget cap is hindering them massively – and thinks they could be holding back updates until they’ve a B-spec car ready.
“Yeah, I’m surprised they haven’t brought more updates quicker, but I read an interview of Toto Wolff in Australia... first, it’s clear that they need to understand what’s the problem and clearly it’s not very clear for them at the moment.
“Secondly, the fact that there is a budget cap is a big problem for especially a big team [like Mercedes].
“In the past, they would have brought two, three, four different front wings or floors and test them; they can’t do that anymore.
“They’re probably waiting to have a full package… that’s my guess. Instead of bringing a floor, they’re waiting to bring a B-spec car basically. I think that will happen very soon.”
The 2022 cars and new rules seem to be having the desired effect with three races down this year.
Cars have been able to follow each other for much longer and to stay close. While overtaking still isn’t straightforward, the signs are good.
Simon-Chautemps also explained just how bad it got for a driver with the wider cars of 2021 if they followed closely for just a few laps.
“It does make a good effect. I don’t think the overtaking is much easier but what’s easier is the ability for the cars to follow each other, which results in some more overtaking.
“In the past, the cars were really struggling to follow and when they were too close, they were starting to damage the front tyres, increasing the graining, especially at the front.
“You had more understeer and if that was lasting for two, three or four laps, then you were dead basically.
“Now it seems the cars are able to follow each other, which is clearly a positive consequence of the new rules.”
Simon-Chautemps spent most of his time working in F1 with teams in the midfield or at the back.
When MotorLAT asked him if he was frustrated that he left the sport just as the budget cap was starting to properly kick in, the Frenchman said “no, not at all.”
He pointed to the fact that he isn’t a fan of the budget cap because the bigger teams need to let people go and the smaller ones are struggling to recruit.
“If anything, it makes things worse because the big teams are trying to lay off people and the smaller teams are struggling to hire more people. It makes the recruitment much more difficult I would say.”