In the first part of Motorlat's exclusive interview, Gary Gannon - Mick Schumacher's race engineer at Haas - revealed what it's like to work with different drivers, what approaches to adopt based on their personality, and talked about how the American team has faced the new regulations to build a car that is certainly better than the last one.
He then went into detail about his work, recalling the times he joined the motorsport world with Virgin/Marussia, becoming a race engineer in 2013 for Max Chilton.
“It was surreal to be honest,” he said, speaking of his first experience in Formula 1.
“Because I didn’t anticipate targeting that job, I just worked as a performance engineer the year before, but because it was a small team there were lots of opportunities. Basically they gave me the opportunity because they trsuted me, and I loved it.”
“It was a small team, a small group and yes the cars lacked pace, but each race we found a purpose and tried to achieve the best we could. It was good and it was a kind of a lower pressure environment to learn to become a race engineer.”
He then explained to MotorLAT what the duties of a race engineer are, a figure who is known by those who follow the sport assiduously, but who is sometimes mysterious for those who observe the world of motors from further afield.
“The job is pretty much being the organiser of one car," he said.
"We have a race engineer per car and I’m coordinating the driver, the engineers that work on the car, the mechanics, and try to keep everyone aligned on the plan.
“Certainly the details of how we run the car in the session, I define those working with the other race engineer, and then we can rely on the other engineers. So I give the plan and then the mechanics execute that plan and I’m in charge of making sure the driver understands the plan and what we need from him all through the weekend – both in meetings before and during running.
“And the final part of it is the actual engineering part where we decide the setup. I’m kind of responsable for deciding the direction of the setup of the car, and I work with the performance and control engineers to get the exact details of what we need.”
Then he opened up on how the team, led by the race engineer, works on race weekends and what are the tasks he carries out in coordinating everyone to achieve the best results both on Saturday in qualifying and on Sunday in the race.
"On Thursday we get the car ready, get it built correctly, make sure thet we take all the mesurements, make sure that it’s set up legally, put the setup that we want on it and then define all the plans for the weekend – what tyres are going to run, how many laps theyre going to do – and finally make sure that everyone understands the plans, including the drivers.
“On Friday we have two free practice sessions that help us to understand the car both for qualifying and the race, and then on Friday night we have a big meeting with the people in the factory, talk through ideas of how we can make the car better for Saturday.
“Then Saturday is pretty much focused on qualifying. FP3 usally we do qualifying simulations, and then we have the actual qualifying session, and then depending on the race, how important qualifying is for that specific race – like in Monaco quali is everything, in Monza is less important because it is much easier to overtake.
“Finally on Sunday we come in five hours before the race, in the morning we finalise our strategy and then working out how we’re going to manage the race from the driving and all the tools – like how we’re going to look after the tyres, if we’re going to save or push – and then we have the race.”
Today more and more people, mostly young people, are becoming interested and passionate about motorsport and want to become an active part of it. Gannon explained the secret to paving the way in Formula 1:
“If they want to get into the sport as a engineer obviously focusing on maths and science is important, but the way I’ve gotten an opportunity was because I knew how to do the job.
"I didn’t obviously know everything - because when I became a race engineer - I didn't know how to be a race engineer exactly. I hadn't done it before.
"But the thing was I was reliable, trustworthy and hardworking, so the people that I was around could see I would always work hard and learn as quickly as I could - and they could rely on my to not make too many mistakes and to always deliver the best I could," he explained.
“Sometimes that’s more important than the pure technical skills on your CV. If you have two people: one you know and you know that you can trust them, and the other one you don’t know but they might be technically more capable, in some opportunity you take the one that you can trust, because in Formula 1 is more about minimizing mistakes and doing the right things at the right time, and that takes organisation, a clear head and a clear communication.”
Then he concluded speaking of Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner:
“The thing about him is that he talks to everyone in the team, he knows everyone personally, he’s very available to all of us, so I think that’s very special,” he stated.
“He’s very passionate, so sometimes that means when we’re not doing well he expresses his frustration, but that’s okay, because he’s very supporting of us when things are difficult. He has the same goals of all of us, to do the best we can all the time.