Class of 2013 – Meet the Race Engineers at Mercedes, Lotus & McLaren

Posted on Posted in Understanding the motorsport industry

Formula 1 race engineers might not quite have the glamorous lifestyles that their drivers lead but unless you are gifted enough behind the wheel then it is probably the closest that anyone can get to being a Formula 1 driver. In this third post on F1 race engineers we move further up the grid and meet the men in the hot seats at Mercedes, Lotus & McLaren.

 

MERCEDES

Peter Bonnington

Race Engineer for car 10 – LEWIS HAMILTON

Nationality : BRITISH

Pete will take charge of Mercedes’ latest star recruit, Lewis Hamilton having previously worked with 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher in 2012. Pete has been a race engineer at Mercedes since stepping up to the role from data engineer in the middle of 2011, when he took over from Lotus bound Mark Slade.

Pete Bonnington with Lewis Hamilton
Pete Bonnington with Lewis Hamilton, courtesy of www.f1aldia.com

Pete started his Formula 1 career as a data engineer with Jordan back in the early 2000’s, working with drivers such as Giorgio Pantano & Timo Glock before joining the then Honda team as an understudy to long time race engineer Jock Clear. Pete has inherited the nickname “Bono” in Formula 1 courtesy of his surname.

Tony Ross

Race Engineer for car 9 – NICO ROSBERG

Nationality : BRITISH

Tony Ross began his career at Austin Rover in a completely non racing capacity but took a vital opportunity to switch across to the British Touring Car championship with Nissan in the early 90’s. From there he made a switch to the Williams engineered Renault Laguna squad, still in the BTCC. Some good work there got him noticed by the Williams F1 management and he made the switch to Formula 1 at the end of 1997.

Tony Ross(l), with Sam Michael and Rubens Barrichello
Tony Ross(l), with Sam Michael and Rubens Barrichello

Tony worked with Heinz Harald Frentzen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Nick Heidfeld and eventually with Nico Rosberg. The partnership with Nico took Tony to Brackley in 2011 at Nico’s request, where they took their first F1 victory at China in 2012.

LOTUS

Ayao Komatsu

Race Engineer for car 8 – ROMAIN GROSJEAN

Nationality : JAPANESE
Age : 36

Ayao grew up in Tokyo, Japan and studied there until he was 18. He then left home in 1995 to come to England to pursue the dream of working in Formula 1 by enrolling in the Automotive Engineering course at Loughborough University. During his studies at Loughborough, Ayao worked with fellow countryman Takuma Sato as he tackled the junior formulas. As Takuma graduated to the British F3 championship, Ayao continued to work with him, learning the vital skills of the race engineer.

Ayao Komatsu with Romain Grosjean
Ayao Komatsu with Romain Grosjean

Ayao’s first job in F1 was at BAR Honda in 2003 before he moved to be a tyre engineer at Lotus (then Renault F1) in 2006. He has since progressed to the race team and has been race engineer for Vitaly Petrov and now Grosjean.

Ayao is an occasional twitterer at @AyaoKomatsu

Mark Slade

Race Engineer for car 7 – KIMI RAIKONNEN

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 46

Mark Slade became Kimi Raikonnen’s race engineer for the second time when he joined Lotus last season. Mark engineered Kimi throughout his time at Mclaren and came close to winning the World Championship with him in 2003 & 2005. The partnership has been re-united in the hope that such success can be repeated.

Mark Slade with Kimi Raikonnen in 2005
Mark Slade with Kimi Raikonnen in 2005

Mark graduated from Herriot-Watt University in 1989 with a Batchelors degree in Mechanical Engineering. He joined Mclaren and quickly rose to be a race engineer with them, staying in that post for an incredible 18 years, including a spell working with World Champion Mika Hakkinen. Mark finally left the team to join Lotus (Renault F1) in 2010, left after a year to go to Mercedes, then returned to be restart his partnership with Kimi.

McLaren

Andy Latham

Race Engineer for car 6 – SERGIO PEREZ

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 34

Andy had been Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer since 2010 when Phil Prew moved up to be Chief Race Engineer. Prior to that he was the data engineer on McLaren’s other car, looking after Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso.

Andy Latham with Lewis Hamilton
Andy Latham with Lewis Hamilton

Andy decided to take 3 races off last season as he became a father for the first time. Data engineer Mark Temple stepped up to the top job to cover.

Dave Robson

Race Engineer for car 5 – JENSON BUTTON

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 37

Dave joined McLaren as a graduate engineer fresh from University in 2000. He initially worked as a stress engineer, calculating the strains on materials in each component and deciding if they were strong enough to go onto the car. He moved to the test team in 2005, before heading up to the race team in 2008 as a Data Engineer. He became Jenson’s race engineer when JB joined the team in 2010.

Dave Robson with Jenson Button, courtesy of www.vivaf1.com
Dave Robson with Jenson Button, courtesy of www.vivaf1.com

Dave grew up in Stockton-on-Tees and studied at Oxford University. You can follow him on Twitter at @DaveRobsonF1

Keep in touch
To finish this series of posts on the 2013 crop of Formula 1 engineers, I’ll finally cover the 2 top teams and the race engineers at Ferrari and Red Bull.

Keep checking my blog for the next part of this series or you can follow me via my home page and receive email updates for every new post. I am hoping to put together a short guidebook with as much advice as I can gather on the best ways to get into F1 and where to look for further information. I will email this guide out to all of my blog followers completely free of charge so please make sure you dont miss it by signing up to follow my blog.

Alternativley you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

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5 thoughts on “Class of 2013 – Meet the Race Engineers at Mercedes, Lotus & McLaren

  1. Hi, Id like to know what race engineers do after their job? What im trying to say is do they get a promotion inside the team or in case they get fired, what job opportunities they have. Thank you, I really appreciate your blog.

    1. Hi Fernando

      The most common promotion from race engineer is now the ‘Chief Race Engineer’ position which many of the long serving race engineers now do. This position oversees the engineering of both cars, the strategy plus the tyre engineers and such like. Xevi Pujolar has recently taken this post at Williams having been there a number of year. Ciaron Pilbeam has also just moved from Red Bull to Lotus to take up a similar role.

      Beyond that, there is often a “Senior Operations Engineer”. Alan Permane who was a race engineer at Renault/Lotus for a number of years has just moved up into this position at Lotus, having been chief race engineer for some years.

      Beyond that it is possible for race engineers to become technical directors, such as Sam Michael did at Williams. He was a data & race engineer with Jordan in the late 90’s, moved to Williams to head up track operations and then became overall Technical Director and a shareholder at that team. You could go a long way if you have the right skills !

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