My job in F1: Pirelli race engineer

Oleg Karpov

My job is…

I am a Pirelli F1 chief engineer at the track. We have our engineers working with different teams, each of them has one dedicated person from us, who tries to help them and make sure they use our product in an optimal way. My role is to try to coordinate all of them, to have an overview from the outside. I receive all the data from our engineers and try to analyse it to help teams extract the maximum from the tyres.

My race weekend schedule...

A busy one. Normally Thursdays are a bit more relaxed, as there is no running at the track. We have one internal meeting with all our engineers in the morning to discuss what we expect, how the weekend is going to evolve and how our tyres will behave.

After that, I usually sit down with our boss Mario Isola. We have those meetings at every race to discuss all sorts of things. Obviously we stay in touch throughout all weekend, but the meeting on Thursday is something what is always on our agenda.

After that I will have a few chats with our different engineers. Sometimes, we work on different projects with different teams, and it is a good time to catch up and see if there are any developments. Thursdays are also good to meet with team representatives to talk about any technical issues they might have and so on.

Pirelli personnel wheel tyres through the paddock

Pirelli personnel wheel tyres through the paddock Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

On Friday morning we have another meeting to give guys the latest update on the weather forecast. I am also in charge of dealing with the FIA in terms of supplying our data to them. It needs to make sure all teams are following our prescriptions about how to use tyres. I am responsible for that part as well, so after each session on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I need to check all the data to see if everything is OK in that respect.

At the end of each day we have an internal debrief, with the Pirelli engineers only. We speak about how the tyres are behaving for different teams, because obviously they all have different chassis and therefore work with tyres in a slightly different way. We collect all the data to use internally to see if we need to change our prescriptions and communicate back to the teams if we see any issues with how they run our tyres.

Saturday is pretty much the same while Sundays are a little bit different. In the morning all our engineers need to go to their teams’ meetings to discuss strategy. As I already said, each chassis uses tyres differently, so teams often need to use different strategies.

After the race we collect all the info to make a summary. We try to get feedback from teams and drivers and forward all possible information to our engineers at the factory, so they know how the tyres performed at the event. If there are any issues, we need to know how to respond.

The most important thing in my job…

There are a few things I need to pay close attention to. We have a manager, who is responsible for fitting the tyres on Thursday. We have a schedule for each team and I have to make sure everyone gets tyres without any delays. Then I’d say supplying the FIA with data is also quite an important thing.

Зона подготовки шин Pirelli

Photo: Sutton Motorsport Images

Three tools I can’t do my job without…

For sure, the laptop is one. Then it is my iPhone, because nowadays those things are like your own office. And of course I couldn’t work without our engineers and fitters. One personal thing I need as well is a good book. I always carry with me at least two of them. With our job it is also important sometimes to disconnect, and reading is my personal way of doing it. If you see me at the airport, I’d almost certainly be with a book in my hand. Our schedule is crazy. We sometimes work long hours and you need to switch your focus. A good book is the best way for me to do it.

People I’m always in contact with...

Well, first of all it is Mario. We are in contact all the time. We have this regular meeting on Thursday, but to be honest we never stop communicating. The other ones would be FIA people, like Jo Bauer and Kris de Groot. They are the main people we would normally contact with if we have any issues or we want the FIA to clarify something.

I don’t normally talk to drivers, but if they have any questions, I’m open to any discussions. Normally the point of contact with teams would be our engineer.

When not at the track…

One of the pleasures I have in this job is that when I come back home from the track I like staying with my family. We travel so much, have crazy schedules and go to different places, so when I am back I spend time with my family and friends and doing other stuff I enjoy, like reading books or dancing salsa! I started doing it when I was still working with Audi in DTM.

One girl, who was working there as a mechanic, persuaded me to join classes, and it was actually a good way for me to socialise, because I did not speak German and struggled to make friends. So salsa helped me there and I kept practising it even after I left.

Pirelli engineers and Pirelli tyres

Pirelli engineers and Pirelli tyres Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Without me…

Well, I think they would be happy not to have a crazy Spaniard, who always asks to analyse some data! Being serious, I think that we have a lot of good people in Pirelli, so even if one of us, for whatever reason, cannot be at the track, we’ll manage to still do the job.

Formula 1 is…

For me personally 20 years ago it was a dream. It was my aim to come here and now it is my job. So I am very happy to have a chance to do what I love. Before Pirelli, I was working for teams, but I always found tyres very interesting. Many people say that aerodynamics is a key to success in F1, but in reality understanding the tyres could be even more important.