Q&A - Gianluca Pisanello, Chief Engineer at Caterham F1

Will Gray

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Q: What does your role entail?
GIANLUCA PISANELLO: I oversee the Race Engineering department, which includes all the engineering personnel and functions we take to races and have back at base at Leafield. Each driver has a race engineer – which is the role I had before stepping up to chief engineer - and then they each have a performance engineer. We also have an aerodynamics engineer, a strategy engineer and now, in 2013, a tyre engineer as well. I’m responsible for all the engineering decisions taken before, during and after each race and am basically in charge of all strategic and tactical plans and decisions made about how we approach, manage and evaluate every race weekend.

Q: Describe a typical day or week...
It’s almost impossible to describe one day as typical as so much can change - but on a race weekend we do have a very detailed schedule that governs how we work. For me that generally involves leading briefings and debriefings, creating session plans, co-ordinating the race engineers during sessions, analysing data and fine-tuning set-ups.

Q: It is an intense environment – do you work long hours and how much pressure do you feel?
: Everyone in F1 works long hours, especially now, with email constantly available and with the pace of development of F1, that’s just part of the job. I do feel pressure, it wouldn’t be the pinnacle of world motorsport if it didn’t come with pressure, but that’s one of the attractions of the job. It’s a tough environment but if you can succeed in F1 you can one day look back and say ‘I worked in something very special, where only a few people on the planet can say they’ve operated’. So it’s worth it.

Q: Do you feel passionate about the team and do you get a buzz out of watching the races?
I do feel passionate, obviously. It’s a team sport and when we succeed it’s a great buzz – when we don’t it’s obviously tough but that’s all part of sport. I enjoy the races when we’re doing well but, honestly, I’m concentrating so hard on what’s going on around us I don’t really see the rest of the race!

Q: What do you love most about your job?
I can’t say that’s there’s one thing in particular – I love the fact we’re working at the cutting edge of technology and pushing it right to the limit. The travelling has its benefits – we might not see too much of where we race but there are occasional meals out with the team that are memorable, and the whole F1 environment is an amazing place to work. You only have to see how amazed guests in the garage are by everything they see to understand just how privileged we are to be working in somewhere many people dream of being.

Q: What are your qualifications and where did you study?
I graduated from the University of Padua with a 5-year degree in Electronic Engineering.

Q: How did you get into motorsport and eventually F1?
I’ve always been passionate about racecars. I had been working in an IT company for a year when a friend told me that a Formula Three team was looking for a data analysis engineer. He asked me if I was interested and I didn’t miss the opportunity. I spent three years in that team and in the last year we won the Formula Renault championship with Ryan Briscoe, a young Toyota driver. Toyota was just starting its F1 campaign, so I applied there and in April 2002 I started working there. In 2009 Toyota’s F1 campaign ended and I moved to Caterham, then called Lotus Racing, and here I am now!

Q: Have you always loved motorsport, and do you love it more or less now it is your job?
I love technology and I do like motorsport, but I love it when everything goes to plan and I think we all hate it when it goes wrong!

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