There are people fans don't see on TV, but who help the F1 circus to perform the show. In a new series, Motorsport.com brings you their personal stories. Here, we speak to Julien Simon-Chautemps, Kimi Raikkonen's race engineer.
My job is…
I am a race engineer. I’m in charge of Kimi’s car. There is a group of six engineers and six mechanics working with me. In simple words, it’s my responsibility to make this car run as fast as possible.
My race weekend schedule...
Normally we arrive on location on Wednesday, ready to go to the track on Thursday. The set-up of the car is sent the day before to the mechanics from the factory. Then, as we arrive, I also give some information to our tyre engineer.
Straight away we have a few meetings, regarding tyre plan, strategy and set-ups. We also discuss with our driver our run plan, explaining what we are going to do during each run on Friday. Than we send our car to the FIA bridge to let them do their measurements and to check that the car is legal.
On Friday, we arrive at the track very early for a meeting one hour before the first session on track, just to make sure everybody has all the information regarding our run plan.
There is a briefing after the first session as well, plus several longer meetings after the second one. The Friday meeting is very important, as we have all the information from two practice sessions. We can now talk and define our strategy for the rest of the weekend and especially for the race.
Julien Simon-Chautemps, Senior F1 Race Engineer of Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo
Photo by: DPPI
Saturday and Sunday are very similar, apart from the fact that we have additional session on Saturday morning. Before qualifying, there is another meeting where we discuss tyre preparation and what we are going to do on each run. After qualifying, we sit down together one more time to discuss what we’ve learned and define the strategy for the race, knowing what our starting position is. There is one more briefing on Sunday morning.
Most important thing in my job…
It may surprise you, but I don’t think that being a technical specialist is the most important thing. My job is not to be specialist in one domain. I have a lot of engineers covering different things, so I need to know a little bit of everything to be able to understand what everybody is telling me.
I think the most important quality is being able to communicate, to have good communication skills, because I gather information and speak to very different people: mechanics, engineers, plus the team principal. They are all very different people, and I think the main quality to do this job is to be able to navigate in between all these people and to extract the best from each individual.
Three tools I can't do my job without…
First one is my laptop. It’s always full of important information from different departments. Then my stopwatch, which is essential to have on the grid. Final preparations for the race are a bit like a military operation: everything has to be right and timing is crucial.
Even though our sporting director is also doing that, I have to keep an eye on everything happening: like when to put tyres on, when the driver needs to get in the car and so on. I need to have a stopwatch to understand that we are on time.
I don’t have to tell people what to do, because things are meant to happen automatically, but we have to be very precise and make sure everything runs smoothly. Then, the last thing is a good old pen as I always have to take some notes.
Julien Simon-Chautemps, Senior F1 Race Engineer of Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo and Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Racing
Photo by: DPPI
People I'm always in contact with…
Of course it’s the driver himself and, after him, it’s probably my performance engineer. He is the one who collects all of the data and we mainly discuss the set-up of the car together.
When not at the track…
When we are back to the factory after the race we spend one or two days to analyse the race weekend, which is behind us. We look at what we did wrong, what we did well, what we could have done better. In the end we produce a big report, where we collect all the information. Part of it we send to the driver. After those two days, we switch our focus to the next event.
Julien Simon-Chautemps, Senior F1 Race Engineer with Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo
Photo by: DPPI
Basically, without the race engineer the team can’t work. It is quite an important position, a bit like an orchestra conductor. I am organising the workflow of a group of people. It is not a single man job, but I receive all of the information from the other engineers and have to coordinate them and tell them also what to do.
Formula 1 is…
…very demanding. It is a fantastic sport, something I always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I remember my dad bringing me to Monaco to my first race when I was eight and I still remember every little detail of it. Since I can remember, I always wanted to work in F1 as an engineer.
I quickly understood I would never be a driver, but the technical aspects of F1 always amazed me. The technical challenge here is extraordinary. But F1 takes a lot of your time. I have a young family and the travelling is very very extensive and demanding. It’s hard. Obviously on TV you always see glamour, shiny cars, but it’s not like this all the time.
Formula 1 is a lot of work, little sleep and constant stress. I don’t want to paint it as negative, but people have to understand as well that this world is not all pink champagne and roses. It’s very demanding, very challenging, but very interesting.
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