What tasks do you face now you are Team Manager?
Basically my job is to ensure all practical operational aspects of the team run smoothly whilst also liaising with the FIA on sporting and logistical matters. At Grands Prix I am responsible for operations at the track so I am involved in every element of the team’s work, from pit stops to driver’s schedules to catering - everything. I need a complete overview of the whole team’s tasks so I can make sure they have the best possible working environment, and the team members are working in the most appropriate manner. When it comes to the FIA, my task is to ensure the team complies with the regulations as well as discussing any sporting or logistical issues that arise.
That sounds like a lot of work - is it a daunting challenge?
It certainly is a challenge but I would say I am more excited than daunted by my new job. It’s busy, that’s for sure, and there are a lot of demands on my time but it’s a great opportunity and in the end it’s very satisfying. I enjoy my job; I enjoy having a new day ahead of me where I can work at the cutting edge of automotive development. That’s great motivation.
Your first races as Team Manager included two back-to-back weekends and the longest trip of the whole season, was that a difficult start?
It would have been easier coordinating the short drive to Spa or the Nürburgring but variety is what makes working in Formula 1 so interesting. Even though I am new to this particular job, the team has plenty of experience dealing with the logistics of moving cars, equipment and people from one track to another in only a few days. It requires good planning and a lot of hard work from the guys at the track but it all went very smoothly.
Is it easier to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix as we are now racing in Europe again?
Generally the European races are easier because we have the motorhome and the technical trucks. This means we can be sure the working space is exactly what is required and the environment is more familiar and comfortable for all team members. But the first European race of the season is obviously the first race of the year with these facilities so I’m sure there will be one or two teething troubles; this is inevitable. No two races or tracks are the same so I have to be ready for anything!
Is there anything special about this season’s Spanish Grand Prix?
Well, we all hope the result will be special on Sunday but we’ll have to wait and see. Aside from that, it’s the start of the GP2 Series and our third driver Kamui Kobayashi is racing. He has just won the GP2 Asia championship so we will all be supporting him during the weekend. Also, it is the 300th Grand Prix for our team doctor, Riccardo Ceccarelli, who looks after everyone in the team. He has been team doctor since the start of our Formula 1 participation so he’s a familiar face and I’m sure we’ll find a way to celebrate.
How do you feel now your first season as Team Manager has started?
It was a great honour to be given this responsibility by the team and I am really enjoying the challenge. It has been a busy time in pre-season for everyone in the team and for me personally because there is a lot of information to learn, processes to become familiar with, that kind of thing. The start of the season is always particularly busy, and even more so for me as Team Manager in the opening races of this year, but things are calmer now and it has been very satisfying to come home from those first four races with three podium trophies. Our team spirit is great and the guys have done a really good job so they deserve a few more cups this year.
Have you always been a motorsport fan?
Actually when I was growing up I was more interested in planes and I studied aerospace at university. My brother became a pilot and as kids we used to go to airfields and watch the planes taking off and landing – I am still impressed now by how so many tonnes of metal can fly! So I’m not a typical petrolhead with a vintage car at home but I have spent my entire career in the car industry.
Can you give some information on your career to date?
I started my professional career in production cars, working as an engineer on exhausts, catalysts and, later, direct injection. But after two years or so I had the opportunity to move into motorsport and this has always been a passion of mine so it was an easy decision to take. I worked at Ilmor as a development engineer for their F1 and CART programmes and from 1999 to 2000 I worked in the US giving trackside support to the CART teams running our Ilmor engines. That was a great experience but I had the chance to move back to Germany and become involved in Formula 1 with Toyota, at the very start of that project. It was fantastic to be part of the group that developed Toyota’s first Formula 1 engine. It was also very satisfying to be involved in establishing our engine supply to Williams and developing the relationship as Manager Engine Customer Supply. I have enjoyed my experiences at Toyota so far because I feel I have grown and developed with the team.