Bernadette Collins, a Senior Strategy Engineer for Sahara Force India sat down with us to discuss her role within Formula One. While she may not be driving the cars, Bernadette is proving women can rise to the challenge and be part of a team which is the backbone to the success of racing. Bernadette shares her insight into her role, why she loves Formula One and what technology means to her.
What does your role involve?
BC: As Senior Strategy Engineer, I am responsible for planning and helping to execute a strategy so that the team collects the maximum number of points available each race. Pre-event this involves advising on tyre selection for the upcoming race. Through the event we evaluate the tyre selection and ensure that the correct tyres are available for qualifying and the race itself. During the race, we aim to complete a planned strategy, but almost always have to adapt and react to circumstances such as the weather, safety car, collision, puncture etc. After the event we analyse our performance and also the performance of others to learn as much as possible.
What advice would you give to women wanting to start a career in F1?
BC: Working in any area of motorsport is both challenging and rewarding, but it is worth trying to get experience in lots of different areas as early as you can. There are many different opportunities available from factory-based roles, to sitting on the pit wall, which require different skills and it’s worth finding out what type of role suits best.
Why did you decide to go into F1?
BC: It seems strange to say this, but it sort of just happened. I completed a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering and throughout that time I took part in the IMechE Formula Student Event, which was my first taste of motorsport. Towards the end of my degree, I started applying for positions and was lucky to be selected for a graduate position within McLaren Racing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
BC: I’m not sure. I still think of myself as young! Probably similar to the advice I would give others. If you get an opportunity, take it!
What does being a woman in Technology mean to you?
BC: During my day-to-day work I don’t really think about being a woman in technology; I just get on with my job. At other times, when I get involved with events promoting engineering or science careers – particularly to young women – I realise that there are so many opportunities in technology where women can get involved. It feels good to help inspire younger women and to encourage them not to be afraid of the career opportunities available to them. It also hopefully helps parents and other mentors be open to and aware of the possibilities.
“It feels good to help inspire younger women and to encourage them not to be afraid of the career opportunities available to them.”
There are many great role models and leaders, who inspires you?
BC: There are many people who are not in the public eye that have inspired me in many ways. Those around me growing up inspired me to work hard and never give up. In more recent times, both lecturers and peers have inspired me to learn as much as possible to attain some of the knowledge of others. I continuously try to improve.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in F1?
BC: I’m not sure there are many things specific to being a women in F1, but I do really enjoy my job and love travelling to the events and being at the track in the middle of all the action. The only thing specific to being a women is at times the reaction and surprise of others that I have made it to this position. It makes me feel proud of my achievements but obviously it shouldn’t be the case, it should be normal to have women in my position.
“I really enjoy my job and love travelling to the events and being at the track in the middle of all the action”
How much interaction do you have with the driver?
BC: My interaction with the drivers changes a lot over the course of a racing weekend. Outside of the event I have very little interaction with the driver, however on preparation days and on the Friday and Saturday the focus is for the race engineers to get the best possible car set-up. After qualifying on Saturday and into Sunday morning the interaction with the driver increases as they become focused on the strategy and plans for the race. Throughout the weekend strategy related radio communications is all channelled through the individual race engineer. Therefore a lot of interaction goes on in the background.
Just like any business, success is built on teamwork, innovation and striving to be the best. Sahara Force India are a team of true racers, driven by a passion for motorsport and the desire to succeed in the world’s most competitive environment,find out more about the drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, and the men and women behind the team's quest for success.