The most common question faced by anyone working in Formula One is: 'how did you get to work in Formula One?' The answers suggest an eclectic recruitment process based as much on serendipity as on specific intent – but few can claim to have a route so irregular as our Technical Director Pierre Waché.
Pierre has been a member of our senior technical group, responsible for the design and on-track performance of the car since joining Red Bull Racing in 2013. He holds a PhD in Fluid Mechanics after study at the Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine in Nancy and Georgia Tech, Atlanta. So far, so conventional – but his speciality was bio-mechanical engineering, studying the interaction between cells in the bloodstream. He liked motorsports, "but my passion was more the technical aspects of science and engineering."
The medical community's loss was F1's gain when Michelin recruited Pierre in 2001 to study interaction between track surfaces and the rubber of their Formula One tyres. His interest was strictly at the molecular level but eventually he moved away from the microscope and took on more responsibility, becoming a project leader at Michelin, responsible for adherence and simulation for F1.
When the French tyre supplier pulled out of F1, Pierre moved to BMW-Sauber, employed at Hinwil as a vehicle performance engineer, again working predominantly with tyres and suspension. The restructuring that followed BMW's withdrawal and Sauber's return to privateer status saw Pierre promoted to head of the Swiss team's vehicle performance group, and then, in 2012, promoted again to be a member of Sauber's technical committee, responsible for race engineering and the vehicle performance group.
The Saubers of this era were famously competitive, thanks in large part to an ability to be gentle on tyres and run highly effective extreme strategies – and Red Bull Racing gained some of that knowhow when we recruited Pierre at the beginning of 2013. At the end of 2013 Pierre took on further responsibility, adding leadership of the vehicle dynamics department to his portfolio in Milton Keynes. His title was: Chief Engineer, Performance Engineering.
Despite his route into F1 being less than linear, his decade and a half at the cutting edge of F1 has seen Pierre unquestionably bitten by the bug. "Why do I enjoy F1? Because it's the only place in the world where you have a real engineering competition – and for an engineer, this is wonderful. In a normal industry, the competition is on the business side. You try to sell more, make a better product of course, but you never compare the products like-for-like. Here you have the rules and you try to make the best product out of it. The only limitation is... yourself.
"The technical limitation is the brain – and for me, this is what makes me want to come to work every morning. You don't have to be a driver, or on the pitwall, or working on a pitstop, even back at the factory you are a competitor – and when you have a victory it's... fantastic."
Asked to name the highlight of his career to date, Pierre names the double world championships of 2013. "The first victory I saw was with Robert Kubica in Montreal for BMW. That was a fantastic experience. Obviously, there were plenty of wins with Michelin but it's very different when it's your car!”
At the beginning of last season, in what Team Principal Christian Horner called “part of our evolution,” the position of Technical Director was (re)created, and Pierre was promoted to fill it, moving the versatile Frenchman into the very centre of our technical operation.