Formula E is the world’s first all-electric championship and since its inaugural season in 2014, the championship has provided drama and action both on-track and off-track.
For those at the heart of the championship, Formula E presents a unique set of challenges with some of the finest minds in motorsport engineering joining forces to create a greener future.
Alex Gonzalez is among these pioneering individuals, working as a Performance Engineer with the Mercedes Benz EQ Formula E team. In this interview with Motorsport Engineer, Alex shares his journey from the world of particle physics to the world of electric motorsport.
“It was challenging to think that within my hobby and passion there was a chance to have a career as part of it”
Please introduce yourself to Motorsport Engineer. What is your history within the motorsport industry?
My name is Alex Gonzalez, I am an American that happens to be born in Mexico. Over the course of my life, I have had the luck to live in different places across the globe due to my education. For university I studied across Mexico, the USA, and the UK.
Currently, I am a Performance Engineer for Mercedes Benz EQ Formula E Team. Before my life in motorsport, I was a nuclear physicist, most significantly, an Experimental Particle Physicist.
What does your role entail?
In my current position, I am responsible for the performance of the car. This involves turning around pre- and post-event data analysis.
Since I am part of a group of Performance Engineers here at Mercedes, my role is as the Test performance engineer and the main DiL (driver in the loop) performance engineer for Gary Paffet. We take care of the pre-event requirements before the races so that the drivers can jump in and prepare for the coming events.
In addition to this, we also complete post-event analysis to understand the outcomes of the races, (and we are always looking for those precious last tenths!).
What is the best part of your role?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a single thing. The job is quite thrilling, I am a lucky individual! I consider myself incredibly lucky to work with a group of really smart, enthusiastic, and hardworking people. Knowing that a very diverse selection of highly driven individuals were also working towards the same purpose was a very satisfying feeling for me.
The highlight so far is probably when we won for the first time as Mercedes in Formula E, achieving a one-two with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck De Vries in the last race of season six in Berlin.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
There wasn’t a Eureka moment or anything like that for me.
In the last year of my PhD studies, I decided to join Campos Racing on a course where they offered hands on experience. Whilst at Campos, I was selected to work in QEV and join the Mahindra Formula E team as a Graduate Engineer and from there, things started to take shape in the motorsports world for me!
How important was education in helping you achieve your professional goals?
For me, there is no question about the importance of education. My educational background was what really enabled me to have a career in motorsport. I was in the right place at the right time and with the proper qualifications. For me, education has been the common denominator in all my successes so far.
Your educational background focuses on Theoretical Physics, when did you know that you wanted to pursue a career within Motorsport instead?
I always felt attracted to the world of Motorsport. Unfortunately, on the other side of the world (where I grew up), career paths in Motorsport were not that popular. So, it was challenging to think that within my hobby and passion, there was a chance to have a career as part of it.
Everything started to roll when I move to England to study, at the end of the day, that is the home of Motorsport, here is no better place to fall in love with the sport than in the UK.
What makes Formula E such a rewarding environment to work in?
I believe that Formula E is at a particularly fascinating point right now, since there are enough people to tackle exciting problems but there are not that many that you need hyper-specialized people.
There is always the joke that if you work in Formula 1 you will be a very good front left wing engineer, in that sense, I think Formula E is different. I believe that there is still room for people to touch various aspects of the car while still being specialized enough in some areas.
Also, there is the obvious reason that Formula E is different, it’s electric, very different in many ways to “normal” formula championships.
What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career so far?
I think the one-two win in Berlin is one that I will remember for many years. However, I am just starting out in my career in Motorsport. I am sure that there is still much more to come. At this point, my position at Mercedes is the most outstanding achievement so far.
What advice would you give to aspiring Engineers?
Preparation is key. I know it can be hard at times, a lot of things in life, and in Motorsport especially, are frustrating.
For things to be right they need to occur in the right place at the right time. But to take those chances, you need to be prepared.
That is what I think is neat from “Motorsport Engineer”. Motorsport Engineer is providing the opportunity for you to get prepared, informed, ready to jump when the right chance appears. Being in the right place at the right moment is nothing if you are not prepared.
Thank you Alex for sharing your story with Motorsport Engineer, we wish you and the Mercedes team the best of luck for the rest of the 2021 season!
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