Marc Ollé Bernades: F1 Performance Engineer

Marc Ollé Bernades is a skilled engineer with several years of experience within the Motorsport industry. Most recently Marc has worked as a Performance Engineer within the Williams F1 team. In this interview, Marc shares insights from his time in Motorsport in Formula 1 and Formula E whilst providing invaluable advice to those desperate to pursue a career within the industry.

Introduction

I am Marc Ollé Bernades from Barcelona and most recently I have worked as a Performance Engineer with Williams Racing F1 team.

The best part of my role (as a Performance Engineer) is that I am able to do a wide range of tasks, from usual performance engineering duties such as trackside testing, setup, DIL sessions, and performance optimisation to vehicle dynamics activities as simulations, modelling, and development of performance tools to optimise vehicle performance.

Early Opportunities

My first opportunities within motorsport occurred after the successful year I had in Formula Student early in 2011 where I had the chance not only to design, analyse and simulate but also to do trackside testing and lathe/mill machining. This experience was a boost at a time when I had little experience as an engineer. In fact with Formula Student and the success we had winning the main championships that year, with the MSc and MEng completed, I had several opportunities to join F1 teams. However, at that time I put everything in the balance and I decided to come back home as I had an opportunity to join IDIADA

I then spent a few years in the automotive industry. Firstly with an Internship at Volvo in the Manual transmission and Vehicle Dynamics departments followed by another three years working as a Project Engineer in the Performance and driveability department in IDIADA. Finally, I worked as a development engineer in McLaren.

Eventually, I moved permanently to the UK to be involved in the motorsport sector. Firstly I worked as a Race and Vehicle Dynamics Engineer in a GT team whilst I was completing and undertaking an MSc in Motorsport in Oxford. This was followed by a position as a vehicle dynamics and simulation engineer with Mahindra Racing in the Formula E series. Finally, I entered F1 as a Performance Engineer with the Williams F1 team, where I did performance and vehicle dynamics duties for three years.

Experience across different championships

F1, Formula E, and GT are quite similar in terms of how as an engineer you study, develop, and analyse different aspects of the car. The main difference is the budget that each category has, the number of people working as part of a team, and of course the regulations. Obviously, F1 is the championship where most of the ‘know-how’ and the highest level of technology sits, and therefore the category that as an engineer you have the chance to see the most sophisticated developments of motorsport engineering. You are always surrounded by really talented engineers.

My background has been mostly related to vehicle dynamics, hence, when I jumped into Formula E, the way models, analysis, and simulations were done was close to what you can get in Formula 1. Actually, Formula E is becoming more “opened” allowing the engineers every year to design and develop more elements of the car, it is an evolving series with a promising future, making it a good place to be as an engineer.

One of the nicest things as an engineer within a small team is that you can work within a wide range of areas, from aero to vehicle dynamics, to data analysis, trackside, etc. For example, my time in a small GT team, I did all the modelling of the front and rear suspension in order to optimise the ride to achieve the best possible performance (followed by a 4-post rig validation), I was also involved on setup preparation for races, data analysis after tests and finally vehicle model development for lap time simulations. Hence, this gives a great scope as an engineer that then can help you to interact quicker within F1 for example.

A team in change

My proudest memories during my time at Williams are the considerable amount of things I have been able to do and learn whilst at the team. I was lucky as I had the opportunity to work with different aspects of the car, vehicle dynamics simulations, modelling and analysis, development of different tools to optimise car performance, and also link simulation and data, setup optimization, DIL sessions, trackside duties, and operations support.

Obviously, it is an honour having worked for Frank Williams. As an F1 engineer, working in any of the historic teams is a pride. An, even more, having known him in person!

The importance of education

It was even before I started studying, that I knew at one time I wanted to be an F1 engineer. I had always been impressed by the high level of technology that F1 has, and from that point onwards I mostly focused my studies towards automotive/motorsport related fields.

Studying in three different universities in three different countries has given me a great scope of different methodologies which helped me to grow up as an engineer. Definitely, my main degree at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia gave me the strongest science background which I was able to use later to better understand all aspects related to other subjects. However, it has to be said that the fact I also studied a second MSc, in this case, in Motorsport Engineering in one of the most worldwide known universities for this field (Oxford Brookes) yielded additional potential in regards to my education, especially for opportunities in Formula 1.

The advantage of studying abroad and in multiple places is also an asset that is currently considered in the place of getting employment, not only for your professional career ambitions but also for the transferrable skills gained.

Advice for the next generation

My main advice is to try to learn as much as possible, the opportunity will always come if things are done properly. There is not a unique way to get to F1, different paths are proven to work, from Formula Student to Motorsport Engineering MSc in a known university, to experience in small categories. For sure, my recommendation is to do as much as possible, Formula Student will be highly appreciated, but if you also have an MSc Motorsport, or studied in abroad, or a second MSc, this can make the difference amongst the current tough competitions of really talented students and engineers. Hence, fight and build a good base and you will be rewarded sooner or later.

Nowadays, the situation is challenging worldwide, hence don’t be obsessed about not getting an opportunity, they will arise, but at a lower rate than you were used to. However, I would advise not only to focus on F1 as the only “high tech” industry but also to investigate different opportunities in other great engineering industries!

A massive thank you to Marc for sharing his wealth of knowledge and advice with the Motorsport Engineers Network!