Pol Sancho Moreno is an engaging and inspiring Senior Stress Engineer with a respectable pedigree within the motorsport industry. In this interview, Pol draws upon his incredible history with teams such as Manor and Renault, providing invaluable insights and advice to those dreaming of a career in Formula One.
I am Pol Sancho, born in lovely Barcelona around 30 years ago! I am currently splitting my time between Oxford (where I have been living for the last 6 years whilst working in F1) and Barcelona (where I am currently doing an EMBA at IESE). It hasn’t been the most relaxed of lifestyles with the current global situation but I can’t complain!
I got my first opportunity in motorsport at Marussia / Manor Racing, during the rebuilding of the team, trying to make a year’s old car legal enough to race with the current regulations.
Unfortunately, the team collapsed on a very cold and sad 6th of January and after a short stint at Force India (now Racing Point) I ended up as a Senior Stress Engineer for Renault F1 Team.
A Passion for Competition
My competitive attitude plus a passion for understanding how things work and how things are made led me to an engineering career in motorsport.
I’ve always been very competitive and always strived to be the best at everything that I do. Even at playing Pétanque, (as a good Renault employee) during some lunchtimes on the sunny days at Enstone!
During my last years of my education in Barcelona, I quickly realized that I loved to compete, so I was part of the MotorStudent team and we actually won!
That completely triggered my love for motorsport and three friends and I decided to create a Moto Racing team with BASS Racing. It was a very small team that designed and manufactured their own pre-moto3 category bike. We learnt a lot about everything motorsport related and we even had to put our lawyer hat from time to time!
During that time, we weren’t aware just how important that adventure would be for our future. In hindsight, every member of the team ended up fulfilling their dreams and ended up working in F1, MotoGP, Ferrari Automotive and Seat.
The Moment of Realisation
8 years ago, there was a specific moment that made me realise my desire to pursue a career in F1.
It was a very sunny day at Calafat Circuit near Barcelona. It was the first test of the first prototype of our newly built BASS Racing motorbike. The atmosphere was very tense, I had very little sleep the previous night making sure that everything was built properly and working correctly, and then, all of a sudden 13 year old Aleix Viu (he actually raced a couple of moto3 world championship races later on) was riding our bike at 200kph down the straight. The feeling of seeing your own machine, that started with a completely blank piece of paper, doing over 200kph and seeing Aleix with a smile saying how good the bike performed, was truly remarkable! I even have goosebumps just writing this!
That was the moment that I knew that I wanted to design and engineer fast things, this, combined with my competitiveness established my goal of one day working within Formula One.
The Path to F1
After graduating with a double Meng in Mechanical design and Automotive engineering from ETSEIB’s UPC, I moved to the UK to study at Oxford Brookes University and complete my MSc in Motorsport engineering. It was not up until the end of the masters that I got (very luckily, I might add) into F1.
For me, those two years of fighting and designing a competition bike were crucial for me to gain enough experience to be noticed during my MSc in Oxford and to be picked by Manor Racing for their team.
Every team is different, at Manor we were a very little team and I was very inexperienced so the challenge with them was huge but motivation within the team was incredible. Looking at the past, it is amazing how much we were doing with such small resources! The team was super-fast to adapt to changes and incredibly flexible in trying hundreds of different radical ideas.
The greatest thing I’ve learnt is that it doesn’t matter if you are fighting for podiums or if you are at the end of the grid, engineering problems are exactly the same, it’s just the tools that you have available to solve are bigger or smaller. But, no matter what your tools, you have to give everything that you can to solve them!
A Career with Renault
Whilst at the other end of the spectrum, at Renault the challenges are completely different. How to extract those little %’s of diminishing returns and try to make that process that has been there for many years slightly better. It’s also about how you can use the old methods alongside new ones to keep staying relevant and to make the team work at its best whilst rowing in the same direction!
The main objective of the Stress department is to provide novel structural solutions to optimize the weight of the car without causing any structural failure.
It is a very exciting and very sacrificed department as you are constantly trying to make things lighter but robust enough that they do not break at the same time!
You need to constantly stay up to date with the innovative complex computer simulation tools and challenge the current status quo to provide innovative solutions that enable the extraction of more car performance.
The best part of my role is ownership. You have the main and sole responsibility to determine if that assembly will work! You decide how parts and components will look, what loads they see, what R&D and testing procedure they should go through for them to be ready to be put into the car, and much more!
You spend long periods of time exploring new opportunities, new potential uses of new materials and new algorithms to optimize the structures even further. There is no better feeling than seeing your parts getting made and assembled.
Performing under pressure is something that most people think they are good at, but it is during those crucial moments where the car has a problem or an overload mid qualifying (or mid race), and it is your call, that the feeling intensifies and it feels great to take decisions that help the team succeed!
The Importance of Education
A deep understanding of first principles will allow you to go back to them at the start of every engineering problem that you face.
All the numerous hours of studying, making projects of concepts that seemed impossible to understand and their real-world application have been absolutely crucial during my career in regards to having the deep technical understanding which allowed me to gain confidence in my decisions.
Knowledge doesn’t take space and everything counts, every single experience counts. I have even found myself using some very elaborate plastic clip snap formulas with Bezier curves to try to optimize a F1 front wishbone! Little did I know when I got given what seemed a very boring project of designing a plastic clip that it would help me in the future!
I have the personal saying that every moment counts, it’s better to give 100% at everything that you do because you’ll never get that time back and you never know when you’ll be able to use that knowledge in the future, so make it count!
There isn’t a single moment or project that I see as the greatest achievement of my career. I see an achievement in the process, in the fact that I keep learning and constantly challenging myself!
However, what made me happiest was when I could see new graduate students joining the team and I got the opportunity to transfer all my knowledge onto them. I loved answering their thousands of questions, taking the graduates back to those first principles and walking them through the mockup car, explaining why every assembly and part was the way it was! But by far, the most fulfilling moments are when you see them grow and start to make good decisions and develop a challenging attitude towards an engineering problem.
Advice to Future Motorsport Engineers
I constantly tell my MBA team that we are in the luckiest position ever. It is truly the best time to try to better yourself.
They really look at me a bit strange when I tell them this on a Saturday morning at 8am after having worked nearly 80 hours the previous week solving business problems until 2am!
But I tell them: Before, you could choose between going out for a nice walk in the sun or stay inside following your dreams. The opportunity cost was huge, nowadays, the environment forces you to follow certain rules that you are not in control of, so let’s make the most of them!
It is just another problem to solve: what is the best thing that you can do with the set of rules that have been given to you and the tools that you currently have?
In everything that you do, Make it count!
To find out more about Pol’s current ventures, visit www.thegpbox.com
Thank you Pol for sharing your invaluable insights and advice with our aspiring engineers!
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