KANNAPOLIS, N.C. Meet Haas F1 Team's race engineer, Gary Gannon. Gannon works as the race engineer for Romain Grosjean focusing on the setup, operation, and data analysis of Grosjean's car for tests and race weekends.
"I speak to Romain over the radio during sessions and the race to determine car setup and changes, based on driver feedback, analysis, and simulation. We plan our practice sessions and tyre usage, and then I ‘manage’ the car operation during a session, looking after things like timing, traffic, how long to run and when, how to address problems, with the support of the other engineers."
This week, we caught up with Gannon to learn how he got started in motorsports, his advice to aspiring F1 professionals and more.
How did you get started in motorsports?
I started in motor racing working for Honda (HPD) in CART/ IndyCar/ sports cars in the USA. I came to the UK in 2010 to work for one of the previous ‘new’ F1 teams, Virgin/ Marussia. I became aware of the possible Haas F1 Team in 2014, and I was immediately interested in the opportunity to work for a new team with a new model and really strong ownership support (and it is an American team!). A colleague put me in contact with Guenther, and I was fortunate to join Haas F1 Team in March 2015. 2015 was our ‘setup’ year, so I worked with a small group as we put the core elements of the team together ahead of our first season in 2016.
What do you do during the off season?
We are fortunate to have a few weeks off around Christmas after the long season. I spend the time with my wife and children. This year we stayed in England, with a short trip in to London (my son and I went to watch our first proper football match!). I also get to enjoy more ‘normal’ family stuff – taking kids to football/ swimming/ piano/ birthday parties, walking our lovely dog, preparing for the holidays. We recently moved, so we spent much of our time working on the new house and garden/ backyard. I became intimately acquainted with some aggressively sharp English hedging! In summary, I get to do a lot of normal things, away from F1, which means I return in January with a clear head and ready to go again for 21 races and 170 days away from home February through November.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
All the work and effort comes together when Romain gets in to Q3/ the top 10 in qualifying. Everyone works incredibly hard, and the time leading up to qualifying is the most stressful of the weekend, so when we get enough things right and are able to get through, it all feels worth it.
Do you have a favorite track to go to and why?
I enjoy travelling to all the circuits for one reason or another, but my favourite race is Singapore. The night race atmosphere is electric. We stay on UK time so the schedule is strange, leaving you feeling like you have more time than on normal weekends. Our hotel is close to the circuit, so you walk in an out, which I find very peaceful, and it also means we can stay after on Wednesday and Saturday to run laps of the circuit without holding up everyone else in the van. Singapore also has great food from so many different cultures available all times day and night. (These tend to be my non-racing highlights from races – what food I ate, where did I run)
What advice would you give to a new F1 fan?
I would suggest choosing one team or driver to follow, so that you can track their progression through the season, and have a reason to check the results each session and race. I recommend following Haas F1 Team!
What is one thing about your job that fans might not know?
We have 60 operational race team people (the maximum you are allowed by regulation) who are away from home around 180 days per year, all for 30 hours total racing time of our two cars in the entire season. Thankfully we have a curfew on Thursday and Friday nights at the circuit, and we can’t work on the car much after qualifying, otherwise we would work all night!
What advice would you give to someone trying to work in F1?
My best advice would be to take any and all motor racing opportunities you come across, and then work hard, anticipate what will be needed next, listen, and learn from whomever you work with and for on those opportunities. No task should be beneath you. Once you work in enough opportunities and make enough contacts, more and more things will come your way, because people will know they can trust and rely on you, and they will tell others the same about you. For engineering specifically, obviously study hard at university, participate in Formula SAE/ Student or work for a racing team (in a data/ systems/ electronics/ engineering role if possible) to gain experience, and again follow the advice above.