Have you ever wondered what sort of technology goes into Formula One race cars, controlling specific parameters and ensuring the cars and drivers are safely within FIA regulations? Formula One involves plenty of engineering marvels, many of which occur behind the scenes - facilitated by hundreds of devoted motorsport personnel. In 2022, Women In Motorsport Canada had the opportunity to sit down with Emily Andreoli as she shared her passion for motorsport and discussed her role as a Marelli trackside engineer for Formula One.
Emily is responsible for data analysis on Formula One cars for multiple teams, using software that integrates with the 'brain' of the Formula One car and communicates key information that influences each race. With such a complex job, we had to hear about it from Emily herself, all the while getting her insight on being a female engineer in motorsport. The interview was conducted by WIMCanada director Leanne Junnila and MIAC (Motorsport Industry Association of Canada) President Phil Nelles at the 2022 Montreal Grand Prix. Listen by clicking the link, or read below to learn about the data-driven intricacies of Formula One - and don't forget to follow WIMCanada on Instagram and subscribe to the WIMCanada newsletter for upcoming events, news and exclusive interviews with influential women in motorsport!
LJ: My first question is - what’s your job?
EA: I am a mechanical engineer, I studied mechanical engineering because my target was working in motorsport - and now i’m more on the electronic side of the car, because you know, the development of the car is faster in the electronic sector than the mechanical sector. Nowadays, the electronics have plenty of opportunities to grow and to develop new solutions, and maybe sometimes quicker than the mechanical side of the car. So, for Formula One in particular, I work for Marelli, that is my company, it is a worldwide company - we are based in Italy, motorsport is based in a space near Milan. I work with the FIA, helping them in the development of the Marelli products that are on the cars. Basically, my role is to follow the black box that is inside every single Formula One car, ensuring that the device is working correctly, and downloading the data and analyzing the data recorded from the cars. And then, have the FIA analyze data and teams will solve issues, or to check parameters, to ensure that the car is safe, reliable, and is in compliance with the technical regulations. It is quite interesting, because I work with all the teams, and also the FIA, so you know, you have the possibility to see the same problems, the same issue, analyzed from different points of view - because maybe Ferrari adopts a solution and Mercedes adopts another solution, so it’s very interesting.
LJ: What was your educational background? I know you said mechanical engineering…
EA: Yes, in Italy, I studied in Modena.
LJ: Was it a motorsport specific program?
EA: At the time, there was not a specific motorsport program unless for the Formula students that were growing up twenty years ago - but later I focused my studies with many postgraduate courses in motorsport. And now, especially in Modena, Bologna, this region in Italy is called “Motor Valley” because we have sports cars; Ferrari, Maserati, Lanborghini, and motorbikes; like Ducati and Aprillia. In these later years, they are improving the courses, the learning of focusing more on motorsport, more on the racing side, and Modena, the university at that time, there was the automotive special course. I got my first job with Ferrari, the roadside division. So I was working on road cars. Anyway, I felt in the middle of the challenge, the speed, the rush, and so I was super happy, because for an engineer, not only a woman, but also a man engineer, working in Ferrari you say “Wow, it’s a dream come true!” but you feel that was not complete - something was missing. So I decided to do more specific courses, and I started working at Marelli, the factory, and the testing facilities for Formula One components, and after a year I became more and more conscious of my possibilities, and they offered me to come on track, to to follow directly the application track.
LJ: Cool! So, at what point in your life did you know you wanted to work in motorsport? Like, from very young?
EA: Yes, since I was very young. The legend says that my auntie, for my second birthday, gave me a doll - and I started crying! “No, I don’t want a doll!”
LJ: Actually I got one for Christmas and I threw it across the table!
EA: And it’s a strange story because it seems we are crazy, but the passion is something you feel inside, and this does not mean that I’m viewed a masculine woman - I'm just a normal woman! I like dresses, I like makeup, I like talking with other girls, and also, I feel comfortable in a room with all the men sitting at a table with a meeting, talking about technical issues. Usually, when I work, I am focused on what I'm doing, so I don’t feel that I am a ‘woman between men’.
PN: You’re an engineer!
EA: Yes - I'm an engineer! I'm talking with other engineers. And also, from the other side, maybe at first sight one can be a little surprised to find a woman. But with all the guys on the team, the engineers, the mechanics, at every level, relationships are good. So we talk about technical issues, and we joke, and everything is quite smooth - we speak the same language at the end.
LJ: So you said you did some extra courses after your degree. If you were speaking to some young female who wanted to do that, what would you recommend if they wanted to pursue this path?
EA: To never lose hope, because in this world, as I think in all the other sectors, you need to be good, you need to be focused, but you need also to be in the right place at the right moment. Because all the things have to mesh together. And if you're good, if you are focused, but there is not the right condition - there’s nothing to do! You need to be focused and keep your head down and work great - because maybe this year, Ferrari or Mercedes are full with their staff and they don't need nobody. But maybe next year, there’s a possibility. So you need to be focused and never lose hope.
LJ: And where did you take the additional course?
EA: I took these additional courses always in Italy, because I was lucky, so I moved near Modena and they started to implement these courses in the year I was there - there were specific courses near Maranello, but they were not organized by Ferrari.
PN: Were they electrical engineering focused? Or - how did you go from mechanical to electrical?
EA: Just because I was working for Marelli, the idea was electro-mechanical, you know when you study you can choose electronic or mechanical, communication, most of my colleagues are communications engineers. But for example, the guy that wrote the software for my unit, is a chemical engineer! So, it’s an even bigger job than mine, when you start to work, you cannot choose the compartment. It’s a natural mix. Because you need to integrate, for example the fuel pump, that Marelli also provided - I remember when I started -
PN: How long have you been at Marelli?
EA: Since 2006.
PN: Did you ever work in America at all - with IndyCar, or IMSA sports car programs at all?
EA: No, as Marelli we have some stuff in NASCAR cars
PN: Oh, ok - my mechanic goes way back to around 200, we had some Marelli acquisition stuff on the Indy Cars.
EA: Yeah, we put some devices in the NASCAR championship.
PN: Were they for the data recording?
EA: The high speed camera - its a safety camera, that we have also in Formula One, that takes footage of the driver mainly the head and shoulders, and it links the footage with the data recorder
PN: Impacts, that sort of stuff?
EA: Yes, safety and here we also have Formula One, this kind of camera we use to analyze after the race - data of impacts and we use it to study improvement for headrests, or for the hands, the shape of the halo, it's very interesting.
LJ: Are you involved at all in with cameras they use in the World Rally Championship to measure the road temperature during reconnaissance?
EA: No, we also have these kinds of cameras in WRC, but they are always focusing on the driver’s side. And then we have our data logger also in WRC, that collects all the technical data of the car.
PN: And do you supply data loggers to F1?
EA: To F1, yes.
PN: How many different systems do you have in each car?
EA: The car - every car is independent. But the basic system is the same for every car, so everybody is in the same configuration as the other ones.
PN: So when you have to repair, is there any time when you’d need to go and look at their data?
EA: Inside, the hardware is the same - the software is different. Every team has their own software. So, they cannot swap the unit [with] each other.
PN: Does FIA need to see that data? How do they police the sport, in terms of data - from team to team?
EA: From team to team - we grab the data, we have the key to open the data of every team, so we download the data, we analyze the data, we provide raw data to FIA - but we provide also daily reports, actually a session report after each session. We make a report of the main parameters that we need to check - and we provide a quick first look at the situations. Then, if problems, issues, questions, or other tasks arise, we go directly to check into the data and go deeper into investigation.
PN: How often does that happen?
EA: This happens… constantly! *laughter* Because, you start on Friday, putting the new software inside the cars, and checking that everything is working. It’s a static check, because the car is not on track on Thursday.
PN: So, it’s a fresh install of software into the hardware for every event?
EA: Yes. Sometimes it happens more than once per event. For example, we put the new software in on Thursday. Cars go out on Friday, and you see that something is going wrong with the new software - we can make a quick release, basically the software is made beforehand at home with the Marelli guys, and with the FIA. So they work together, each other - and then if the new implements are very big, we can try in a couple of cars. And then, we can go ahead. But sometimes, it happens that for example you have a known situation, or something strange.
PN: So, why do you need to improve this software so frequently? What are you upgrading so frequently?
EA: An easy answer to your question is, for example, the DRS is different from circuit to circuit - so, we change the circuit, we need to change the map inside the car, to let the car know when is the right time to open the rear wing. This one is the reason. The other reason is, for example - the time zone. We are in different time zones, so we need to say to the unit “the data you are recording, now is the 18th of June, and time is 10 in the morning…” otherwise, you will find…
PN: -it’s still in Azerbaijan time?
EA: *laughter* Sometimes this happens!
PN: Wow, so you really have to stay on top of that software!
EA: Or, for example, a unit could have a problem, so teams have their spare, and you’d need to reprogram the spare because the spare is not up to date. So, every time, in order to standardize the operations, you go up and follow all the steps so you are sure that every single unit is in the same configuration. Or maybe when they change the driver - our unit is the name of the car and the name of the driver. So when any FIA asks me for example “Fittipaldi in the HAAS, or Robert Kubica in Alfa Romeo”, one FIA says “please, I need the data from Kubica.”. Okay, I go, I have my list, I can pull that remotely [from] the car, when the car is in the garage, because the connection is through the umbilical cable. Otherwise when the car is outside I have no radio connection, so I need to plug in directly to the car. It’s quite fast. So, if they need the data from Mick Schumacher - “ok, where is Mick Schumacher” but if, the day before, there was another driver - I need to change the name. Or I need to remember that Fittipadli is in the car’s electronics - “oh no…” *laughter*
LJ: That’s so awesome! I don’t want to take up too much of your time-
EA: Oh no, I am happy to share my words with you!
LJ: It’s an honor to meet you - it’s an honor to meet all these women in these amazing jobs, so I wanna see more of that!
PN: Have you met any other Canadians working in Formula One or other motorsport?
EA: Yes, actually - I think that Evan Short, he is the electronical engineer in Mercedes - is from Canada.
PN: But no women?
EA: Women… no, or maybe I’ve met - but I don’t know that they are from Canada.
PN: I don’t think there are any women in Formula One.
EA: We are few women… but in these last two years, I have seen the number of women increasing. Now, more or less, one per team - one engineer per team is a woman, I've found.
PN: It is growing, isn’t it? It’s growing rapidly.
EA: And it started from the garage - technicians, mechanics. I remember, four years ago, the first women I saw in Formula One were tire mechanics. So it was quite weird that these young women, not so big like the guys, with these huge tires, doing pit stops, it was great! And now, going garage by garage I can see that the number of women in motorsport is increasing, most in Formula One.
PN: Same in other disciplines - around the world I think, in WEC, there’s many, in America there’s lots, in IndyCar, maybe not so much NASCAR, but sports car in America informs lots - there’s more and more. So we’ll get more Canadians, too!
EA: Haha, yeah - you need to push! *laughter*
Image credit (first image, Emily Andreoli): FIA World RallyCross Website (2022), https://www.fiaworldrallycross.com/world-rx/news/world-rx/2022/female-focus--telemetry-talk/