We Spoke To A PETRONAS Engineer On What It's Like To Work Behind-The-Scene Of An F1 Team
"Not everyone gets a chance to experience working with a World Champion team."
Most of the time, when we see the finished product or a winning team… that’s all we see
But the fact is, there are often many people behind-the-scene who make things possible. We spoke to an engineer who works with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Motorsport team, to find out what it really takes to be five-time World Champions!
31-year old Ahmad Nasri Mohd Shafie is a PETRONAS Trackside Fluid Engineer and was inspired to get into the field as a young child
The eldest of three, this Penang boy lists coffee brewing, coffee tasting, and reading as his hobbies. Growing up, he had an affinity for mathematics and science, and inspired by his father who is an avid Formula 1 fan, Nasri was naturally drawn to the field of engineering.
During high school, PETRONAS invited students to watch the Formula 1 race live at the Sepang Circuit. "It was such an exhilarating experience," recalls Nasri, who would later be offered an Education Sponsorship by PETRONAS to further his studies in Australia, and subsequently joined the company upon graduation.
As a trackside engineer, Nasri looks after the products that are supplied to Mercedes and other customer teams
This includes the fuel, PETRONAS Primax, PETRONAS Syntium lubricant, and PETRONAS Tutela functional fluids.
Nasri's responsibilities include analysing the fuel using the gas chromatograph to ensure consistency and look for contaminants. Together with his team, he also analyses engine and gear oils to determine the amount of wear metals after each session, thus indicating the health of the engine and gearbox.
Similar to how blood samples are used to determine the health of a human being, oil samples are used to determine the health of an engine and the power unit’s moving parts.
His work helps detect problems with the engine or gearbox, and prevents any kind of failure before the race.
Ever wondered what a "normal" work day looks like for a Formula 1 trackside team? Here's a typical race week for Nasri:
Tuesday: Set-up the mobile laboratory for fuel and oil analysis. Then, proceed to sample each race fuel and oil drum.
Wednesday: Analyse fuel samples from the fuel rigs (fuel pumps) once fuel is filled into the rigs.
Thursday: Analyse fuel and oil samples from the cars after first fire-up (the ignition after the car is assembled).
Friday: Analyse oil samples after Free Practice 1 (FP1) and Free Practice 2 (FP2). Post FP2, the gearbox and engine would be disassembled, and then reassembled for Free Practice 3 (FP3) and the Qualifying round. Another analysis is done on the fire-up oil samples once the car has been reassembled. In addition, we would also analyse fuel samples from the fuel rigs before Qualifying.
Saturday: Analyse oil samples after FP3, before and after Qualifying.
Sunday: Analyse oil samples from the power unit before and after the race, as well as fuel samples from the fuel rigs before the race. After all analysis have been completed, we would then continue to pack-up the laboratory for the next race.
But all that hard work definitely pays off every time the team wins
"This year started off quite tough as the team only managed to secure its first win in the fourth race of the season, in Azerbaijan," Nasri reflected. "However, it was a bit bittersweet considering we did not manage to get a 1-2 result as the race leader at the time, Valterri Bottas had to retire with a puncture."
"Another precious experience is when I get to explain to visitors to the team’s garage that PETRONAS supplies fuels and lubricants to Formula 1 five-time World Champions. There exists a certain pride especially being a PETRONAS employee and a Malaysian."
What does Nasri love most about his job?
The focus, commitment, and professionalism of the whole team. Day-in and day-out, for 17 hours on some days, we have to be at the top of our game and keep our levels there until the end. It sounds tiring but the experience is special as not everybody gets this opportunity.
Nasri adds that everyone on the team carries their weight, taking their responsibilities seriously and always giving their best to ensure the team's success. At the end of the day, the people he works with have big hearts. Despite the challenging environment, everyone is open and willing to share their experiences.
Of course, there are loads of fun perks to the job too! Nasri is grateful for the opportunity to travel to new countries and experience new cultures.
On the downside, Nasri lists time away from his family and long travels as the biggest challenges
"The team members need to adjust quickly to the time difference and location-specific challenges that affect health and safety. I always ensure I get enough rest, eat well and stay alert," says Nasri.
Meanwhile, the greatest misconception he faces is that many people think PETRONAS is merely a title sponsor and nothing more
"The product that we supply is the result of our own Research and Development. The lessons that we learnt in Formula 1 are then translated in the development of products that we create for vehicles on the road," explains Nasri.
Aside from winning races, Nasri measures success by the appreciation shown towards what he does at the track and the willingness to listen to his team's input when it matters most
He adds that it is also reflected in the interest and engagement shown when he tells the PETRONAS story to those who visit the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Motorsport garage.
Win or lose, Nasri says the team will always congratulate each other at the end of every race. It keeps them motivated even in the most difficult of situations.
So, what's next for the Silver Arrows?
"We aim to improve the ability to protect the engines from wear in our PETRONAS Syntium this year, because the regulation only allows 3 engines per driver throughout the 21-race season. That means every engine has to last about 5000km under race conditions. The performance target is to stay ahead of the competition so we always strive to outperform our competitors, which is what being in F1 is all about."
At the end of the day, Nasri is grateful for the opportunity to be part of a five-time world championship winning team
"Not everyone gets a chance to experience working with a World Champion team," he says. "I hope for success in my pursuits and will share the knowledge and experience gained throughout this journey with Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Motorsport, with my colleagues in PETRONAS and with Malaysians at large."
Nasri hopes that other young Malaysians will be inspired to enter the field of motorsports and do the country proud in the international arena.
Interested to find out how you can be part of the PETRONAS team? Find out more here