Exclusive: A day in the life of the man who keeps Ferrari on track

As Race Director for Formula 1’s most famous team, Laurent Mekies has provided an insight into his role at Ferrari and the challenges he faces.

Since joining in 2018, Mekies has been part of the team that put Ferrari back in contention for victory this season.

During his time in Formula 1, the 45-year-old Frenchman’s position has evolved from a technical and technical position to a higher-level sporting role and Mekies explains what this means for his day-to-day work at Ferrari.

“My job is to make sure our racing team has what it needs to function at its best,” Mekies summed up RacingNews365.com.

“The race team is made up of many different departments, the technical and the non-technical come together, become one race team and then travel around the world.

“Between races they go back to the factory to get the little tweaks for the next race and our job is to make sure we not only have the best environment for these guys here, but for everyone our processes make us work as efficiently as possible.

“[We want] every talent we have here [to be] express ourselves because we do it in a way that gives us a competitive advantage.”

Technique to athletic roles a “natural transition”

Mekie’s involvement in the ‘sporting’, non-technical side of Formula 1 is a somewhat unconventional career path for someone who has a mechanical engineering degree and has worked in engineering roles for years.

While accepting that he did not follow a typical career path, Mekies believed that the technical and sporting roles required similar qualities and cited other examples of successful athletic directors with a technical background.

“Although you might see that there aren’t that many examples, it’s quite a natural change because today’s sport is all one, you’re used to dealing with regulations on the technical side, so it’s quite a natural change.” , added Mekies .

“There was Sam Michael (ex-Williams and McLaren), there was Alan Permane at Alpine and indeed my role has evolved now.

“I’m a race director and [Head of Race Strategy] Inaki Rueda is now a member of the athletic advisory board. He’s the guy who represents us there and organizes sporting events and he also has an engineering background.

“It’s about being involved, trying, learning, trying to contribute to the sport we love and being able to do that on different parts of the wall is fantastic.”

© RN365/Michael Potts

© RN365/Michael Potts

Mekies: Budget cap a massive rest

When asked about the biggest challenges he and Ferrari face, Mekies acknowledged that the introduction of a budget cap was one of the biggest factors for Scuderia, which has historically had one of the biggest budgets on the grid.

He added that he believes the biggest issue is making sure every team stays within the rules, considering the budget cap is constantly evolving.

“Yes, the level of restrictions is enormous,” admitted Mekies.

“It’s not done because, as you know, there are different steps in the budget cap and then you also have the new cars that came into the equation.

“I think that’s the beginning of the adventure because the real discussion isn’t about the cost cap numbers or how much [it] increases, or if it increases with inflation or plan cuts.

“There is one key factor: policing. For us as a sport it has taken years and years and years and decades for the regulations to mature and you have something that puts massive restrictions on the top teams.

“So the level of policing that you have to have is extremely high.”

The troubles behind an expanding F1 calendar

One of the pressures on a sporting director is the increasing organizational challenges of an ever-expanding calendar, which is expected to grow to a record 24 races in 2023.

Alongside the logistical issues this poses, Mekies stressed the importance of staff welfare and suggested that teams should increase their staff rotation between events.

“That’s also a big challenge,” adds Mekies.

“Yes the calendar is expanding because there is a fantastic attraction to F1 right now, [with] new attractions [and a] new audience. That’s great for the sport and we’re all glad that’s the case.

“We’re in an organization where we put people at the heart of the project, so we want to make sure our employees have the right working conditions.

“It’s a job that we do hand in hand with the other teams, with the FIA, in these sports forums, so the race weekend itself becomes a little less tiring for people because they have more to contend with racing.

“Our people will do more weekends, but the weekend itself will be easier than it was a few years ago when there was no parc ferme. You could stay here until four in the morning.

“It’s up to each team to implement a rotation system in their roster – or not – depending on whether they feel it’s competitive enough for the team or not. We are also investigating these aspects.”

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