I caught up with Dan Milner, engineer at Mercedes AMG Petronas, to talk about how he found himself working for one of the world’s most successful Formula One teams.
‘Lead Engineer at Mercedes AMG F1’. That’s a pretty sweet job title. How did that come about?
It probably sounds more elaborate than it is! A lead engineer is simply a senior engineer who has responsibility for a specific area or sub-function of the car, so there are a number of us reporting in to heads of department.
What are your job responsibilities?
I work within the Powertrain group, which covers a vast range of complex systems these days, hence we split the day management up. I am the lead for Heat Rejection Systems, which covers the design, integration, R&D and lifecycle management of all coolers on the car. F1 cars like to get very hot!
Did you always have an interest in motorsport engineering, especially Formula One?
Encouraged by my uncle really. I became a mad motorsport fan from a very young age. I never got a chance to drive or race but watching was a weekly ritual. Designing F1 cars then became something I aspired to do. I didn’t really give it much thought or believed I would get there until I started university.
How many people work at Brackley?
We are definately what would be termed a ‘big’ team on the grid. I’m not privy to the exact number but it’s more than 600. It’s not just design and engineering – we need all the key functions to operate such as finance, marketing, HR. And like any place of work there are new starters and leavers coming and going.
What does ‘race day’ involve for you back at base?
Race day mostly just brings some nervous viewing from home! We have an excellent and well-drilled race team and factory support; I’d just be in the way. As the designers it is important we keep track of how our systems are operating and keep on top of the data, so over the race weekend I keep in touch and track the progress. Often this means we can get a head start on implementing any solutions for the next race. If you are catching up on the issues on Monday morning you won’t get a fix in place for Friday!
Mercedes are smashing the record books in Formula One at the moment. Is there one achievement that you are particularly proud of? Do you have your eye on one special goal for the 2016 season?
Personally, I feel any success from Mercedes this year could be more meaningful than 2014 and 2015. This is because from the first few races you can already see that the field is bunching and the performance has caught up, particularly Ferrari.
In terms of achievement, nothing will beat 2014 for me. However satisfaction would come from maintaining the momentum as long as possible. Nothing is a given, and if you are not going forwards you’re going backwards – so on we push!