Meet The Crew: Mahindra Racing Chief Engineer Vinit Patel
Posted on: 17 January, 2017
Calm in the heat of the moment
While we cheer our Formula E drivers on, and the amazing podiums they are racking up this season; let’s not forget the crew working tirelessly in the garage to power them to the front of the pack. Engineers spend sleepless nights analysing heaps of data, and testing settings on the car – getting it ready for the next race. Come race day, they become the ultimate guide for the driver on the track. They are, in fact, the real force behind the wheel.
Today, we meet one such force – Chief Engineer Vinit Patel. Vinit is a mechanical engineer with more than 10 years of experience in track-side motorsport. He has worked in multiple race categories including F3, A1GP and F1 with racing giants such as Lewis Hamilton. Part of the Mahindra Racing family right from season one of Formula E, this avid globetrotter has seen it all. And we asked him for a sneak peek of his exciting career and his work on the team.
How did you get into motorsport?
"I started off by working voluntarily at a team as their data guy and helping the mechanics. It meant racing every weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of my time there they gave me the right references to help me move straight into a full time job in Formula 3 as a race engineer."
"I worked for many years as a freelance race engineer in Formula 3, A1GP, Formula Renault, Formula Renault V6 covering many series all over the world. I then worked in F1 for four years working for Pirelli with Red Bull Racing and Williams."
It meant racing every weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What does a 'Chief Engineer' do during race weekends?
"My responsibility is to look after the entire engineering team. This is made up of two Race Engineers, two Systems Engineers and two Performance Engineers. I have to guide everyone in the right direction and make sure everything is done on time, according to plan. Sometimes, I step in to help when I need to because the schedule is so tight in Formula E."
What's it like between race weekends?
"There's a lot of work to do between races. I am responsible for analysing our own performance in the previous race; assessing the performance of our competitors; looking at the areas where we can improve our set up, pit stops and on-track procedures. I also collaborate with the other engineers on analysis of energy simulation and track simulation where the drivers spend time on the racing simulator."
In conversation with Formula E driver, Quick Nick
How, according to you, does the Formula E series add value to the auto industry?
"The objective of the series is to drive the technology forward. Everyone watching these races, whether in the stands or on TV, can anticipate the very technology we race with, in future road cars. Such cars may be capable of achieving 400-500 km on a single charge."
Everyone watching these races can anticipate the very technology we race with, in future road cars.
What's your favourite thing in motorsport?
"It has to be the teamwork. You always meet really interesting people in this sport. But I also enjoy the competitive side. We are here to beat those around us, but you will still go for a drink after the race with even your biggest rivals."
We are here to beat those around us but you will still go for a drink after the race with even your biggest rivals.
Do you have interests outside motorsport?
"When I'm not working on motorsport projects I focus on running a small property investment company. I'm also a huge cricket fan and love to play football. If I could do one other thing besides motorsport it would be to travel the world endlessly."
What advice would you give to someone with your career aspiration?
"It comes down to one word, persistence. Keep knocking on doors, writing emails, asking people for a break and your opportunity will come. Then, it is up to you to prove yourself.
"It comes down to one word, persistence."
Vinit Patel at the Marrakesh ePrix, 2016
"If you want to work in a position similar to mine, it's useful to have a good engineering degree but dovetail that by getting your hands dirty at races. Volunteer with teams and get some experience. A lot of people come to us who want to do the job but have never seen a racecar before and that doesn’t cut it when you want to work trackside. Get out there, get involved and get educated."
You heard it straight from the horse’s mouth, passioneers. If you're passionate and persistent enough about motorsport, nothing should stop you. We’ll soon be going behind the scenes and talking to other crew members of the Formula E team. Watch this space for more 'Meet the Crew'