Photo Credit: Formula1.com
The 2022 Formula 1 season is underway and one Northern Irish woman is calling the shots for Aston Martin. Fermanagh’s Bernie Collins is Head of Race Strategy with Aston Martin and will be trying to mastermind the best result in Sakhir for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Canadian Lance Stroll.
Collins is a graduate of Queen’s University and started her career with McLaren, before moving to her current Silverstone-based team in 2015 when they were known as Force India. The position enabled her to rotate every three months to a different department to learn the various roles and requirements within the team. She had the opportunity to work in the design office, vehicle science, systems, and car-build departments. In addition, it exposed her to many people which enabled her to expand her network.
She plays a substantial role model for young girls wanting to work in the sport. Her start at McLaren Racing laid the foundation for her future in motorsports.
Force India Team
Formula One is one of the most prestigious sports in the world. In addition to the many high end sponsors the sport attracts, the technology of the cars is at the forefront of innovation for technological advancement. The Force India team is a relatively a newer team. The team’s origins date back to the early 1990s. Collins role is to create a plan of how the race might play out.
“There are two strategists at the factory,” Collins states. “One for each car. We build up for the race. For example, how many stops there’ll be…is it a one-stop or two stop race? We decide what tires we're going to use. I convey central information about other cars, and for the qualifiers, we plan on what time we think the car should leave, how many laps we’re doing, etc. We also create a driver’s plan. Through the race, we’re constantly adapting because nothing ever goes quite as planned.”
Collins Expertise in Formula One
The week after the race it’s up to Collins and her team to conduct an in-depth analysis, going through the telemetry data received at the track and the Acronis Mission Control Center at the team’s factory in Silverstone, U.K. They analyze what they got right and what their competitors got right.
“In design, everything is very exact,” Collins further states. “Things are drawn to a fraction of a millimeter. However, in strategy, there's a lot more error that you must be willing to accept and a lot more approximation of the numbers that you must be willing to accept. You must change your mindset from having very exact numbers all the time to field average aggregation. During the race you don’t have all the information, so you must approximate.”
With every pivot comes some form of sacrifice. For Collins, she sacrificed time. “Making the transition from the design office to the track site was most difficult,” she concludes. “Doing GT, I gave up 10-weekends a year volunteering. Losing time was the biggest sacrifice, however, those two-to-three years of volunteer time allowed me to gain trackside experience and realize this is what I want to do.”