Unlike the hyper-specific world of engineers, Garage Technicians are expert adapters, getting involved with a bit of everything to help the team run through a race weekend. This flexibility and diversity makes the role an interesting and varied one, and to find out more we spoke to Haas F1 Team’s Marek Smrek to see what it takes and how to become one.
What is your role?
I am a Garage Technician for Haas F1 Team and I also look after Nikita Mazepin’s tyres. This involves prepping the tyres, the wheels and setting everything up ready for the race weekend. I also support in building the garage.
How do you become a Garage Technician?
Take your opportunity and send your CV in. I have 15 years of experience with different racing teams, different cars and different championships. I’ve also done a lot of different roles – from tyres, to fuel and air, and being a Garage Technician.
What qualifications do you need?
It’s difficult to say because it’s not as easy as just going to school and saying you want to be a Garage Technician, because people in those roles do pretty much everything. I would say you have to learn your skill by experience. The way I did that was from starting with lower championships and then moving up the categories. That’s where you learn good ideas and the higher up the ladder you go, you can then use them.
Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
What should you study in school?
Learning how to become a mechanic would help and staying in school for as long you can to learn what you want to do in life is best. I can only speak for myself and I started as a mechanic after school.
What other skills are useful?
You need to have an OCD about how to do things properly. Especially in Formula 1, everything should be at the highest level and exactly as it should be. In terms of skills, I’m pretty sure that 99% of mechanics have the same. They fix, they look after and make sure everything works properly.
You need to adapt yourself to a situation pretty quickly sometimes and often you are learning as you are doing. You may be asked, ‘can you just do this…’ and you may have not done it before, but you get on with it. I have the ability to be able to look at something and know if it’s right, or not right – and I try to do everything to 101% of my ability.
How can I get work experience?
I would always suggest to get experience from approaching younger, lower formula and look to help a team. I worked with a few young people from college, who didn’t even want to be paid, they just wanted to be in motorsport and see how it works. Now, years later, some are working for top teams as all they needed was direction and support, and I still keep in touch with them.
You literally need to start from the beginning and listen to what people are telling you, especially experienced people. It’s never bad to listen because someone may have a great idea, but you won’t know until you listen.
Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21, Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Do you get to go to races?
Yes, which is perfectly fine for me because as soon as you start doing them, you can’t live without them. You can’t just go and say I’m not doing it this year. You can miss one or two and after, feel like you really need to go back.
What does a day at work look like for you?
There are a few different days. You come in and build the garage and make sure everything is ready and you build this before the mechanics come into the circuit. You prep your tyres, prep your wheels, wrap them up and stick them on the stacks and make sure everything works correctly – all your programmes are correct. When you’re running the cars, you need to make sure you’re 100% focused. The wheels go on the car the correct way and everything around that works. You have to cooperate with engineers, and we have a lot of them! Everyone has ideas and you will have a lot of people coming to you. You are that link between engineers and the tyres on the car. Although hours vary, you stay until the job is done and every day is always busy.
Do you have a role within pitstops?
I don’t because I look after the tyres, making sure they’re all the correct sets for the pitstops and at the correct pressures. There are so many changes for the race which are needed for the tyres in real-time from engineers.