Pat Fry, Chief Technical Officer, BWT Alpine F1 Team:
Pat joined BWT Alpine F1 Team in February 2020 as Chassis Technical Director before moving the Chief Technical Officer in February 2022, overseeing all technical activities in Enstone. He is responsible for setting the performance target of the car, defining the technical capabilities and competencies needed and identifying future technologies and disruptors. He will ultimately arbitrate on major performance trade-offs and risks, and set the long-term development strategy to maximise performance within the constraints of the cost cap.
Born in Surrey, United Kingdom, Pat has extensive experience in Formula 1 having worked for McLaren, Ferrari, Manor and Benetton since entering into a career in the sport in 1987. He first began at Benetton in the team’s Research and Development Department in Witney working on active suspension systems. After working on the Test Team for a short period, Pat’s first racing trackside role was working as a Race Engineer to Martin Brundle in 1992.
In 1993, he moved to McLaren where he would remain for 17 years, contributing to 66 Grand Prix victories, one Constructors’ Championship and three Drivers’ Championships. Pat held a number of roles at the Woking-based team beginning on the Test Team before stints as Race Engineer to Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard. He later took on a role overseeing both teams’ race cars and he was then promoted to Chief Engineer of Race Development where he played a seminal role in the success of the McLaren race team.
A move to Ferrari followed in July 2010, bringing to a close his 17 years at McLaren. He started as Assistant Technical Director and later Head of Race Track Engineering. Pat continued in leadership positions at Maranello including Director of Chassis and Director of Engineering.
He left Ferrari in December 2014 but returned to Formula 1 in 2016 as Manor Racing’s Engineering Consultant. Pat then returned to McLaren in 2018 on a temporary contract as Engineering Director, aiding the team to its best Championship finish since 2012 with fourth place.
How big are the rule changes ahead of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship?
Quite simply, it’s a massive overhaul of the technical regulations for this year, which Formula 1 have been working on for five years or more now. I’ve seen a number of big rule changes in my Formula 1 career and this one are certainly up there in terms of its complexity and how restrictive the regulations are. When I first started in Formula 1 the rule book was relatively short and now it’s very extensive! The main concept of the change is to make overtaking easier and allow cars to run closer together, though, the complexity of the rules does heavily restrict what we can do aerodynamically. It’s going to be interesting to see the 10 different versions of the cars as each team brings their own interpretation to the track. Of course, there is always an opportunity to get these things right, or wrong, so it will be intriguing to see what our rivals have come up with.
How has the team approached these rule changes in designing and developing the A522?
With any set of rules, it starts with a clean sheet of paper. Our job is to dig into the wording of what each rule means and then see how we can exploit that within what is legal. The more people you have, the more ideas you can generate and the more ground you can cover. Rule changes are always exciting from a design point of view, but you have to remain sensible and realistic. Performance in Formula 1 comes down to three things: the people, the tools they have to work with and the methodologies. We know this set of rules is quite restrictive. We’ve done the best we can and everyone in the team has done a great job. We’ll keep improving the aforementioned three core pillars and the aim is to keep moving forwards.
What have been the main challenges in preparation for this season?
In terms of the car, the key area for this year for every team is getting the most from the floor as it needs to work very close to the ground and, at the same time, you need to get the cleanest possible airflow to the rear of the car. There’s also been a huge amount of work at Viry to produce a completely new power unit for this year before its specification gets homologated through to the end of 2025.
In addition, close collaboration between Viry and Enstone on packaging the power unit has allowed us some extra freedom in shaping the rest of the car and better exploiting the latest technical regulations. Keeping the car to the weight limit is always a challenge, made especially difficult this year with the large increase in the chassis load tests for safety, which are, of course, for very good reason. There’s also the financial regulations and the cost cap to contend with and that presents a number of ideas and strategies for car development, which we’re looking to capitalise on.
How similar will the 2022 Formula 1 cars be to one another?
I strongly expect there to be many differences between the cars, especially at first when we see for the very first time how we’ve all interpreted the rule book. Some parts are fairly set such as the rear wing and the front wing. I’m sure there will be some interesting concepts that we’ll see from other teams, which we’ll assess back at base after the tests and, equally, that will work vice versa. The intrigue is all part of the excitement when you roll out of the garage for the first time at testing. Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing the A522 on track and seeing all the hard work at Enstone and Viry over the last couple of years come to fruition.