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Pierre Wache, Red Bull Racing's secret weapon: 'No excuses for losing'

Published on 13 February 2024 by FORMULE 1 Magazine

This article previously appeared in FORMULE 1 Magazine, on pole for thirty years! For more news on Max Verstappen and Formula 1, visit
Author: Frank Woestenburg

After the last race in Abu Dhabi draws an intensive season to a close, it is not only the drivers who are queueing up for the holidays – it is the team personnel too. Pierre Waché, the French technical director of Oracle Red Bull Racing, is no exception. He longs for the freshly made pastries of the French bakeries and his home in Oxford.

A sit down with Waché is paired with a large smile. The 48-year-old is deathly serious about his work in Formula 1, but when it’s about his mastery of the English language he likes to poke fun at himself. His accent is reminiscent of the cafe owner René from the acclaimed comedy show Allo Allo from the ‘80s and ‘90s featuring the famous one-liners: ‘Listen carefully, I shall only say this once…’ “People can at least hear that I’m French”, Pierre jokes.

A biomechanics graduate with a passion for motorsports, after completing university in France (Institut National Polytechnique De Lorraine in Nancy) and the United States (Georgia Tech, Atlanta), Waché joined Michelin in 2001, then Formula 1’s tyre supplier. With an intermediary step at BMW-Sauber, he eventually found his way to Red Bull Racing in 2013. First, he occupied the position of chief engineer, and since 2018 he is technical director. On a technical level, this puts him second in the chain of command, just behind master designer Adrian Newey.

For Waché, the Red Bull Technology Campus in Milton Keynes was a completely different world from what he used to know. "It goes without saying that Michelin is not a racing team, but a tyre manufacturer. That means a totally different dynamic. At Michelin it was all about product development and then sales. A lot of money was invested in medium and long-term projects. At Red Bull the focus is mainly on winning races, which is very short-term. I'm very competitive, that's why I love Formula 1 so much. It's the only place in the world where you have technical competition, and for an engineer that's great."

French Bakery
The culture shock also entailed an adjustment period, Waché admitted. “A Frenchman in the United Kingdom, that calls for certain adjustments, yes.” The food, for one. “We have in Oxford, where we live, a really beautiful French bakery, but it still tastes different.”

“Before England, we lived in Switzerland. Our three children spoke German. The move for them was a huge change. They’ve become completely integrated and speak fluent English, as far as I am concerned. At the very least they don’t have my accent. Living in another country has, in my case, not just a big impact on my personal life, but also on my work. You have to try to express yourself in a different language. Especially if it concerns details, that can be a handicap: it’s just more difficult to convey subtleties, especially if you’re talking about complicated technical issues. That takes time.”

Then there is the performance pressure from working for a top team. “The work at Red Bull is fundamentally not so different to Sauber-BMW, but the goal is. This impacts the atmosphere and people around you. At Sauber I worked with good people, but we didn’t have the resources that we do have at Red Bull. Then, we tried to do the most with what we had at our disposal. At Red Bull we, in theory, have everything we need, so there are no excuses for losing.”

According to Waché, this makes the pressure higher, and more personal. “At least for me. I am a perfectionist. Technical people are very strict. At our level it’s not only important to strive towards unreachable perfection, but attention to detail. Because that is what’s ultimately making the difference. In our line of work, if a car is 1% slower than another car, it’s a bad car, which is bizarre when you think about it.”

In that respect, Waché and his team of some 300 engineers and 300 production personnel have delivered sound work. Verstappen won nineteen out of 22 races this season, Sergio Pérez won two. Never has a team been so dominant. Waché was surprised by the success.

“We did good work, that much is clear. Not only last season, but in pre-season testing, we did everything in our power to deliver with this car. We worked hard, we did our best, our duty if you will, but I had expected the other teams to be a lot closer to us than they ended up being. We didn’t discover a miracle cure, we just developed a good car, as was expected of us. I think that if you see how some teams have recovered throughout the season, they didn’t get the most out of the regulations. That did surprise me.”

Waché asked himself the question of whether or not it was the RB19 or Max Verstappen that was so good. He argues: “Developing a fast car is a concept, it doesn’t actually exist. A fast car is a car that the driver can get the maximum out of. In that sense, we failed, because only one driver, Max in this case, could drive well in the car. That is Max’s talent, that he could get the most out of the car, no matter the circumstances. On the other hand, we didn’t clearly understand what Checo needed to push the RB19 to its highest potential.”

“But whether this year's success is mainly down to Max or whether it's the car after all? I think you need both. The more talent the driver has, the better the car performs. Because then the talent and the car come together. As you make a car easier to drive, you reduce its potential. Believe me, if I drove this car myself, not only would I be slow, I would crash."

Waché says he feels privileged to work so closely with Adrian Newey. “Without him, I would not have been at Red Bull. He is the man who got me here. I have since my arrival learned an enormous amount from him. How we work together has evolved over the years. He also does not devote his full time to the Formula 1 project anymore, which means I have more room to maneuver. And Adrian is a very competitive person. He never gives up. In many ways, he is a source of inspiration to me. His motivation and dedication are impressive, especially when you consider what he has already achieved. Every day he still challenges you to make things even better.”

In this respect they are very similar, Waché believes. With a bad result, he loses sleep. But also with a good result. Laughing: “I never sleep.” Then: “This job takes a great deal of your life. It’s always in my mind, also because I work with a very good team. We challenge each other. That means that when you go to bed, you’re still thinking about the things that were said. And the work environment is unheard-of competitive. We want to be better than all the others. We aren’t drivers, but for us too, this work is an extreme sport.”

Waché seems satisfied with his role as technical director. He operates best out of the spotlight, as Red Bull’s secret weapon. “The work that I do now, is work I enjoy. And if you have something you enjoy, you don’t want to give it away.” Even if it was an annus horribilis, he says. Especially at the end of the season, the fatigue really starts to set in. Time to slow down? Only for a minute. Waché: “The work is never finished. We won so much in 2023, but we want to do that in 2024 too.”

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