Anna Saad: “Being close to everyone builds a stronger community & Haas allows me to have an impact"
Anna Saad has been in her role as a Junior Aerodynamics Engineer at the Haas F1 Team since August 2021. In that time, she’s flourished in a job that has allowed her to grow her engineering skills and make a marked difference in her department.
“My parents are Argentinian and Dutch but I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia,” Anna tells Females in Motorsport over a Teams call.
Last year we spoke to several women of the Haas F1 Team and we are continuing the collaboration this season.
Anna, after completing school, made the bold decision to move to the USA to attend Boston University.
The choice to leave her home country was made easier by her desire to see more of the world and, what’s more, previous graduates of her high school had studied in Boston and Anna had heard good things.
In Saudi Arabia, Anna attended an international school and she was one of the few people who was there from kindergarten to grade 12.
“Most international students come and go and travel a lot,” she says. “So, it was me and a small group of people who have been there the whole time.”
She was taught the American curriculum and then in the last few years switched to the IB, studying high-level maths and physics.
“I was always interested in doing engineering,” Anna says. “It was a pretty cool environment; there was a mix of different people, and different perspectives, which is something I really liked.”
Her attraction to STEM was something she felt from a relatively young age as it was always the class she enjoyed the most.
“The more I studied it, the more I liked what I was learning and I continued to pursue that without really having a sense of what I’d want to end up doing,” she says.
At Boston University, whilst studying for her degree, Anna decided to join the Formula Student team which provided invaluable hands-on experience. For someone who always had an eye on Formula 1, this was the next step toward realising her passion.
From there on in, it was clear. Anna wanted to work with racing cars.
“When I was a freshman, they pretty much had their first-ever car that they were working on,” she says.
“It was just the chassis and that was it…but that’s honestly all I needed. I saw that and something clicked. It was done. I realised what I wanted to do.”
As she progressed through university, her role in the Formula Student team evolved, too.
“In my second year, I was made head of bodywork and aerodynamics,” she says.
“We started making parts of a car out of composite components like fibreglass and then I wanted to extend that to include aerodynamics because from my class I realised that it’s something I really like.”
By the time her university degree had come to an end, Anna had played a key role in the development of the car, being responsible for engineering and operations. The downside? The COVID pandemic hit and they couldn’t go and compete with their machinery.
“The competition that we were doing was Formula Hybrid so the car was fully electric and we were competing at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway,” she says. “Even if in the end we never got to actually compete with the car, it just builds a solid foundation of knowledge that helped me to where I am now.”
Formula Student was so vital because it allowed Anna to put into practice the knowledge she acquired in the classroom.
“My classes gave me a solid structure but doing this type of engineering on a genuine race car, helped me to go that step further, beyond what you are taught,” she says. “It gives you that hands-on experience that you don’t necessarily get in classes.”
With a wealth of extracurricular activity under her belt, Anna jumped at the job at Haas when she saw what was being advertised.
“I’d been following them for a long time and constantly checking the application and the job openings to see what’s going to pop up,” she says. “And, finally, something popped up that I thought I’d be a really good fit for.”
After several rounds of interviews, Anna got offered the position. Based at the team’s Maranello base in northern Italy, she’s been picking up the language and settling into her role well.
“The first couple of days [of a week] and sometimes the weekend, I’ll be working as a Test Engineer in the wind tunnel,” she says. “We run the wind tunnel on the weekend which is why we occasionally have to work those days as well - that just means an eight-to-nine hour shift with the model in the wind tunnel.”
This is exciting for Anna as they get to test a variety of geometries which means different shapes of the car. This can be anything from bodywork and side pods to the front and rear wings.
“It’s reacting to what happens in the moment, so it’s super fast-paced,” she says. “It involves analysing and interpreting data live as we’re doing the tests and reacting and relaying that information back to the aerodynamicists here in the office and then we go through the development cycle in that way.”
For the rest of the week, Anna spends time designing parts for the model car and exactly what that is depends on what geometry they want to test.
One of the elements that drew Anna to Haas was the close-knit community feel the team has. With her Formula Student team also being small, Anna knew she liked to work in environments that give her the chance to learn and grow.
“Haas is quite small and limited in resources, especially when you compare it to other teams,” she says. “I really liked that because it allows me to have more of an impact than I would have in a bigger team.
“I like having these long term goals that help the team. If I can play a larger role, I’d like that. It’s also nice because everyone backs each other up. When you have a small team, it’s less disconnected than maybe some of the bigger teams might be – I’m not sure, I don’t have the experience but being close to everyone, builds a stronger sense of community.”
In the future, Anna wants to continue to grow into her role at Haas, absorbing new knowledge from those around her and seeing her work influence the car.
“I also like the idea of not being stagnant and continuing to grow myself as a professional and this is a good place where I can do that,” she says. “So, if I can continue here - fantastic!”
You can find more information about the current vacancies at Haas here.