As a Structural Design Engineer for Uralkali Haas Formula 1 Team, Elisa Novello analyses and optimises car components to guarantee solutions with minimal weight. In addition, this meets strength and stiffness targets whilst balancing performance, safety and reliability.
That seems complex to the naked eye and rightly so - Elisa has embraced a passion for engineering and taken her joy for the subject down a niche path to end up working in the pinnacle of motorsport.
“Weight means performance and every gram that we save is performance that we gain,” Elisa tells Females in Motorsport. “If you think about a process of the design of a car there’s always the need for structural support from the earliest stage of a concept with the calculations and the preliminary understanding of structure itself.
“We help the designer through the whole process of the car concept and realisation because, before realising, we have to understand and assess the structural integrity of it and we cannot forget that inside the car there’s always a driver and we’re responsible for their safety.”
Having grown up following the Formula 1 coverage on the TV, Elisa would look forward to Sundays when she could cheer the cars on.
“You start looking with interest, curiosity and passion,” she says. “When I had the opportunity to join an F1 team, I just grasped it.”
Based at Haas’ Maranello design office, Elisa’s week begins with taking part in the race debrief to listen to the analysis of the previous race weekend which is led by the Director of Engineering.
“Most of the time I’m busy performing structural analysis with software and calculation methods in order to assess the structural integrity of components,” she says. “I write reports to summarise the outcomes and analyse the proof tests that are carried out, since I work very closely with design and aerodynamic engineers.
“I also participate in working group meetings where all people involved in the design of a particular car component discuss and align with each other about new findings and new developments.”
Elisa’s role varies throughout the year, depending on which stage of car development they’re in. Having just completed the concept phase of the 2022 vehicle, attention is shifting to the next part of the project.
“We’re now moving to the engineering phase,” she says. “So the next month will be crucial and the workload will progressively increase as we must be ready for the first test and the first races.”
A Structural Engineer, Elisa knows that she needs to have a firm grasp of the first principles of mechanics. Additionally, knowledge of material behaviour is also key in “order to understand and model complex systems in the most effective way”.
Elisa’s journey into Formula 1 consisted of hard work and determination. After achieving a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Padova, she decided to undertake a Ph.D. in Mechanics of Materials, developing a project involving the design of tools for fatigue life assessment of composite structures.
Although this in-depth studying aided her understanding of the subject, she doesn’t view it as essential if you want to work in F1.
“Many colleagues don’t have a Ph.D.,” Elisa says. “So for somebody who wants to start this new role, it’s only necessary - as a starting level - to have a degree in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering or automotive.”
Two years ago she joined the Uralkali Haas Formula 1 Team and before that she worked in a laboratory for the resistance material division.
Unlike the UK schooling system, college in Italy - which is where Elisa was born and raised - tends to be broader with pupils studying more subjects than students at A Level.
“I did scientific work and studies at college,” Elisa says. “My mother is a professor of maths so I started being interested at a very, very young age!
“That’s when I developed my interests and why I decided to study mechanical engineering. I was very curious and fascinated to understand how things work and I had a passion for maths and physics as well.”
Elisa adores her role as it allows her to combine creativity with a more analytical process. On the flip side, “the biggest challenge is finding the right balance between the best performance and minimum weight but always ensuring safety and reliability”.
Whatever her job role brings, the most important element in her eyes is to never stop learning and continuously experimenting.
“It’s a vital skill as an engineer to be always curious,” she says. “It really helps you go a long way.”
You can find out more about the careers available at Haas here.
Image is courtesy of Haas.