“Formula E is like a technology lab”
Growing up, Team and Logistics Manager for Venturi Formula E Team Delphine Biscaye never considered working in motorsport. She explains how not taking ‘no’ for an answer led her to an unlikely career path, and why it is so important for young girls to have female role models in engineering and science.
Unlike many of her peers at Venturi Formula E Team, Delphine Biscaye’s childhood was not steeped in a passion for racing. “My parents never watched any races; my two brothers didn’t follow Formula One. It was not part of my environment growing up,” she explains. In fact, the first time she ever considered motorsport as a potential career choice was during a university interview in which she was asked why she was studying mechanical engineering and what she wanted to do with her degree. Forced to come up with a suitable response on the spot, the first thing that came to her mind was motorsport – in part because she was surrounded by male mechanical engineering classmates who owned motorbikes. The interviewer’s response? “You know, there are very few spots in motorsport, and even fewer women there. You better choose something else.” Delphine’s reaction? “That’s it; motorsport is exactly what I’m going to do!”
In a sense, being told ‘no’ gave her that additional motivation to pursue a career in motorsport. “If they hadn’t said any of those things, maybe I wouldn’t be here. But because they challenged me simply because I was a woman, I knew I had to try it. And that’s why I think it’s very important to show little girls that this racing world exists and that they can be a part of it.”
From Formula One to Formula E
Once her interest in motorsport was sparked, Delphine’s first job out of university took her to British Formula One team Williams, where she was a research and development engineer. She primarily worked on electric, rather than gas engines, and focused on improving efficiency in the kinetic energy recovery System (KERS), which recovers energy from the brakes and feeds it back to the battery. When she was ready to move on, Monaco-based Venturi and its exclusive focus on electric vehicles turned out to be a natural fit.
But for Delphine, the greatest appeal of working in a small Formula E team like Venturi is the exposure she gets to all areas of racing, which keeps her job interesting. “When you’re an engineer in Formula One, you are responsible for a small part of the car. So if you’re working on suspension, that’s all you work on. If you’re working on brakes, that’s all you do.” Plus, she gets to spend more time at the track, rather than being hidden away in a design office.
The human connection
Over the years, Delphine has gradually shifted away from pure engineering towards project management and logistics. In her current role, she manages the mechanics, oversees the team’s travel schedules, plans team briefings, coordinates the freight transport and delivery of Venturi’s race cars, and is the communications liaison between Venturi, the other teams, and the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). Though Delphine enjoys the technical elements of her job, she says the most fascinating aspect is the human contact she has with her team and the Formula E community at large. “Over a period of five days, you spend more than twelve hours per day living and travelling with about 30 people on your team. So you get to know each other well and you begin to understand how other people will react in certain situations. And you also learn a lot about yourself!”
Women in motorsport
When she first started working in Formula E, Delphine says most of the women worked in marketing and communications. But over the years, more engineers, systems engineers and mechanics have gradually joined the ranks of women in technical roles at Formula E. Season Five also saw the appointment of Susie Wolff as team principal at Venturi. After years of being the only woman in a leadership role and focusing on building up a cohesive team unit, Delphine was happy to welcome Susie into the fold. “Women tend to be more concerned about ensuring that everyone is satisfied in their job and we tend to be more open to new ideas. So I’m happy that we’re both on the same page, and I know I can rely on her and she can rely on me.” Delphine also points out that Susie brings years of experience as a racing driver, which is incredibly valuable for the team. But most importantly, “by being here in these positions, we’re promoting women in engineering and motorsport, and perhaps we can inspire more young girls to study engineering.”
Beyond the racetrack
Like many of her colleagues in Formula E, Delphine finds fulfilment in being part of a racing series with a higher purpose: “Formula E is like a technology lab. Every year, we push the limit of what electric vehicles can do, helping to develop the technology for road cars.” Beyond the racetrack, Delphine also had the opportunity to work on an equally exciting project: Venturi’s electric polar exploration vehicle. Designed to operate in sub-zero temperatures, this prototype will help scientists in Antarctica collect samples and conduct climate change research without polluting their delicate surroundings. “It’s a fun project because we’re helping the scientific community and we’re showing that electric vehicles can go where no gasoline engine can go. With Formula E, we show the world that electric vehicles can be competitive in terms of reliability and performance. And with our Antarctica project, we show that electric vehicles can withstand extreme conditions.”
Formula E people
Every racing driver will tell you that it takes an entire team to make sure he and his car are ready to hit the track on race day. The same is true of Formula E. We take you behind the scenes to meet the engineers, mechanics, team managers, logistics coordinators, track engineers, PR managers – and many more – who make it possible to race in over ten city circuits each season.