#DrivenBy: Dennis Nägele
Every driver enjoys a very special relationship with his race engineer. He is one of the most important points of reference for a driver at the racetrack. Dennis Nägele (30) has been doing this challenging and demanding job for six years now, working with Robert Wickens and Daniel Juncadella. Dennis won the FIA GT World Cup as engineer to Maro Engel in 2015. The pair of them will now join forces again for the 2017 season when he will look after Maro's Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM bearing start number #63.
Dennis, what do you enjoy most about your job as a race engineer?
Dennis Nägele: I like the varied nature of my job best. We have a lot of different tasks to fulfil and work with a lot of very different characters. I really enjoy juggling all of these various things. However, it's also very important to be able to deal with pressure.
What do motor racing and the Mercedes AMG Motorsport DTM Team mean to you?
Dennis Nägele: They mean a lot to me since turning my hobby into a job. We spend a lot of time together, in our spare time too, we travel around together and drink a beer or two together in the evenings, which engenders very close friendships. The team is the next big thing in my life after my family. I like to go snowboarding in the winter and play handball in a club in order to switch off from work a little bit. What's more, I've got my captain's licence to pilot boats on all kinds of waters. When I've got the time, I borrow my father's boat and sail the coast off Croatia.
When does a new season start for you?
Dennis Nägele: As people so aptly like to say, the season never ends. After the finale in Hockenheim, we usually then have a couple of weeks, during which we review and revisit the season. After that, many of us go off on a winter break to recharge our batteries. However, test outings are sometimes planned that also have to be prepared for. Once the tests are over, some of us then go on holiday while the others are on the tools and working on the procedures we'd like to introduce for the coming season.
What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Dennis Nägele: The biggest challenge is definitely to take decisions in the short time available to us on race weekends, based on the wealth of data that we receive. We have data and information coming out of our ears from ten different people, working on the vehicle. It is then up to us to interpret and put it together as fast as possible. It all needs dealing with very quickly. Another challenge is the radio traffic with the driver, where you have to discuss as much as possible in as few words as possible. Your job can then be easy or difficult, depending on how well you get on with the driver.
How good does setup have to be if you are to have a successful weekend? Can you be a little off target to start with and then turn things around?
Dennis Nägele: That's a very good question. Anyone who's familiar with the DTM schedule knows that the time we have between sessions is very, very tight. We don't have much chance to modify anything on the car. The best opportunity is from Friday to Saturday when we have more time to think about things. But once Saturday has started and setup is not 90 or 95 percent as the driver would like it, then we're in for an exceedingly tough weekend.
Nevertheless, do you tackle the weekend with the same setup for all six cars or do you vary it a bit and wait and see which is best and then adapt it to suit the others?
Dennis Nägele: That's a question of philosophy. I think that we try to learn as much as possible in the various sessions. I wouldn't say, though, that we set up all six vehicles completely differently or have a completely different setup for all six cars – so yes, we do deviate a little. For example, we may have two or three groups of cars that running a similar setup.
Which moments in your career do you particularly like to remember?
Dennis Nägele: Well, that has to be the first win of 2013 with Robert Wickens at the Nürburgring, for sure! At the time, we were not necessarily in the best position for success after qualifying, but we won the race because of a good strategy and a masterly performance by Robert. My worst moment, though, was also with Robert in Moscow in 2014. He told me after the first free practice session that it was the worst car he'd ever driven. It was even worse for me than being black-flagged in Spielberg in 2014 which was also very bad, no doubt about it, but because we were very sure that we hadn't done anything wrong, the pain wasn't as great as it had been in Moscow.