Who is Hannah Schmitz? Red Bull’s Principal Strategy Engineer

Red Bull are currently dominating both Formula 1 2022 world championships, and their Principal Strategy Engineer Hannah Schmitz has had a huge part to play in their success

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When Max Verstappen‘s won the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix which arguably sealed the F1 championship, it perhaps most importantly, once again highlighted the crucial role that chief strategist Hannah Schmitz plays at Red Bull.

This was far from Schmitz‘s first race-winning involvement for Red Bull though, or even in the 2022 season. The Cambridge graduate has played a pivotal role at Red Bull for years.

Schmitz came to the fore after the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Verstappen emerged victorious. Schmitz received due recognition with the constructors’ trophy, underscoring her significant role in the achievement.

Critical strategic decisions, spearheaded by Hannah Schmitz, played a pivotal role in the Dutchman’s win. Her bold choice to equip Verstappen with new tyres during a safety car proved to be the right call in hindsight.

Consequently, at the behest of team principal Christian Horner, she graced the podium, sharing well-deserved champagne with millions of Formula 1 enthusiasts worldwide.

“Today, I think Hannah, our strategist, was insanely calm. Yeah, she’s very good,” Verstappen exalted after the 2022 Hungaroring win. “You can’t afford many mistakes. It’s of course very hard to always be on the good side, let’s say it like that.

“But I think we have a lot of good guys, and girls, in the team.”

The University of Cambridge graduate masterminded Sergio Perez‘s 2022 Monaco Grand Prix win and has consistently made the right calls to help Red Bull build a commanding lead over the strategically inept Ferrari.

But who is Hannah Schmitz? Find out more about Red Bull‘s Principal Strategy Engineer here.

Early life and education

Born Hannah McMillan and educated in London, Schmitz left Croydon High School, where she was a keen water polo player, in 2004 and started at Cambridge University the next year.

Having had a keen interest in cars and engineering ever since she was a toddler, Schmitz led Cambridge’s solar racing team to its first attempt at the World Solar Challenge in Australia.

After graduating in 2009 with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Hannah Schmitz walked straight into an internship at Red Bull Racing that same year, five years after her now rival counterpart Inaki Rueda entered the F1 world.

“I think there’s a lot of people that initially maybe don’t have the confidence in you to do the job,” Schmitz said of her early career on the Red Bull website.

“As a strategist you have to tell a lot of people what to do and they’ve got to listen to you, so it’s building up that trust and I think as a woman unfortunately that was harder, but now I have that respect and I hope other young women who want to get into the sport will see that you can do it, can embrace it, and we’ll see more diversity.”

Hannah Schmitz’s Breakout F1 moment

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and second placed Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso celebrate on the podium with Hannah Schmitz after 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and second placed Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso celebrate on the podium with Hannah Schmitz after 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

After starting at the team as a Modelling and Simulation Engineer, Schmitz quickly ascended to the role of Senior Strategy Engineer in 2011, a role she’d hold for a decade.

But to most F1 fans, she rose to prominence with her winning call at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. After a late safety car, Schmitz pitted Verstappen from the lead but he flew back past Lewis Hamilton for the win, and Schmitz was invited onto the podium to collect the trophy.

“It was an incredibly special moment and the pinnacle of my career,” Schmitz later said. “I’d actually just come back to work after having my first child so that was quite a big thing for me, to prove I was still here and could do the job well. It was just an incredible experience.”

That win, alongside consistently accurate calls, earned her another promotion 18 months later, to her current role of Principal Strategy Engineer, and she’s already helped scheme the downfall of two F1 giants.

Championship-winning impact

Red Bull consistently outfoxed Mercedes – no strategic slouches themselves – during the 2021 F1 season, culminating in the controversial but tactically flawless Abu Dhabi showdown, in which Verstappen‘s switch to softs behind the safety car helped gift him the win.

Before that, an aggressive strategy at the US Grand Prix fought off the Black Arrows, and she also juggled both cars at the French Grand Prix to give the Dutchman another victory.

As most Tifosi will tell you, Ferrari‘s been a shambles on the pitwall this season – but that only helps Red Bull if they’re able to take advantage of it, and Schmitz has ensured they’ve punished the Scuderia at every turn.

Before July’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the streets of Monte Carlo were the stage for Schmitz‘s crowning glory.

With Charles Leclerc leading the race comfortably, she called in Perez for intermediate tyres on lap 17, and Verstappen a lap later.

The sluggish Ferrari only brought Leclerc in a lap later and when Schmitz double-stacked the Red Bulls on Lap 22. Perez took a lead that he’d never relinquish, whilst Verstappen also jumped his expletive-laden title rival.

Hungary was arguably an even more impressive feat, as she helped Verstappen recover from 10th on the grid to win.

A late startline switch to soft rubber enabled Verstappen to rise up to fifth, and as Leclerc floundered on the hard tyre, Verstappen twice overtook the Monegasque on his second set of mediums to take the win and put the championship further out of reach.

“We’re all very much a team, so all throughout the weekend it’s very collaborative, with listening to everybody’s different opinions and points of view,” Schmitz told Sky Sports F1.

“Because it’s not always just about the numbers and the data, the drivers have a lot of feeling as well in the car, so we try to take that on board, take on board what the race engineers are looking at kind of different data than the strategists.

“So taking all that information on board and we discuss everything. But at the end of the day, it’s a strategy call, and we’ll make the final call.

“We’ll kind of just work as a team and use as much information as we can to make those decisions.”

The secret to Hannah Schmitz success?

Renowned as one of the most accomplished female figures in the realm of Formula 1, Schmitz has earned acclaim for her pivotal role in Red Bull’s title charges in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

After Verstappen‘s praise, she also stressed the importance of staying calm on the pitwall.

“I think staying calm is one of the most important attributes of a strategist,” said Schmitz.

“A tip someone told me once is if you turn your hands over, so your palms face down, it helps you be clearer and more commanding in what you’re saying.”

Perhaps that’s where Ferrari have been going wrong. But as Schmitz‘s whole career shows, there’s more to winning a race against the odds than just the steering wheel in the palms of the driver’s hand – whichever way they’re facing.

How old is Hannah Schmitz?

Hannah Schmitz was born in May 1985, making her currently 38 years old.

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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