Hannah Schmitz: who is this master strategist at Red Bull Racing?
It sometimes seems like Max does everything on his own, but real F1 fans know: Formula 1 is a team sport. And a top team doesn’t just need a champion behind the wheel. Behind the scenes – on the pit wall, as well as in the Operations Room facility at Red Bull Racing headquarters in Milton Keynes – a lot of bright minds are working on all sorts of things that help Max along during an F1 race.
One of those bright minds is Hannah Schmitz: chief strategist at Red Bull Racing. She is responsible for the strategies of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. An extremely important function, because you can win or lose a race by choosing the (in)right strategy. In a matter of seconds, Hannah must make decisions that could decide a race – and a championship – for Max. If the Dutchman’s tires wear out faster than expected, she has only a minute to make a drastic decision. In the event of a yellow flag or saftey car situation, she has only a few seconds of reflection.
GP of Hungary
Many Dutch people did not get to know Hannah Schmitz for the first time until 2022. After the Hungary GP, Verstappen praised Schmitz’s work that weekend in an interview. Thanks to a striking decision by Schmitz, Verstappen and Perez suddenly switched from the hard tire to the soft tire. It proved to be a masterstroke, allowing Max to take victory at the Hungaroring. Also during Max’s home Grand Prix, Hannah had a key role in the hunt for victory. At the pit stops at Zandvoort, Red Bull and Hannah again made the difference by making the right choices at the right times.
Schmitz – mother of two – was born Hannah McMillan and grew up in London. From an early age, she had a keen interest in cars and engineering. She went through Croydon High School and then studied at the prestigious University of Cambridge. At university, she was first given a role in which she could prove her talent as a strategist in motor racing: she was put in charge of the Cambridge solar racing team, during their first attempt in the World Solar Challenge in Australia.
Red Bull Racing
In 2009, Schmitz completed an internship at Red Bull Racing after graduating earlier that year as a mechanical engineer. She began as a modeling and simulation engineer, but in 2011 Schmitz climbed to the position of senior strategy engineer. In its first years as a strategist, the Red Bull team achieved many successes. In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel became champion, but then the success dried up.
Brazilian Grand Prix
In 2019, Hannah only came into the picture with Dutch fans. At the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen drove to victory, thanks to Hannah’s decision to change to new tires at the end of the race. As a thank you, Schmitz was invited to the podium to collect the cup for the team.
“It was an incredibly special moment and the highlight of my career,” she said later. “I had actually just returned to work after having my first child, so that was kind of a big deal for me, to prove that I was still there and could do the job well. It was just an incredible experience.”
Chief Strategist Red Bull Racing
In 2021, she got a big promotion and became the chief strategist of the Red Bull Racing team. How the 2021 season went we probably don’t need to tell you. Red Bull consistently outsmarted Mercedes throughout the 2021 F1 season, culminating in the controversial but tactically flawless showdown in Abu Dhabi, in which Verstappens switch to softs behind the safety car gave him the win and the championship.