Engineers. Drivers. Twins.

The Gemini sign


Here’s the story of Nicola and Stefano De Val, in 2012 side by side on the track in F.Renault ALPS.
They later become appreciated technicians. The first one as track engineer for Team JAS
Motorsport, the second one as Group Leader Tyre Performance of Alfa Romeo Racing in F.1.

You know who comes first, but not who was born first. Parallel lives, those of Nicola and Stefano
De Val brothers, identical twins with the same history with formula cars. Before that their paths
split up. The last open-wheeler season goes back to 2012, in the F.Renault ALPS, year that saw
Daniil Kvyat as a champion. From there their lives took a different professional path. The master
degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano and then a job of a very high level.

For Nicola in JAS Motorsport, for five months as a Performance Engineer and then Race Engineer
of Gabriele Tarquini in the WTCC, with whom he celebrated the victory at the Race of Suzuka of
2014. Stefano on the other hand entered the Sauber F1 Racing Team as a Tyre Engineer, moving to
Switzerland. Now they both moved up the ranks. The first, in the team of Alessandro Mariani, is
Chief of the Race Engineers, follows personally Tiago Monteiro, and is also Factory Test Driver
developing the Honda TCR. Stefano since November 2018 is Group Leader of Tyre Performance of
the team Alfa Romeo Racing in Formula 1. He worked closely together with all the drivers that
went through the Hinwil racing team, from Marcus Ericsson to the new duo Antonio Giovinazzi
and Kimi Raikkonen.

Two important roles, both of great responsibility, those of the De Val twins, even if in different
categories. Curious the path that brought them where they currently are.

“From my point of view racing with cars was just an exploratory matter. I thought hard whether to
choose one or another career path. In the end I found an answer when I started working in
Formula 1. When I realized that I was capable of working in that framework, of such high level –
explains Stefano – The pleasure of driving, the passion, are still there. But today I have a very busy
schedule and a clear target, to develop even more my personal profile to the maximum levels”.

In 2014 Nicola and Stefano have won the Sport-Prototype Portuguese Championship, ending the
season with a podium at the 12h of Abu Dhabi. Their last appearance together goes back to the 3h
of Monza of 2015, when they reached 3rd place with a Wolf CN2, first of the prototypes. Time has
gone by from their debut in Formula Junior until today.

- We have asked Stefano how he started working in Sauber.
“After my degree I started working in Germany, in an office dedicated to vehicle dynamics that
worked with various manufacturers, in particular on developing suspensions geometry. I have
been there for one year before I got the chance to enter in Sauber as a Tyre Engineer. I did my
master degree thesis together with Pirelli and was a Race Driver. All of this was a complete picture
for them. I started immediately working on the track with the F1 team. With my current role, my
commitment increased even more. I also have to thank Simone Resta: he was the one that made
me become “group leader” when he was still with Alfa”.

- What is your job, more specifically?
“I am responsible of the tyre performance all around. So, on the tyre base, I am in charge of the
development of the car for the current season and also thinking about the future. With my group
we develop tyre math models. From the simulation point of view I am in charge of everything tyre
related, cooperating with FIA and doing working groups with Pirelli. My presence on the track is
fundamental. The study of temperatures, camber and toe angles, various tyre compounds are all
my tasks. During the race I am in the feedback loop with the strategy.

- For someone that has raced with open wheeler since few years ago, what does it mean to work
in a field like Fomula 1?

“Meeting in the paddock people like Kvyat, Albon and Ocon, of which my brother Nicola and I have
been opponents, is very odd. You realize that Motorsport is a very small world, but full of
opportunities. It has been nice to find them here. Their career was immediately oriented towards
Formula 1. We, on the other hand, wanted to explore this world. The nice thing is that we were all
able to reach our dreams.”

- Of the various drivers that you saw in these years, what do you think?
“I can only say marvelous things for Antonio (Giovinazzi). Kimi is much more professional than
what you get from the Media, and I have more than everything else a great esteem for Leclerc.
When he arrived here in 2018 at the beginning he struggled a lot. But from Baku onwards he
gained more confidence and showed he was a talent. Normally I work a lot with new drivers,
mostly because the tyres we use in Formula 1 are very different to those of every other category.
Charles was one of them. This year we will have Kubica as a third driver. I know he is a real

- How has your life changed with respect to before?
“Until two years ago I went to all the races. Since 2019, with my new assignment, I take part in
60% of the GPs. Like we say in Formula 1, you are always chasing the Summer. All our seasons are
very long. You keep on travelling and finding out when it is the right time to sleep in order not to
suffer about jet lag. You are in warm places and then come back home with 20°C less. But even
this is an interesting part of my job.”

- Nicola and Stefano, 31 years this May, studied together at University. The first did a thesis on
autonomous vehicles. Three months later he was already at JAS.

“They needed someone to follow simulations and I was already doing that as a graduate. From
February to June 2014 I mainly took care about data analysis. Then I began as a track engineer for
Tarquini. Today what I love most about my work is test TCR cars, performing shakedowns and
preliminary tests. Aspects where the official pilot is not needed. Since this January I reached
almost 3000km to test some aspects where we need the pilot’s feedback, but also engineering

- What does it mean for you to be working with “il Cinghio”?
“Even though we had some issues, I objectively think that Tarquini is the most complete pilot
figure that there is. Very focused and cold blooded on the track. When we are developing the car,
he things about that even during the night. Many pilots have good performances only if they have
the perfect vehicle.

- What do you practically do?
I follow all the races, and when there is not one, I test the vehicles. Especially in the winter season.
For example, in TCR 2020 we will have new ECUs and I spent a lot of my effort on this. I prepare a
package and then the official pilots will test it.

- What is your forecast for the next FIA WTCR season?
With the new ECUs it will be a new challenge for every team. We all basically start from scratch.
It’s easy to say that Hyundai will always be one of the leading teams. I think that Honda and Lynk
will also perform well.

- The idea to go back on the track, maybe for a race with your brother, has ever crossed your

Sure, it would be nice. When I managed to go to Monza for the F1 GP, with Kvyat, Ocon and all the
others it almost looked like we were in the ALPS paddock. Great memories for sure. But I hardly
manage to see Stefano for winter holidays. With over 20 trips each all around the world it’s very
hard to plan a race together. Still, I’m satisfied with what I do. I like testing cars. My driving is
related to technique.

Scrivi un commento