Mercedes FE senior race engineer Albert Lau

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Watching motorsport was a “hobby” for Albert Lau, the Mercedes Formula E senior race engineer whose calming Californian tones over team radio helped guide Nyck de Vries to the 2021 title.

But a career in racing was not top of the agenda when he studied at the University of California prior to a masters at Stanford. Initially the aerospace industry piqued his interest until a brief stint at Boeing in the early 2000s, where he was involved in developing a reusable launch vehicle as an effective replacement for the Space Shuttle programme, came to define the next two decades of his life.

Lau tells Autosport: “I was speaking to my boss one at Boeing day and said, ‘You must have done some cool projects. Can you tell me about them?’ He reckoned in 30 years he’d been on two really good ones.

“I was like, ‘Jeez – were the other ones really bad or what?’ Nope, he’d only been on two projects. That flicked the switch for me because I realised then that the product cycles in aerospace are massively long. There’s so much testing involved before they get to launch. It wasn’t for me at that point in my life. I wanted something more fast-paced.”

Equipped with the transferrable skills required for motorsport, this realisation led Lau to pursue a new career. And although a berth in IndyCar or NASCAR failed to materialise, it helped Lau to appreciate that if he was prepared to move halfway across the USA to sign a contract then he might as well go the whole hog and cross the Atlantic.

That took Lau to Brunel University to read a masters in motorsport engineering, which preceded stints as an assistant race engineer for Team GB in A1GP (2007-09) and then in British Formula 3 (2011). But his time in the British Touring Car Championship paddock at West Surrey Racing, starting out as a data engineer in 2006, would have a far greater influence on Lau as he worked under team founder Dick Bennetts. The Kiwi, and the late Schnitzer boss Charly Lamm, would prove to be defining role models.

Working under Bennetts at WSR was a crucial learning experience for Lau, who engineered Onslow-Cole, Jelley and Collard (pictured at Snetterton in 2010) to BTCC race wins

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“Dickie taught me how to be a race engineer,” says Lau, who ran Tom Onslow-Cole, Stephen Jelley and Rob Collard. “He loves the minutiae of race engineering. He’s got set-up sheets and binders from all over the years. He and Lamm, the team bosses’ team boss, they understand the grind that’s involved in being successful, that details matter. That permeates through. To learn that at the first stop in my career was so important.”

Despite the initiation on his first day of washing trucks at Donington Park during the winter, Lau stayed with Bennetts for seven years before switching to another crack tin-top outfit in the form of RML. Here, Lau operated as a race engineer for Alain Menu for the 2012 season running the Chevrolet Cruze on the World Touring Car stage.

Insisting that he wanted to try as many different formulae as possible while he was young to keep on learning, Lau moved to the DTM with Schnitzer before switching to HWA for 2016 to run Edoardo Mortara. At this point, he stresses the need to never become overly close with a driver should there be a time when you need to carry respect to get them to address performance deficits.

“I take a lot of pride in our process of engineering the car and driver. We cover a lot of different…

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