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Guiding the world champion

While Michael Schumacher has come to regard every member of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro as a friend, during his eight years with the team, his closest relationship, by the very nature of the job, is always with his race engineer. This year that role falls to 35 year old Chris Dyer.

Getting the F2003-GA to perform at its best is a team effort, but Dyer is the conduit between all the engineers and technicians and the driver. Working with a five times world champion has to be regarded as the 'nec plus ultra' of life in F1. Dyer began his career in his native Australia, working in Touring Car racing for three seasons, before heading for Europe and a job with the Arrows F1 team.

'I started in 1997, working as Damon Hillís data analysis engineer, progressing to test engineer with him,' says Dyer. 'In 1998, I made the break into race engineering and in my last year at Arrows I worked with Jos Verstappen. I moved to Ferrari for the 2001 season, working as Michaelís vehicle engineer, working alongside Luca Baldisseri. And towards the end of 2002 I engineered Michael at the tests, prior to race engineering for him after the championships had been won, for Monza, Indianapolis and Suzuka last year, before taking on the job full time.'

The obvious question is what is it like working with a man regarded as the greatest driver of his generation, if not of all time? 'First and foremost, he is a really nice person to work with and easy going,' is Dyerís immediate response. 'That makes the job easier. On the other hand, the pressure is enormous. It is not direct pressure from him, but because he works at such a high level, everyone who works with him is expected to work to that level too. We are used to winning and so is he, so that is our standard.' However, Dyer reckons that pressure is relieved by Schumacherís command of every aspect of the sport. 'One of Michaelís strengths is that, apart from driving quickly, he has an understanding of the car and how all the systems work,' reveals the Australian. 'He can also analyse the cause of any problems, be it aerodynamics, set-up or traction control for example. There are so many different elements on a modern F1 car that it is very important to focus quickly on where the problems are.'

Dyer has had a baptism of fire this year, having to cope with the major changes to the GP weekend timetable. 'Michaelís ability has helped in that respect,' he says, referring to the lack of track time. 'Right from the first run of the day, he can identify what needs to be done, which is an important skill, which he is very good at.'

Adding to the pressure of Dyerís high-profile role is the obvious fact that the Scuderia no longer enjoys the unprecedented advantage it had over its rivals last year. 'Iíd be lying if I said we just work in the same way we always did - admits Dyer - There is no question it is a lot tougher this year. But we have to focus on why we were successful last year and for the last few years in fact. We must not lose sight of what we were doing. We must have faith and confidence that we know the right thing to do. We just have to make sure we do everything right at a race weekend, setting the car up correctly, chose the right tyres and strategy. Away from the track we continue working hard at our testing, ensuring that new parts are tested correctly and that we make the right decisions. If we do that, then the results will come.'
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