Everyone knows the drivers and team principals are the most visible members of a race team across a weekend, but they’re far from the only ones that make everything tick from Friday to Sunday.
In a new series, we’ll be talking to the important figures behind the scenes who you might not know but are integral to a Formula 2 and 3 race weekend. First up, Van Amersfoort Racing’s Sebastian Schatula.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT’S YOUR POSITION WITH THE TEAM?
“I'm Sebastian Schatula, the team calls me Seb. I’m 28 years old. I'm working for Van Amersfoort Racing as a physiotherapist and support both the F2 and F3 teams, treating and supporting the drivers and also the mechanics, engineers and all team members.”
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE ROLE?
“I studied physiotherapy in Heidelberg, Germany, a really nice city. You should go there to visit, it’s very beautiful. So after three and a half years of studying physiotherapy, I created my own business. It's called Body PitStop. I started in motorsports in 2017, I started with a lot of GT3, GT4 tests and DTM tests and then I started with Formula 2 and Formula 3 in 2019.
“I'm also educated as a nutritionist and a personal trainer. So the next step is working as a mental trainer. I want to do that because the mental side si very important for the drivers and I want to learn it and educate, put all the experience together and put it into one. I know how it is, I played basketball at a professional level in Germany and know what that requires.”
WHAT IS THE MAIN SKILL YOU NEED IN YOUR ROLE?
“The number one skill is of course, physiotherapy. Before the drivers jump in the car, I’ll help them prepare for driving. Things like reaction, coordination, strength, also the mental side. This is the most important thing. After that, support with things like electrolytes, with water and stuff like that. An umbrella when it's too hot or the blower. Afterwards, treatments. I have a little room in the in truck, the drivers know where I am and they can come find me.”
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE RACE WEEKEND LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
“So I go in my car to the airport. Then I have the plane journey, pick up the rental car and sometimes I pick up the drivers and I'll do a little bit of shuttle driving. I go from the hotel to get all the passes for the drivers and families or whatever. Then I come to the track and then first thing I do is the build-up. So preparing the room, helping the mechanics a little bit with some other things because I know they carry a lot and I want to support them.
“I do some shopping for the team. For example, I take all the fruits and some bars, water and give it to the team. On Thursday, the drivers come, and everything needs to be really really nice. I do the pitstop training with the mechanics, doing the warm-up with the mechanics and anyone that wants to come, sometimes the engineers also. That’s just to prevent injuries to the team. Afterwards I do a lot of treatments, go for some interviews with the drivers, and then go for dinner with the drivers too.
“Then on Friday, it starts with Practice, then Quali and the two races each follow. It's a lot but I can manage it. Driving, warm-up, treatments, preparations, every time I have something to do. After Sunday, we fly back.”
IS THERE ANY PREPARATION YOU HAVE TO DO AHEAD OF A WEEKEND?
“Sometimes I have some things to do before I go to the to the track. For example, I need to order some materials for the team. Electrolytes, protein bars, whatever they need. I get it delivered to my home then I pack it into my luggage and then it goes to the track. I also bring a reaction tester, I think the drivers love it, it gives them something different to do.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE TOUGHEST ASPECT OF YOUR JOB?
“I would say lack of sleep. Because it's not a typical job like lots of people have from eight to five. We wake up sometimes it's four or five in the morning or sometimes we need to work the whole night. I want to support the team, for example in the night to prepare the car.
“I can't complain because the mechanics sleep less than me but it's not easy for anyone. All of my friends I'm telling about my job, they’re like ‘Oh wow, 14 hours of work?’ Sometimes it happens, sometimes it's only seven hours. It's always a surprise. It depends on the timetable, if it's F2 only or F3 as well.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
“The best part of the job is for sure standing on the podium to celebrate with the drivers and the team. I really enjoy being face to face with the drivers. For example, at breakfast or at the dinner just to talk about normal stuff, not only motorsports. Also I like having a laugh, playing some music in the car while driving to the track. So this is what I really like and really enjoy.”
ANY FUNNY STORIES FROM YOUR TIME WITH THE TEAM SO FAR?
“I lost my bag a couple of times already. The last time it was in Baku. I have always a Plan B, we have some equipment in the truck if something happens. Another story was once I was on a plane, I had a window seat and every passenger’s bag was loaded onboard apart from mine. There is a number on my bag and mine was the only one missing. The next three days were pretty tricky.”